The Shaping of a Comparative Perspective
Edited By Peter Kallaway and Rebecca Swartz
Chapter Ten: Protestant and French Colonial Literacies in Madagascar in the Early Twentieth Century
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Protestant AND French Colonial Literacies IN Madagascar IN THE Early Twentieth Century
ELLEN VEA ROSNES
Christian missions were pioneers of a Western form of education in many countries including Madagascar (the Malagasies).1 Arriving in 1818, the London Missionary Society (LMS) obtained a foothold among the politically dominant Merinas in the highlands. With the approval of the Merina king, they transcribed the Malagasy language using Latin characters, began literacy work and translated the Bible. Foreigners and missionaries were expelled from Madagascar in the period 1828 to 1862. Thereafter they were able to return, and until French colonisation in 1896, Protestant missions managed to build an extensive educational structure in the highlands. The Norwegian Mission Society (NMS) took part in this educational work from 1867. The Norwegian mission has its roots in a pietistic Lutheran culture. Their goal was to lead people to a personal relationship with God through reading the Bible in a familiar language. Even though the goals of the missions’ literacy were framed in terms of the promotion of religion, and thereby universalized and decontextualised in its content, their goals for literacy were simultaneously recontextualised to accommodate Malagasy culture and language. With colonisation, the political context for teaching reading and writing changed.
Bryant Mumford’s 1936 book, Africans Learn to Be French, had significant impact on Anglo-Saxon research on French colonial educational policy.2 The title of the book refers to the assimilationist goal of...
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