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Empire and Education in Africa

The Shaping of a Comparative Perspective


Edited By Peter Kallaway and Rebecca Swartz

Empire and Education in Africa brings together a rich body of scholarship on the history of education in colonial Africa. It provides a unique contribution to the historiography of education in different African countries and a useful point of entry for scholars new to the field of African colonial education. The collection includes case studies from South Africa, Ethiopia, Madagascar, French West Africa (Afrique Occidentale Française) and Tanzania (then Tanganyika). It will therefore prove invaluable for scholars in the histories of French, British and German colonialism in Africa. The book examines similarities and differences in approaches to education across a broad geographical and chronological framework, with chapters focusing on the period between 1830 and 1950. The chapters highlight some central concerns in writing histories of education that transcend geographic or imperial boundaries. The text addresses the relationship between voluntary societies’ role in education provision and state education. The book also deals with ‘adapted’ education: what kind of education was appropriate to African people or African contexts, and how did this differ across and between colonial contexts? Finally, many of the chapters deal with issues of gender in colonial education, showing how issues of gender were central to education provision in Africa.
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Chapter Three: Shaping Colonial Subjects through Government Education: Policy, Implementation and Reception at the Cape of Good Hope, 1839–1862


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Shaping Colonial Subjects THROUGH Government Education

Policy, Implementation and Reception at the Cape of Good Hope, 1839–1862



This chapter investigates an unprecedented attempt by a nineteenth-century British colonial administration to improve education provision in one of its possessions. Very little scholarly work has been undertaken on Cape colonial education, and the brief flowering of the ‘New System’ (referred to officially as the ‘Established System’) of government schools1 deserves attention. Launched by a Colonial Government Minute of 23 May, 1839, it shows an imagination for a non-racial and free system of government education in the Cape Colony. The contingent coming together of particular individuals resulted in its particular form. The policy proposal reflects the demands of the time—to regulate a problematised colonial population. The discourses emerging around the government schools were of a superior liberal education at the hands of well-qualified teachers.

Many participating government teachers appear to have seen themselves as part of an inspirational project. One of these, George Bremner, noted, that this ‘scheme of public education [was] … in liberality and catholicity of range … much ahead of existing systems, whether in Europe or elsewhere’.2 This chapter moves from policy to implementation, using the career and writing of the government teacher, George Bremner, at Graaff-Reinet, 1848–1860, to illustrate the complexities of government education in practice. It will be argued that three elements ← 81 | 82 → combined...

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