A Survey of the Contribution of Kaimosi and Chavakali Secondary Schools Founded by the Friends African Mission into Kenya's Professional Career Pool

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The history of western education in Africa is very much intertwined with the history of Christian missionary activity. In their efforts to introduce Africans to the new faith, Christian missionaries took schools as the most effective avenues towards the said goal. Hence, most if not all of the studies that have addressed this topic have always approached the same within the context of missionary activity or vice versa. In a study on the emergence of African elite in Nigeria during the second half of the 19th century, Ajayi (1965) shows how Christian missionaries used the church and the school to bring about social changes in Africa. Through the school, Africans got introduced to new forms of literacy as a means of civilising them. Consequently, boarding schools were established on mission stations to isolate the African converts from the rest of the community so that they could be weaned quickly from the heathen African traditions. With time, a number of Africans who were in close contact with these missionaries moved and settled within the vicinity of mission stations thereby creating a new community modelled on Christian and Western civilisations.

Ayandele (1966), in analysing the impact of missionary activity on modem Nigeria, agrees that missionaries used the school purposely to evangelise Africans and wean them from their traditions. Ayandele (ibid.) states that missionary education was mainly religious and revolved around character training and the spiritual development of Africans aimed at making them mature and responsible persons as per European standards. Secular education was very much disliked by these missionaries who termed it as a crime against people who were only supposed to use their knowledge primarily for serving the society (ibid. pp. 287-288). Ayandele (ibid.) does not however see this missionary enterprise as wholly negative and argues that missionaries were not just destroyers of the African society hut were builders and preservers as well. This they did by preserving African languages (vernaculars) against the wishes of African converts and administrators who preferred English. At the same time, missionaries also used their churches and schools to develop the moral and social aspects of the Africans based on Christian principles.

Whereas studies like the two above have discussed missionary activities in Africa, where education only happened to be a part, other works such as that of Sifuna (1990) have only confined themselves to the documentation of the history of education on the continent where missionaries played a very leading role. Sifuna traces the origins of Western education in Africa, a process which started in the 15th century when Europeans started making their voyages to the continent for trade and other activities. Sifuna (ibid.), however, shows that serious educational activities did not start until the 19th century when a number of European and American missionary groups targeted the African ex-slaves for rehabilitation where education was seen as a very effective tool that could make them adjust quickly to their newly found freedom. Sifuna further notes that these educational activities which started along the coastal regions were later extended into the interior parts of the continent where the school still proved to be a very valuable asset for winning converts.

In discussing educational developments in Kenya, Sifuna again identifies Christian missionaries as people who not only played a leading role in introducing Africans to Western forms of education but also became active partners in establishing schools for Africans as well as shaping the colonial policies in the country up to the time of independence. Other studies which have also addressed the historical development of education in Kenya include, works of Furley and Watson (1978), Anderson (1970), Sheffield (1973), Otiende, Wamahiu and Karugu (1992) and Bogonko (1992). All these works do acknowledge the important role played by Christian missionaries in the education of Africans. …