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HISTORY OF EDUCATION
QUESTION: WHY DID MISSIONARIES MONOPOLIZE EDUCATION IN THE EARLY YEARS, AND WHAT WERE THE EFFECT OF MISSIONARY MONOPOLY OF EDUCATION
This educational system was monopolized by Christian missionaries in the early years. The missionaries first settled in the southern parts of Nigeria and then spread into the hinterland and gradually northwards. The dual responsibility of bringing to Nigeria the Christian religion and Western education fell upon the Christian missionaries from Europe, America and Sierra Leone (Ajayi, 1965).
By 1515 missionary activities had started in better result in the 1840’s. Some of the rescue slaves from their new homes in Sierra Leone found their way back to Egbaland their ancestral home.
The freed slaves later sent messages to the missionary headquarters in Sierra Leone. In response to these messages and call from Egbaland, the missionaries (Methodist Missionary) sent Rev. Thomas B. Freeman to Badagry in 1840. With the help of the local people, he built mission house and started prayer meetings on Sunday (Anene, 1999).
The missionaries discovered they would not successfully carryout their work on Christian evangelism without the help of western type of education. So, wherever the missionaries opened a mission, that centre or house was used both as school and as a church. In other to carryout effective work on Christian evangelism, the missionaries established and monopolized education in Nigeria (Ajayi, 1965).
The missionary Activities in Southern NIGERIA (1842-1899)
According to “colonial report No. 583 (1908 and 1909), the foundation of western education in Nigeria was laid by the Christian missionaries from Sierra Leone, England, Ireland, Scotland and later on those from Paris, Rome and the United State. Taiwo (1980:6) states that modern education in Nigeria dates back to September 24, 1982 when the Rev. Thomas Birch Freeman and Mr. and Mrs. William De Graft of the Wesleyen Missionary Society arrived at Badagry.
The first missionary group to play a significant role in establishing western education was the Christian Missionary Society (C.M.S). They established in Badagry and Lagos in1887. A new Methodist Station was establishes at Badagry in April, 1884 under the leaderships of the Rev. Samuel Annear. The Rev. Townsend the Rev. Samuel Ajayi Growther and the Rev. C.A. Golmer were appointed to establish the Yoruba Mission with Abeokuta as its first station. The C.M.S and the Methodist church both penetrated the hinterland of Yoruba land and founded schools in Abeokutu and Ibadan in 1853. Thus through persuasions, trade, contact intimidation, compulsion and where necessary War activities, Christianity spread through southern Nigeria and penetrated the interior as far north as Lokoja and Bida. The forceful activities to evangelize southern Nigeria resulted in the humiliation by the British of King Jaja of Opobo and other Delta kings, Arochukwu was invaded and other pockets of resistance by the natives were forcefully broken.
Ozigi and Ocho (1981:14-15) report that the “Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.) started work in parts of northern Nigeria almost at the same time as it did in parts of the southern Nigeria”. Through the efforts of the Rev. Ajayi Crowther, the first northerner was baptized at Igbebe near Lokoja in 1862. Thus the baptism gave birth to the beginning of the crusade by Christians against the Muslim faith.
The initial curriculum designed by the missionaries was a modest and simple one, emphasizing the 3Rs – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. The primary aim of the Christian missionaries was to teach Africans how to read the Bible. Agriculture Nature Study was later added to the teaching of the 3Rs. The bible and the plough therefore, constituted the bulk of the schools curriculum. The missionaries did not show much enthusiasm in providing secondary education because according to them advanced literacy would constitute a handicap to the belief and faith in God. This retrogressive policy greatly retarded the development of higher education in Nigeria for several years. An educated person was regarded as a treat to the unconditional belief in the teachings of the Bible.
Initially, the question of the medium of instruction was a problem because there was some debate as to whether a Nigeria language or a European language should be adopted. It was agreed upon later that the development of local languages and the identification and training of local leaders were an essential first step. It must be recognized that the pioneering efforts by 1859 were committed by the C.M.S followed by Methodist in 1878 and the Baptist in 1885. Omolewa (1983) reports that the Catholics converted St. Gregory’s college founded in 1868 into a secondary school. “The objective of Secondary schools was to train the students for employment as clerks teachers, preachers and interpreters, generally middlemen between the African population and the foreign missions”. (Omolewa, 1983:8).