n Ubuntu : Journal of Conflict and Social Transformation - British colonial education in Calabar : the hedge school policy as standard for education in contemporary Nigeria

Volume 5, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 2078-760X
  • E-ISSN: 2050-4950


Calabar, Nigeria, looms large in any recounting of the history of western education in Nigeria. Western education here predates the coming of the missionaries. The quality of the pre-missionary schools was, however, considered incapable of producing the kind of manpower that the Efik needed in braving the challenges of the British abolition of the slave trade. In their search for a better quality in education, the Efik invited missionaries in 1842. Thenceforth, the brunt of providing education in Calabar rested on the Christian missions. Despite the impressive progress achieved by missionary educators, the colonialists considered their education inadequate in meeting the needs of a modern state. The colonial government labeled as "hedge schools" those schools which fell below laid-down conditions, denied them grants and subventions, and considered them unqualified to train manpower. The proprietors of 'hedge schools' and their beneficiaries criticized government's action on the conviction that "any education is better than none". Government's punitive closure of the schools compelled their owners to upgrade their facilities to stay afloat. This paper maintains that most institutions of learning thriving in Nigeria are replicas of the 'hedge schools' in their lack of the infrastructure for teaching and learning despite their regulatory agencies' continuing approval and accreditation of them. The paper concludes by calling on government to emulate its colonial counterpart by providing adequate infrastructure in schools for the preparation of the needed manpower for the nation since "the quality of a people derives from the quality of their education."

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