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Rise of the Educated Elite: The expansion of Western Education

Author: smith on 17-09-2013, 22:00, views: 3 188

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The Ibibio always ask for school (Cheesman, 1932).

In Ibibioland, the Missions were judged by the quality of their schools (Ann. Rep., 1944).

 

A distinctive characteristic of the colonial period in Nigeria following the imposition of a pax Britannica was the expansion of Christianity and Western education - the first one, by various missionary organisations, and the other one, by these organisations primarily, supplemented by the colonial government and the Native Administration (NA) authorities. Western education brought about profound socio-economic and political changes in Opobo Division, as in other regions of Nigeria.

 

Education, even more than the Native Courts and Warrant Chiefs, has done its share in breaking down the indigenous customs and system of administration. It has been used to foster sects of religion and is a definite bribe to attract church members.
 
(DO, Annual Report, 1932)

 

In Opobo Division, Western education made a very slow initial progress. The initiative came from the British colonial government, which established a Government Elementary School at Opobo Town about January 1905. It was the only Government school in the Division. Although it achieved high academic standards, and was attended by some pupils from the neighbouring Anaang, Ibibio, Andoni and Ogoni areas for Standard V and VI classes, it was closed down in April 1934 as an economic measure and merged with the Niger Delta Pastorate (NDP/Anglican) school, also located in Opobo Town (Shute, 1933). With its closure, Opobo Division had no government school up to Nigeria's Independence in 1960. Moreover, the closure left the NDP school for many years as the only other reputable school in the entire Division (Richards, 1930).

 

Thus, the brunt of providing elementary education in Opobo Division fell on the missionary bodies. These comprised Mission churches, like the Methodist, NDP, Roman Catholic, Qua Iboe and Salvation Army, and African or independent churches, like Lord Samuel's Spiritual Church, Christ Army Church and the African Church. Most of these lacked qualified teachers, senior supervisory personnel, building infrastructure and funds for their schools. In the event, most of the schools were, for many years, the single building, single teacher, church-cum-school affairs, called hedge or bush schools - too deficient in the number and quality of their teachers, buildings and other facilities to merit Government grant-in-aid (Abasiattai, 1987: 248; Swanston, 1920; Purchas, 1921; Murphy, 1924). A comparatively few schools with improved facilities and higher academic standards were designated assisted schools, and ran the full primary classes up to Standard VI.

 

The whole district was thickly scattered with churches of various denominations and of various degrees of inefficiency. There were countless church-cum-schools ran by illiterate boys, but very little competent supervision... Several native teachers established schools and provided education in English language and cleanliness (but)... all that was being taught was insubordination and arrogance... (as) Christian young men had no respect for established authority and schoolboys considered it beneath their dignity to do manual work...
 
Discipline and citizenship are not sufficiently impressed as educated youths put church and god above the village institution.
 
(Ann. Reps. 1917; 1920 and 1932)
 

 

In December 1936, there were only seven assisted schools in Opobo Division. Three of them were Methodist; two, NDP; and one each was Roman Catholic and Salvation Army. Five were in Anaang and Ibibio areas, and one each was in Ogoni and Opobo Town (Smith, 1936).

 

A fundamental characteristic of all the schools was the dearth of female pupils. Most parents did not bother to educate their daughters, considering the expenses on their education a loss to the family, since they would, eventually, marry out. The Tables below illustrate this point for the Methodist schools in the Division in 1927.

 

TABLE 1

STUDENT POPULATION:

WESLEYAN METHODIST ASSISTED SCHOOLS, OPOBO

DIVISION, 1927

 

Name of School

Staff*

Boys

Girls

Total

Percentage of Girls

Egwanga Wesleyan School

7

150

5

155

3

Ete Wesleyan School

5

147

5

152

3

 

* All African staff

Source: A. W. Hodgetts, 'School Returns', in Annual Reports, Opobo Division, 1925-1928

 

TABLE 2

 STUDENT POPULATION:

WESLEYAN METHODIST UNASSISTED SCHOOLS,

OPOBO DIVISION, 1927

 

Name of School

Staff*

Boys

Girls

Total

Percentage of Girls

Ebenezer, Ibekwe

3

96

4

100

4

Ikot Iyire

1

10

-

10

0

Ikot Akpaden

2

87

-

87

0

Ikot Ekpo

1

50

-

50

0

Ikot Iyenino

1

15

-

15

0

Ikot Oborenyin

1

10

-

10

0

Ikot Okpok

1

10

-

10

0

Ikot Etinedon

1

20

-

20

0

Ikot Nkan

1

25

-

25

0

 

The Qua Iboe Mission Headmaster and Schools Supervisor for Opobo Division, Etim J. Asuquo, an Efik, and his wife, teacher at Minya, in 1950's 

Mrs. Atim Asuquo gives a sewing lesson to her pupils (in Mission approved dress)

 

* All African Staff. Source: As in Table 1

 

Miss Brazier's House at IbekweMiss Brazier's House at Ibekwe

Besides the Mission Schools, there were several Native Administration Schools in Opobo Division, established at Ngo (1933)1, at Yeghe (1937) and at Ikot Obio Itong (1938) by the Andoni, Ogoni and Ibibio NA's respectively (Dewhurst, 1938). Being subject to government control and regular inspection, and funded by both the colonial government and the NA's, the NA schools generally maintained high academic standards, comparable to the government schools (Abasiattai, 1987: 246-247).

 

Adult Education and Community Development, practised as from late 1940's, yielded remarkable results in the training of women in domestic science. Two Methodist teachers, Miss Brazier and Miss Weeks, connected with this programme, did invaluable work at the Egwanga Methodist Women's Training Centre, for which Miss Brazier was awarded the MBE by the British Government in 1954 (Varvill, 1954).

 

Methodist College for Ete
 
In 1927. after having successfully trained several batches of Egwanga Methodist School Standard VI graduates at the Wesleyan College Ibadan, the Lagos Methodist District Conference, which supervised the Ibekwe (Ikot Abasi) circuit, decided to establish a branch of the Tbadan College at Ete, some 9 miles from the Egwanga Township.
 
Rev. Alphred W. Hodgetts was sent from Lagos to make the necessary arrangements as the first college principal. The Reverend immediately undertook survey of the land, upon which Ete Wesleyan Methodist Church building and the residence of the catechist were sited, and which was to be extended widely, so as to accommodate the planned development. The town chiefs and leaders of traditional societies, fearful for the loss of their land, palm trees and controlling influence, opposed the missionary penetration, surprisingly supported by the church catechist, Mr. Anna, who was unwilling to surrender his residence to the new college principal and thought, erroneously, that this would facilitate the establishment of the Wesleyan College in his home area (Calabar). The town elders protested vigorously to the expatriate Divisional Officer, who summoned both parties to the District Office at Egwanga, and, after due enquiry, sustained the elders' protest and advised the missionaries, in their own interest, not to institute the college at Ete against the wishes of the town leaders.
 
The Mission Headquarters in Lagos abandoned the plan to establish a college at Ete and replaced the Ibekwe circuit superintendent, Rev. Fred Piatt, who had failed to prepare the local ground sufficiently, with Rev. Hodgetts. The result was that for many years thereafter, and until the establishment by the Roman Catholic Mission of the Regina Coeli College at Essene in 1956, Ikot Abasi area had not even a secondary school.
 
(after Udoma, 1992: 11-15)
 

 

Regina Coeli College, EsseneRegina Coeli College, Essene

By December 1955, there was still no secondary school in Opobo Division in spite of the people's desire for it. Thrice, in July 1933, April 1944 and, as late as May 1950, the Opobo branch of the Ibibio State Union had in vain requested the colonial government for a secondary school (Abasiattai, 1987, 265). In 1942/43 and 1943/44, the Ibibio people collected an extra one shilling voluntary tax per person for the opening of an NA secondary school at Ikot Aba, and an extra two shillings in 1944/45. A total of 2,800 was set aside for the project, but it did not get the DO's support (Harcourt, 1943, 1944).

 

In 1956, however, the first secondary schools were established in the Division, viz.: the Regina Coeli College, Essene, by the Roman Catholic Mission; and the Secondary Commercial School, Ibekwe, by Sir Udo Udoma, a private proprietor (Udo-Inyang, 1989).

 

The Roman Catholic School students were prepared, under strict discipline and competent teaching, for taking the Cambridge examinations and the General Certificate of Education (London G. C.E.), which was generally, the highest educational achievement in Nigeria.

 

The first Essene school bandThe first Essene school band

Besides the schools mentioned above, opportunities for primary and post primary education existed outside the Division at the Bonny Intermediate School; the Teacher Training College, Uyo;2 Hope Waddell Training Institute, and Duke Town and Creek Town Schools, Calabar, to name the ones most commonly attended by the Anaang and the Ibibio youth.

 

Chief J. A. Udo of Owok Otu was one of the first, if not the first Essene indigene, to obtain Standard VI Certificate from Government School Bonny, in the early 1930's.
 
He was fond of wearing shoes, and was, therefore, nicknamed
 
Etete Ikpa Ukot (Mr. Shoe-wearer). He was very patriotic and influential in the overall development and administration in Essene in the 1940's and 1950's.
 
(I. S. Etekpo, 1996)

 

By 1957, therefore, when the Universal Primary Education (U. P. E.) was introduced in Eastern Nigeria, Opobo Division ranked quite low in education among the Divisions in Calabar Province (Allen, 1945). Table 3 shows the Division scoring the lowest percentages of 1.3 and 0.5 in the standard of education and literacy among the Divisions in the Province in 1953.

 

TABLE 3

OLD CALABAR PROVINCE: AFRICAN POPULATION SEVEN YEARS OF AGE AND

OVER: BY DIVISION:

SHOWING THE NO. OF LITERATES, JUNE, 1953

 

Division
Prov.

Total Population 7 Years and over

 

 

Standard of Education and Literacy

Standard II or higher

Others able to write in Roman script

 

%

 

%

Nos.

Of Div.

Of Prov.

Nos.

Of Div.

Of Prov.

Abak

160,907

14,480

9.0

1.4

10,872

6.8

1.0

Calabar

109,503

19,122

17.5

1.8

11,380

10.4

1.1

Eket

165,502

20,327

12.3

1.9

12,140

7.3

1.1

Enyong

125,292

15,195

12.1

1.4

7,295

5.8

0.7

Ikot Ekpene

191,971

19,854

10.3

1.9

14,539

7.6

1.4

Opobo

121,700

14,268

11.7

1.3

5,193

4.3

0.5

Uyo

199,320

33,017

16.6

3.1

25,804

13.0

2.4

TOTAL

1,074,195

136,164

-

-

87,203

-

-

 

Source: Nigeria, Department of Statistics, Population Census of the Eastern Region of Nigeria, 1953 (Lagos: The Government Statistician, n.d.), pp 40-41.

 

Besides, the schools in the Division were very unevenly distributed, with a heavy concentration in the Anaang and Ibibio areas; the Andoni and the Ogoni having the fewest. Much the same was true of literacy. Opobo Town, served by two efficient schools up to 1934 and influenced by early contacts with Europe, had a high literacy rate followed in descending order by the Ibibio, the Anaang, the Andoni and the Ogoni (Cheesman, 1932). As late as December 1932, education in Ogoni land was reported to be at its infancy and a Standard V boy was a rara avis (Cheesman, 1932 B).

 

Since Independence (1960), more schools have been established in the area formerly included in Opobo Division, and more indigenes of the area have studied in educational institutions in Nigeria and abroad. By September 1987, there were 86 primary and 30 post primary schools in Ikot Abasi Local Government Area, but there was no institution of higher learning, except a Theological college at Ukwa (AKS Handbook, p. 92) Nevertheless, Ikot Abasi still remained relatively educationally under privileged. Table 4 shows Opobo Division scoring the lowest percentages of 12.2 and 9.3 in the number of primary and secondary schools respectively in the Mainland part of South-Eastern State in 1971.

 

TABLE 4

EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN 'MAINLAND'

PART OF FORMER SOUTH EASTERN STATE, SEPTEMBER, 1971

 

 

PRIMARY

SECONDARY

ADMIN.

Govt.

VA/

 

% of

 

VA/

 

% of

DIVISION

Private

Total

Total

Govt.

Private

Total

Total

Abak

100

97

197

18.6

1

6

7

16.3

Eket

43

124

167

15.8

1

4

5

11.6

Etinan

*

*

*

*

 

9

9

20.9

Ikot Ekpene

42

98

140

13.2

1

4

5

11.6

Itu

42

122

164

15.5

-

5

5

11.6

Opobo

40

89

129

12.2

-

4

4

9.3

Oron

*

*

*

*

-

4

4

9.3

Uyo

56

207

263

24.8

-

4

4

9.3

TOTAL

323

737

1,060

-

3

40

43

-

 

* Newly created Division whose figures are included in the Old Division they formerly belonged.

Source: South-Eastern State of Nigeria (Min. of Economic Development & Reconstruction, First Progress Report on the First State Development Plan, 1970-1974.

(Calabar: The Govt. Printer, n. d., p. 52.)

 

The Teacher
 
Teacher was a name of pride and a yardstick for high living standards and exemplary moral behaviour. A teacher was expected to live like a white man (ete mharaka), acquire the white man's knowledge, behave and dress like the white man - with a pair of white shorts and white mid-calf socks, a white helmet to match and shoes ordered from Leonards or Saxons shoe company shops. Coastal town teachers were preferred to the others (being not bush),
and if they could sing and conduct the church choir, had a premium added to their salary.
 
A teacher always received a VIP treatment in all community gatherings, where he was not expected to eat with the others or to show anger in public, and was the first port of call in case of political or social emergency.
 
(after Okoko, 1988, p. 206-7)
 
Letter-writing
 
Letter-writing was a lucrative business during the early years of the century and letter-writers made enormous sums of money out of the illiterate native. The District Officers had little patience with petition writers, 90% of whom, according to Capt. B. Wauton, were ex-convicts. DC Purchas suggested taxing all petitions in order to curb the excessive petition-writing.

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Category: Ikot Abasi in the Socio-Political Development

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