The Shaping of a Comparative Perspective
Edited By Peter Kallaway and Rebecca Swartz
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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