An Atlas of African Affairs

By Andrew Boyd; Patrick Van Rensburg | Go to book overview
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M. Education

Writing was virtually unknown in Africa, outside the Islamic north and Ethiopia (E), until the arrival of the white missionaries, who pioneered education in most areas. It is estimated that at least 7 out of 10 people still cannot read or write. In parts of tropical Africa, the rate of illiteracy is even higher. Mass elementary education is fast growing, but it will take years to end adult illiteracy.

The map shows, for each area, what percentage of school-age children are at school. Social custom has held back the education of girls in most places. Post-war expansion has been rapid in many areas: for example, in 1947 Nigeria and Tanganyika had respectively 600,000 and 130,000 school pupils; now they have 3,000,000 and 500,000. But secondary education is available for few Africans, e.g. 5,000 in Tanganyika, with 10,000 planned by 1964. For most governments, one special problem is how to attract and pay for the foreign teachers who are still needed. In South Africa, the 'Bantu education' programme has brought more Africans to school than before, but it is designed to fit them for a 'traditional' rather than a modern life.

South Africa's 9 universities and university colleges are now all for whites only (separate colleges are projected for Africans, Coloureds and Indians); Arab Africa's 12 include 3 Islamic universities; the 13 in the rest of Africa are small, but mostly planning expansion. New Colleges are planned in Nigeria, Liberia (2), Kenya and Tanganyika. The above figures do not include technical colleges.

Over 7,000 Africans are studying in Britain (the largest number in any country overseas) at technical and teacher-training colleges, in law, industry and hospitals, and at universities, where there are 2,300 (including: Nigeria 880, Ghana 350, Kenya 320, UAR 240, Sudan 100). Comparable numbers of students are in America and France (including, in America, UAR 750, Nigeria 250). There are about 500 African students in Russia, 300 in Poland, and several hundred in other communist countries; but many have returned from those countries complaining that compulsory indoctrination and bigoted discipline make it impossible to get a real education.

Multiplicity of languages (C) is a serious obstacle to education. Many children first have to learn a locally predominant language different from their own, and then master English or French; now the teaching of French in English-language countries, and vice versa, is growing.

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