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WESTERN EDUCATION IN ISUIKWUATO, ABIA STATE, 1914 TO 2009
It is generally acclaimed that western education was introduced in Nigeria by European Christian missionaries. This, by implication, applies to Isuikwuato. One would then chart the course of the European advent into the west coast of Africa. On this issue, two schools of thought have originated: the European school of thought and the African school of thought.
According to the European version, the missionaries came to the west coast of Africa to stamp out the obnoxious trade in slaves and also to put a final stop to other evils that accompanied it. This proved very difficult initially as the people reacted sharply to the attempt. They then thought that their aim could be achieved by focusing attention on the youths who, if detached from the larger society would contribute in no small measure in revolutionizing the society.1 This and other reasons were responsible for the establishment of schools in their areas of contact, like Isuikwuato, as a positive avenue for the extirpation of vices that they thought were the aftermath of the slave trade.
of elevating the Africans … especially where the elementary school books are extracted from the Holy Scriptures inculcating all virtues and condemning all vices, and vividly pointing out the folly and superstition of idolatrous worship…”3 With this mindset, the mission schools were started in earnest. In 1914, the Methodist and Roman Catholic Missions established churches and schools in Isuikwuato. With time they gained many converts especially among the youths.4
To debunk the European claims as spurious and lacking in validity is the African view point, which developed later. Africans saw the missionary enterprise as one of the agents of imperialism in Africa.5 Although the missionaries were probably not the only path-finders of European imperialism in West-Africa, they were certainly its cherished assistants and collaborators.
Background to the Study
Isuikwuato is a large town in lsuikwuato Local Government Area of Abia State. Isuikwuato consists of sixteen villages collectively known as Isuikwuato village group. They are as follows: Ahaba, Ezere, Ovim, Isiyi, Amaba, Umuasua, Umuobiala, Eluama, Amuta, Otampa, Amebe, Amaibo,
Imiyi, Umunnekwu, Nunya and Acha. It has an estimated area of 144 square kilometres (90 square miles) and an estimated population of over one hundred and twenty three thousand and eight in 2006.6 It occupies the south eastern part of the former Okigwe Division of Owerri Province. Isuikwuato is bounded on the north by Uturu also in Isuikwuato Local Government Area of Abia State, and Ishigu in Ivo Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. Its neighbours to the east are Alayi and Ugwueke both in Bende Local Government Area. To the south are Akoli and Nkpa also in Bende Local Government Area and Ohuhu in Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State, and, to the west is Otanchara and Otanzu in Okigwe Local Government Area of Imo State.7
Stating the Problem
There is paucity of information on the history of Western education in Isuikwuato. The early works on this subject up to the 1950s are sketchy and lacking in depth. The study area is lucky to have well educated men and women in various professions who have contributed meaningfully to the development of the village group and most of them are what they are today because of their education. Ironically, the contribution of western education
to the well being of Isuikwuato in particular has been left largely to conjectures. These lapses, if not filled, will create a serious gap in scholarship that could affect researchers who would wish to investigate this subject further. It is this lapse that this work intends to correct.
The Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the study is to consider the progress that had taken place since the introduction of Western education to Isuikwuato between 1914 to 2009. It ascertains the impact which the introduction of Western education had on the general wellbeing of the people and the development of the study area. The study examines the nature and pattern of educational system as well as the factors that made it possible for its growth from the colonial period up to 2009.
Scope of the Study
This work covers the period 1914 to 2009. The work assesses the activities of various missionary agencies that established contact with Isuikwuato since 1914. It equally studies the development of Western education in Isuikwuato when the Eastern Government took over the schools in 1957 and thereafter, the subsequent introduction of the Universal Basic Education in 2000 by the Federal Government under President Olusegun Obasanjo. The work ends in 2009 by which time, the UBE scheme had begun to yield some positive results.
As already stated earlier, there is paucity of information on the development of Western education in Isuikwuato. Earlier works on the issue lack depth though useful references are made from them.
- B. Ogwo, a former Chairman of Ezere community, tried to document the history of Isuikwuato. His unpublished work “History of Isuikwuato: Past and Present” (1975) contains the history of Western education in Isuikwuato.8 His work gives useful information on early mission schools in Isuikwuato. Origin of Isuikwuato (1920) by Onwudinjo Ugbor traces the history of Isuikwuato from earliest times to 1950. The book documents Isuikwuato’s relationship with the earliest Christian mission, specifically the Methodist and Roman Catholic missions.9 The work provides useful information on the history of western education in Isuikwuato.
- C. Anene’s Southern Nigeria in Transition, 1885-190610, is an eye opener to the activities of the European missionary activities especially
in the field of western education. F. K. Ekechi’s book Missionary Enterprises and Rivalry in Igbo land 1885-191411 is useful in reconstructing the coming of Christian missionaries in Igboland and the introduction of western education in Isuikwuato. The book is useful in its attempt to ascertain the reasons for the introduction of western education by the Europeans in Igboland in particular.
The work of erudite church historian late Professor Ikenga, R. A Ozigbo’s A History of Igbo land in the Twentieth century (1999) lays emphasis on Igbo education.12 Though Isuikwuato is not mentioned in the book, is still useful as a guide to the study of western education in Igboland generally and, in the reconstruction of traditional and western forms of education in Isuikwuato.
Able Okozie’s work, Encounter with Jesus: Christianity in Igboland 1970 to the present (1985) studies the proliferation of churches in Igbo land.13 The book uses Isuikwuato as a case study and highlights how various agencies that entered Isuikwuato established schools. Though Okozie’s book lack dept, it will be useful in reconstructing the coming of Christian missions
especially the Roman Catholic and the Methodist Missions to Isuikwuato and the introduction of western education in the area.
- A. Ayandele, Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria, 1882-1919 (1966), epitomes the earliest attempts at the introduction of western education in Nigeria.14 Though his work did not cover educational activities in the interior of South-eastern15 Nigeria, it still gives useful information on the activities of the European educational agencies in Nigeria that are relevant to Isuikwuato.
- T. Basden, Niger Ibos (1966) examines the activities of various education agencies among the Niger Igbo areas of Nigeria, which includes some parts of Igboland.16 His work helps to elucidate the misery surrounding the coming of Christian missions and their education activities in Eastern Nigeria. It will equally be useful in the reconstruction of the earliest educational activities among the Igbo people especially those in Isuikwuato.
- O. Ukeji in Education for Social Reconstruction (1966), streamlines the need for education in Nigeria.17 His work looks at the changes that took place in Nigerian educational sector since independence
- E. A. Ayandele, Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria, 1842-1919 (London: Longman Press, 1966).
- Southeastern Nigeria was before used interchangeably with Eastern Nigeria to refer to the same location and their peoples. In 1999 Nigeria was restructured into geo-political zones, South east became the name for the five states of Igboland. In this work, South east is used with regard to the geo-political zone populated by the Igbo ethnic group.
- G. T. Basden, Niger Ibos (London: Longman Press, 1966).
and the need for change of education policy. The book is a veritable tool for the reconstruction of post-independent educational activities among Nigerians generally and Isuikwuato in particular.
- B. Fafunwa, History of Education in Nigeria (1974), details the history of education in Nigeria.18 He looks into changes that took place in the education sector over time: from the pre-colonial, colonial to post-colonial Nigeria. He recommends policies that are required for educational development in Nigeria. The book is a catalyst for analyzing education in Nigeria and showing its positive and negative effects especially on Isuikwuato.
- O. Taiwo, The Nigeria Education System: Past, Present and Future (1980), examines Nigeria’s educational system from the pre-colonial period to the UPE scheme of 1976 to 1979.19 The book is relevant in analyzing educational development in Nigeria especially the Universal Primary Education Scheme between 1976 and 1979. Isuikwuato educational development is involved in such analysis.
- Edun’s “A Case for Reform in the Universal Basic Education programme in Nigeria (2008), highlights the inadequacy of the UBE scheme
- B. O. Ukeji, Education for Social Reconstruction (London: Macmillian Press, 1966).
- A. B. Fafunwa, History of Education in Nigeria (London: George-Allen and Unwin, 1974).
- 19. O. Taiwo, The Nigeria Education System: Past, Present and Future (Lagos: Thomas Nelson, 1980), 102.
in Nigeria.20 The article exposes the imbalances in the implementation of the UBE scheme in some parts of the country. Though particular reference was not made to Isuikwuato, the article is used to show the failure of the scheme in Isuikwuato.
In all, none of the works mentioned above provides concise information on the development of western education in Isuikwuato in the period under review. It is this gap that this study addresses.
Methodology, Sources and Organization
The work employs the qualitative research approach. The researcher conducted personal interviews in Isuikwuato among educated old people as well as informed community leaders who kept personal document on the community. A qualitative purposive sampling procedure was used for close investigation on primary schools, and discussion with headmasters and headmistresses. Principals of secondary schools were also interviewed. Personal interviews and discussions were used to cross-check the veracity of earlier ones. In addition useful information were got from newspapers, journals, government documents, publications and other useful texts.
- T. Edun, A Case for Reform in the Universal Basic Education Programme in Nigeria, Nigeria Journal of Sociology of Education vol. (2) No.1.117-121. (2008)
Archival searches were also undertaken. Consequently, the research derives its data from primary and also secondary sources. The primary sources, as mentioned, are oral information and archival data from the National Archives Enugu. The secondary sources are drawn from largely published and unpublished works.
The write-up is organized thematically in chapters. Chapter one serves as the background of the work. Chapter two, looks at the nature of traditional education before the introduction of western education in Isuikwuato. It highlights traditional education in Isuikwuato. It equally discusses the advent of European missionaries and the establishment of primary schools in the study area. The roles played by the railway and quarry in the development of Western education are also highlighted. The establishment of Local Authority Schools which came on the heels of the Eastern Nigeria Government’s Universal Education Scheme of 1957 is equally highlighted.
Chapter three deals with the post independent governments and the growth of western education in Isuikwuato, 1960-1970. The chapter examines circumstances that challenged the establishment of pioneer secondary schools in Isuikwuato and how they were resolved. Chapter four assesses the beginning of university education by the people of Isuikwuato and the role played by the earliest recipients of university education in the development of the people.
Chapter five deals with education in Isuikwuato from the post Nigerian Civil War period 1970 to 2009. This chapter analyses the Universal Primary Education (UPE) scheme and various agencies that made UPE possible. The effects of the Nigerian Civil War on the scheme and the consequent East Central State Government’s take-over of schools are highlighted. The chapter assess the activities of the Local UPE Implementation Committee in Isuikwuato. It equally assesses the successes and failures of the Universal Basic Education scheme in Isuikwuato between 2000 and 2009. The progress of secondary education in Isuikwuato in the post Nigerian Civil War period was highlighted. In some ways, the introduction of Western Education in Isuikwuato did adversely affect the culture of the people. Chapter Six examines that issue while simultaneously highlighting the positive impact on capacity building of the people. Chapter seven is the summary and conclusion.
Theories are foundations upon which explanations are made. A theory is a guide to action and aid in search for essential meaning of occurrence.21
- J. N. Piecterse, Development Theory (London: Sage Press, 2010), 5.
In establishing a theoretical framework for this work, exchange theory comes to mind as the appropriate theory that could be used to investigate the topic of discussion. Its basic assumption is that Western education is for the purpose of inculcating European way of life to Africa in all its ramifications. Exchange theory is a sociological theory formulated by Georg Simmel in 1894. In an essay titled “the problem of sociology”, Simmel concludes that an exploration of the basic and generic forms of interaction offered the only viable subject for the nascent discipline of sociology.22
Sociologists view interactions as exchange in three main ways.23 First, an exchange may be understood as an expression and cementing of already existing relationship as Levi-Straus does in his discussion of the exchange of brides in The Elementary Structure of Kingship (1982).24 The introduction of Western education in Isuikwuato in 1914 is the cementing of European relation with the people which came as a result of the conquest of the town in 1906. The second, according to Ekeh, is that interaction may be understood as the direct exchange of reward where these rewards are viewed in a behaviourist way as conditioning further responses of the individuals.
This is the main thrust of Homanns in Social Behaviour: Its elementary Forms (1980).25 A reward can be punitive or otherwise, the British came to Isuikwuato through conquest, as already stated. But, in order to pacify and interact with the people, they established schools. Finally, according to Ekeh, an economic analysis of transactions between people may be extended to activities not usually thought of as economic (examples: being friends, giving advice).26 This extension of economic exchange theory helps us to understand this study as it analyses exchange as a social form in line with Georg Simmel’s explanation in his Philosophy of Money.
In analyzing education in Isuikwuato from an exchange perspective, it will be worthy to note that Western education came in conflict with the traditional education of Isuikwuato. Some features which were alien were introduced into Isuikwuato like reading and writing, Western legal system, incipient industrialization and urbanization. Below will elucidate the issue.
Western education in its early days in Isuikwuato, was a ticket for jobs and employment opportunities as teachers, clerks and interpreters in the era of colonial rule.27 Economic power thus shifted from the older generation
- G. Homanns “Social Behaviour: Its Elementary Forms” in Ken Menzies (ed.), Sociological Theory in use (London: Routtedge and Kegan Paul, 1980), 192-193.
- Eke, “Social Exchange…”, 38.
- E. M. Igbo and E. E. Anugwon, Social change and Social problem: A Nigeria perspective(Nsukka:. AP Express publishers, 2002), 58.
to the younger generation, particularly as the later graduated as professionals such as lawyers, doctors, engineers.28 In addition Western education led to the abandonment of certain traditional institutions and values such as those based on superstition, magic and charms. Gradually, reason and rationality began to gain popularity among the population particularly with the scientific and technological achievements of Western countries.29 Within the period under study, new and improved materials, devices, techniques and products have had tremendous impact on change in Isuikwuato.
Related to the above is the English legal system which came hand-in-hand with colonial rule and Western education to enable western administrators maintain law and order in Isuikwuato. It systematically expunged certain indigenous laws deemed to be repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience. Simply put, Western legal system created new concepts of property rights and ownership based on capitalistic doctrines of materialism, individualism, and competition as against traditional communal ownership, sharing, and co-operation.30 Nonetheless, within the concepts of
- E. M. Igbo and E. E. Anugwon, Social change…
- His Royal Highness, Eze (Surveyor) Chris Aboh, b.1943, Chairman Isuikwuato Traditional Rulers Council, interview, Eluama, June 2013.
- Barrister Ken Ahia, b. 1955 President Isuikwuato Development Union, interview, Amaba, June 2013.
Western education and legal system, the Igbo including Isuikwuato people found a new niche for individual ambition and self actualization as was the case even in the traditional Igbo society.
Other sources of exchange include industrialization and urbanization. Industrialization is simply the establishment of industries in large numbers
with the result that most of the population involved in agriculture withdrew their services in preference to work in industries. Thus, farming in Isuikwuato within the period under study was left mostly in the hands of women, children and old men.31 Urbanization as it concerns this study refers to the movement of people from rural communities to towns and cities in search of new jobs, better wages, and new life styles. Most of Isuikwuato youthful population have moved, and continue to move into urban centres and cities like Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, Kaduna, Enugu, Port-Harcourt, Benin City and Kano in search of the elusive good life. In the city, the emotional warmth of brother lines and social solidarity that characterizes life in traditional rural communities give way to impersonality, anonymity, self centeredness and competition.32 From exchange theory analyses one will be