Tuesday 2 July 2024

Abiriba School – Mission Schools

Pole Vaulting, Abiriba School, today's Abia State, ca. 1930-1940. "Missionaries first entered Abiriba, an Igbo iron-working area, in the early twentieth century. Agwu Otisi, a priest of  native-doctors' society, was keen to set up a school in the village and to learn about the new faith of Christianity, eventually becoming a Church Elder. The school was under the charge of Rev. R. Collins." USC Digital Library.

As late as 1942, missionaries controlled 99 percent of the schools. The mission school was an instrument for the rapid Christianization (and hence Europeanization) of the youth of Nigeria. The schools taught young Nigerians to aspire to the virtues of white Christian civilization. They consciously encouraged the emulation of European culture and unwittingly fostered disdainful feelings toward the "heathen" brothers of their students. Consistent with their preconceptions regarding African culture, the missionaries tended to ignore African forms of education because they considered them either evil or nonexistent. The African was treated as a tabula rasa upon which could be written a completely new civilization.

With a few notable exceptions, education in Nigeria was based on learning to read, write, and calculate in the English language. As African history was considered either nonexistent or unimportant, the great men who were studied in the schools were the kings of England and the early white empire builders who came to Nigeria with a new and superior civilization. In literature, Shakespeare and the Bible held the stage. Even today, it is not uncommon to find a semi-educated Nigerian working as a steward who can name the principal English cities, quote the Bible, and recite Hamlet, but who has little knowledge of the geography, the proverbs and folk tales, or the prominent leaders and outstanding events in the history of his own country.

– James Smoot Coleman (1958). "Nigeria: Background to Nationalism." pp. 113–115.

Source: Chiadikobi Nwaubani

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