Eventos Académicos, 39 ISCHE. Educación y emancipación

Tamaño de fuente: 
British Women Education Officers and a ‘Truly Relevant Education’ in Nigeria
Kay Whitehead

Última modificación: 2017-07-17


For much of the twentieth century, the guiding principle of British colonial policy in Africa was ‘indirect rule’ and the emphasis was on working through local patriarchal power structures. Education was not prioritized by British administrators until after World War Two when they were expected to prepare the African colonies for self-government. Thereafter, schooling figured prominently but provision for girls lagged far behind boys. The Colonial Education Service continued to be dominated by men but increasing numbers of Women Education Officers (WEO) were recruited to serve in the African colonies.

This paper focuses on three British WEOs’ participation in the colonial project in Northern Nigeria. Well-qualified, experienced and progressive women teachers, Kathleen Player, Evelyn Hyde and Mary Robinson, were appointed as WEOs in 1945, 1949 and 1950 respectively, and they worked in Nigeria until after independence in 1960. WEOs’ roles were diverse, encompassing administration and teaching, teacher education and leadership of girls’ schools and training colleges. Following a brief discussion of the WEOs’ backgrounds and motivations for applying to the Colonial Education Service, I explore Evelyn Hyde’s work at the Women’s Training College, Sokoto, in far Northern Nigeria. This ‘polyglot’ institution comprised a boarding school for girls and a training college for women teachers. My focus is on Hyde’s endeavours to make girls’ education ‘a graft that would grow onto and into their own way of life’. The next section discusses Mary Robinson’s work in teacher education in a men’s elementary training college at Bauchi in the early 1950s. Here, she dispensed ‘down-to-earth practical help’ to Muslim men who were preparing to teach young children in impoverished schools. By way of contrast, Kathleen Player’s task was to establish and lead ‘Queen Elizabeth School’, the first government secondary school for girls in Northern Nigeria. Between 1954 and 1962, Player set about giving selected girls ‘as complete an education as possible for life as a worker, wife and mother’ when Nigeria became self-governing. I argue that these progressive women teachers were involved in negotiating complex social relations that reconciled their British values and beliefs with the intricacies of Nigerian cultures in order to construct their versions of a relevant education in the Nigerian colonial context.