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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 Eleven: Independence and Influence: Empress Mänän School—An Ethio-French Girls’ School in 1930s Ethiopia


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Independence AND Influence

Empress Mänän School—An Ethio-French Girls’ School in 1930s Ethiopia


An examination of the debate over the education of girls is one way to understand how nationalist and colonial ideas of ‘regeneration’ and ‘civilisation’ circulated, were adapted, and fitted into the political agendas of both the Ethiopian and French governments in 1930s Ethiopia.

In 1925, the Regent Täfari Mäkonnen, who became Emperor Haylä Sellasé in 1930, opened a school for boys bearing his name in the Ethiopian capital. In 1931, a school for girls, sponsored by his wife, the Empress Mänän, was established and named after her. Until the Italian invasion in 1936, its headmistress was a French woman, and the staff included Ethiopian and French-speaking Armenian teachers, protégés of the French Legation in Addis Ababa.1 The school was open to the daughters of foreign families and the Ethiopian nobility. Students learned Amharic and French, domestic skills such as child rearing, hygiene, cooking, sewing, home management and music. Moral education also formed an important part of the instruction and socialisation.

Paradoxically, the Empress Mänän School was a product of both Ethiopian and French government interests, despite the divergence between them. Following in the footsteps of Emperor Menilek II, who had opened the first government school for boys in 1908, Täfari/Haylä Sellasé wished to develop an...

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