The premier web site of Edo speaking people.

Nation of people who are mostly located in the Midwestern part of Nigeria, Western  Africa.



DIVISION, 1897 � 1959





Institute of Benin Studies, Benin-City





A reading of colonial intelligence reports and census data of Benin Division shows the people to have been educationally backward in terms of attainment of educational qualifications and employment in the colonial service. According to one intelligence report:

        On the whole the standard of education is low and scanty. Inspite

          of the           facilities afforded by the middle school in Benin, no Bini

           has yet succeeded           in attaining the higher flights of education

           and gracing          one of the professions with his presence.1

This low educational standard in Benin Division is true when compared to other divisions in Benin Province and Southern Nigeria during the colonial period. The present chapter attempts to provide a basis for understanding this educational backwardness. It does not accept the view that the educational backwardness of the division was caused by the indifference of the people to educational opportunities,2 or by the personal hostility or indifference of colonial officials to Christian missionary education, as previously claimed.3 This chapter argues that the colonial state played a crucial role in retarding the educational development and attainment of the people and the colonial state�s attitude to and role in educational development were influenced by the nature of the economy and society it was developing. The first part of the chapter looks at that nature and character of the colonial state and its economy in relation to the educational needs. The second part focuses on the introduction and growth of colonial Western education and how the colonial state controlled it.


            Benin Division was carved out of the core area of the Benin Kingdom after the British conquest of the kingdom in 1897. It was incorporated into and subordinated to the colonial state that had been established in the Nigerian area. A colonial state apparatus and bureaucratic organs were established in the division to reorganise and reorientate the economy for the profitable operation of British capitalist enterprise. Because of these essential aims of colonialism, the colonial state was in nature and character interventionist.4 It was vested with enormous powers which were used to regulate  and control social relations ( especially labor, taxation, land and business) so as to ensure the promotion of capitalist enterprise, while at the same time minimising any threat to its development and profitability for British economy.

          The new colonial capitalist economy, which the colonial state brought into existence, depended at the initial stage on force labour. It gradually used the imposition of cash needs to force the populace into producing agricultural raw materials and /or selling their labor to colonial capitalist enterprise.5 The result was an agricultural raw materials production economy, including private plantations and timber concessions, but dependent largely on peasants and increasingly on migrant labor. This kind of economy, as Majorie Mbilinyi has shown in colonial Tanzania, was not dependent on school-manufactured skills.6  But inspite of this character of the colonial economy, it still required certain specialized labour skills, training, and efficiency rates that were lacking in the precolonial economy and society. Only a small number of people with these kind of skill were required for the profitable operations of the colonial economy. Unlike the metropolitan capitalist economy where mass education was necessary for the production of labor power and the maintainance of capitalist relations of production, the education that was introduced to African colonies functioned essentially to produce and pacify a small group of skilled and literate administrative functionaries and workers.7. Since education is �a function of the society in which it exists,�8 the functional dissimilarities in education between the metropolitan capitalist countries and the African colonies make it incorrect to use the same concept for both. Hence, to differentiate �Western education� as it obtains in the advanced metropolitan capitalist countries from the type introduced to the African colonies, the latter will be called colonial  Western education. This description also includes missionary education, which served similar functions of rationalizing and perpetuating the colonial system and depended on financial and material aid from the colonial state.

          Thus, education as a critical ingredient of any economy must be suitably adapted to the needs of that economy. This critical relation between economy and education influenced the introduction of colonial; Western education  into the colonies. But non-economic considerations also influenced the type and the quality of education that was sanctioned by the colonial state.


                Three factors influenced the introduction of colonial western education into Benin Division by the colonial state. First, the prejudices of the British against the Benin Kingdom as :barbaric� and �fetish� ridden made the colonial state want to pursue a �civilizing� mission among the people. In the annual report of 1897, Benin was recommended for the establishment of a school to �improve� the people�s lot.9 It was hoped that the Christian missionaries would establish schools and would be assisted by government, but failing which the government would establish a school.10 The �civilizing� objective was initially taken very serious by the state and education was seen as the instrument for its achievement.

            Second, the precolonial Benin Kingdom�s bureaucracy and educational system were unsuited to the kind of skills, training, and rate of efficiency necessary for capitalist exploitation and domination of the human and material resources of Benin Division. This problem was initially tackled by simultaneously import skilled and literate personnel to service the lower echelons of the colonial administration and sending indigenous people out of the division for training in such skills. These solutions were expedient for the establishment and consolidation of colonial domination and exploitation, pending the arrival of Christian missionaries to establish schools. The title holders were urged to bring out their children for schooling in Calabar. By 1898, they had reluctantly sent only three of their numerous children.11 They sent only their dependents and slaves, because of their distrust of colonial officials believed to be using schooling in Calabar as a punitive measure against them. The title holders also feared that their children would be enslaved by Europeans in Calabar.12 When the pressure on them was increased, they demanded the establishment of schools in Benin City for their children instead. The initial response of the titleholders and the use of imported literate personnel were not in the interest of the colonial state. They constituted dangers and problems for the continuity and practice of the politically expedient and inexpensive administration, which was based on the use of members of the overthrown ruling aristocracy to mediate colonial domination. The problem arose because the acceptability of literate slaves and imported personnel would be difficult and expensive to enforce. They lacked and pre-colonial ideological control and influence over the colonised people on which the mediations of colonial domination depended.

          The two immediate and expedient solutions also created politico-financial problems for the colonial state. This was the third factor that influenced the introduction and establishment of colonial western education institutions in the division. The expensiveness of the immediate solutions conflicted with the colonial state�s policy of spending very little on the colonies. The high cost of these solutions is revealed by the fact that the colonial state bore the full cost of the maintenance and education of Benin pupils in Calabar. Also there were the relatively high salaries and wages the colonial state paid to attract imported literate and skilled functionaries and workers.13 As late as 1914, the Governor-general, Lord Frederick Lugard was still battling with these problems when reported that

         The commercial interest of the country are no less hampered

           than  the government lack of staff, and the merchants say that

           the           greatest boon which at this stage could be conferred on

           them is a better supply of reliable natives to occupy

           posts of responsibility, at present filled by subordinate Europeans

           at a great cost and at a sacrifice of continuity.14

Imported functionaries as an �elite class� amongst the colonized people were expected by the colonial state to spend their wages and salaries on the purchases of imported European manufactures. This behavior was expected to be emulated by mass of colonized people. But these imported literate and skilled functionaries and workers were remitting their salaries and wages home, outside the division and the colonial territory. This had earlier made Consul General Moor frown on the behavior of these imported literate personnel, �who spend as little as possible� in the area to which they were posted.15

          The problems were worsened by the slow and reluctant response of the Christian missionaries to the invitation to establish schools in the division. The reasons for this kind of response are still not clear. The Roman Catholic Mission (RCM) had acquired a site in Benin City in 1899, but the grant was  cancelled by the colonial state in 1901.16 The Church Missionary Society (CMS) had been bedeviled with schisms during this period.17 A faction of the CMS led and organized personally by Bishop James Johnson had established itself in the division only in 1902, followed by the Southern America Baptist in 1923, the RCM in 1924, the Salvation Army in 1926, and other denominations later on.18 Though the Muslims had come on the heels of the colonial conquerors as traders, artisans, workers, and so on and established Koranic schools for their wards, it was only in the late 1940s that they started  establishing schools that used the Roman script and English as the medium of of instruction and taught secular subjects along with Islamic religious knowledge. Like the Christians, they were also bogged down by their sectarian rivalries, manifested in the struggle between the Ahmadiyya and non-Ahmadiyya groups for state recognition. Christian missionary education in the Niger Coast Protectorate area before 1900 was functionally inadequate for the needs of the colonial administration and the trading firms.19 All these problems made the colonial state introduce colonial Western education institutions to Benin Division.

          In 1901, the colonial state provided materials while the precolonial titleholders mobilized labor for the building and establishment of an elementary school, Government School, Benin City, for a �purely secular education�.20 Moral instructions were introduced into its curriculum only in the late 1910s. Apart from a special class for training government employees, females and industrial craft sections were also added to the school in 1905.21 It was a day school and the medium of instruction from the beginning was English. Financial support for the school was  met through a general levy collected  from the populace by the precolonial titleholder (hence it was usually mistakenly referred to as �chief contribution�).22 Financial support was also obtained through fees paid by some pupils. The educational model that informed the establishment of this school was a British class-structured one in which the elementary school catered for the training of the working-class elements.23 Though there was no clearly defined policy, a laissez faire situation in education before 1926, as posited by Fafunwa, did not exist.24 The British colonial state knew and defined what it wanted to achieve with education. The long British experience with colonial education in India, Egypt, Sierra Leone, and the late nineteenth-century Gold Coast and Lagos, which produced political agitators against colonialism, was not a good guide for the future educational development in the colonies.25 Measures were, therefore, taken by the colonial state to ensure that educaton served rather that subverted its interests. Consequently, educational development had to be controlled. Government school, Benin City, which was established in 1901, was administered by a board composed of official government titleholders (who were employees of the colonial state). This school was to serve the vast Benin City territories with their population scattered over 4,000 squares miles. Yet the High Commissioner, Sir Ralph Moor, ruled against the establishment of another government school in the area and recommended Christian missionaries to establish schools, which would be assisted if the missionaries changed their methods and subjected themselves to inspection.26 The limitations of missionary education was well known to Moor. Thus, recommending it for the territories was effectively a means of retarding educational development. Bishop Johnson, who knew the limitations of missionary education, lamented in 1913 that �the lower standards of their [missionary] schools were making them less attractive than the government schools�27 By 1927, H.T.C. Field, the Superintendent of Education, Benin City, still observed peoples� preference for the better standards of governments school and reported that �everywhere there are long waiting lists for admission to government schools.�28 Thus, control over government schools gave the state a great deal of control over colonial Western education in the division.

          Colonial Western education as introduced was aimed not only at producing a small crop of clerks, artisans, and progressive capitalist farmers, but also at socio-political control. Mbilinyi has rightly described this education as aimed at pacification of the population.29 As a result this education was limited in standard and directed at certain segments of the society only. It was to be a means of maintaining the existing social order. Hence very early in the administration, Moor declared the limited goals it was intended to achieve:

        I am of the opinion that the education necessary to enable the

          natives on the completion of same, to take their  place as useful

          members of the community, need not necessarily include the

          secondary course.30

Usefulness in the context of Moor�s colonial administration obviously meant unquestioned acceptance of the existing order. The experience of anti-colonial protestations by the educated elements of the Lagos Colony was not lost on the officials. Sir Moor was against the establishment of a central school for abridged secondary education in Lagos,31 and went further to recommend that

          The aping of the European destroys the independence of

             characterter and initiative of the natives of these territories and certainly          

             during the period of their education, I consider it           infinitely

             preferable to          keep them clothed in some suitable native garbs

             with a view of maintaining their distinctive native character.32

          His immediate successors did not heed his advice and went ahead to establish the central schools - King�s college, in Lagos, and even sent Benin pupils there. According to Lieutenant Governor W. Buchanan Smith, the sending of Benin boys to King�s College was not a success and he advised its discontinuation.33 Moor�s ideas were not completely jettisoned, as they were to be reechoed fifteen years later in the curriculum of the schools. For instance, moral instruction introduced in the state school in 1916 was to make the pupils �show respect for their chiefs and to be discouraged from throwing off native customs and dress.�34 It should be noted that chiefs and native customs were among the ideological props of Lugardian indirect rule and as such as were aimed at mediating colonial domination. While moral and literary education was aimed at pacification, practical subjects were aimed at improving services and meeting the needs of the colonial companies and their metropolitan industries. For instance, according to Lugard�s instructions, the school farms where the pupils spent time were

          Not be used for growing yams, beans and co. in usual native

fashion� School farms can best be used to instruct in the best

methods of growing economic plants suitable to the district

such as cocoa and para-rubber.35

          Further, in his memorandum, which was distributed by the Provincial Commissioner as instructions to District Officers, Lugard stated that the goals of rural schools were

to prepare village boys for their own village life, to give them

literary education and train them in better methods of agricul-

tural and handicrafts which will be useful in their village life.36

          Though this recommendation was not implemented by the colonial state in Benin Division, the Christian missionaries� educational work in the rural areas of the division fitted into the terms of this recommendation. This was mainly because the missionaries� aims and goals were geared toward evangelization. They were not completely against the existence colonial social order and shareD similar views with the colonial state. For instance, in the late nineteenth century, some of the missionaries had expressed their fears about the danger of academic education in the territories.37 By the 1920s there was still no significant change in their views. The Christian Missionary Society synod of 1921 requested in a proposal to the diocesan board that

          The great majority of the population must depend for their

livelihood almost entirely on agriculture and the palm oil

trade. Such need only a very elementary education that can be

 provided in the village schools, which can be taught by

youths who have themselves not progressed very far. They

should not teach beyond standard three. Schools of this class

should be provided in large numbers and be accessible to all.38

The Baptist Mission-initiated Phelps-Stokes Commission report on education in Africa, which was adopted by the colonial state, also recommended rural schools with emphasis on agriculture.39 The reason for these shared views, aims, and goals till the 1930s was the need to maintain the colonial social order. The missionaries also feared that educated people would �become discontented, unhappy and unwilling to work the land.� Though such education, especially of the rural type, can be liken to the English monitor schools which prepared children for working-class life in the metropolis, in the case of the colonies it helped to perpetuate the peasantry. Out of the seventy-one pre-secondary schools in Benin Division in 1936, fifty-seven were in the rural areas, and fifty-four of these were missionary schools. According to Superintendent of Education J. W. A. Thorburn, none of these schools provided instructions above elementary class II, and the general standards of the schools were low, with some exception.40

          The limited educational aims and goals of the colonial state and the Christian missionaries, coupled with fear of the development of political dissent, influenced colonial state policies, practices, and measures taken against educational development. Measures were largely geared towards control of educational expansion in terms of social background and numerical strength of recipients as well as the content and quality of the educational curriculum.

          To this end, after the establishment of a government school in Benin City, in 1901, Moor opposed the suggestion that another government school should be established in the territory.41 But his successors went ahead to establish government schools in the newly subjugated areas of the territory. However, no more were established in Benin Division, which was the largest division in the Benin Province of the Southern Protectorate as the table below shows.



Area sq.m

Est Pop.



No of Govt schs

Pupils attendance

Est Pop.


No of  Govt. Schs

Pupils Attendance

































Sources: Nigeria Bluebook 1915(Lagos, Government Printers, 1917)P.118 ,Nigerian Bluebook 1936 (Lagos, Government Printers, 1937) P.212 and National Archives Ibadan, file BP 4/2/4 Benin  Province,Report for year ending 31st December 1917.


          The reasons for this discrimination against Benin Division in the establishment of Government schools are still not clear. But it might not be unconnected with the fear of political agitation, which unemployed educated youths were likely to create. This fear was confirmed quite early in Ishan Division, which had a large number of schools. Resident Dawson demanded the closure of some of the schools because the majority of pupils dropped out at standard 3 or 4, becoming unfit for clerical jobs. Some were �too proud to farm,� and many developed �into mere thieves, loafers and agitators.�42 This fear was re-echoed in Benin Division by District Officer R. L. Archer in rejecting Christian missionary agencies� demand for assistance. He argued that �boys with a smattering of English� would not farm or take to craft, and since they could not all be employed as clerks and the like, they became discontented element.43 Instances abound of colonial state�s supression of the educational aspirations of the people of the division. A 1922 request to the colonial state by the chiefs of Oghada District for provision of teachers and school materials for their hundred pupils, for whom they were ready to provide school buildings and other needs, was turned down on the ground that the state lack funds.44 Yet the Benin Native Administration always had surplus revenue. For instance, �1,000 was expended on the presentation of an airplane to the British Imperial Government in 1916 and another �1,000 was invested with the protectorate Government in 1917.45 Benin Division was denied any other government school until 1938 when the Native authorities were allowed to established schools. The only government school in Benin City was not only inadequate for the division, but it was reported in 1916 that the teachers lacked adequate knowledge of moral instruction, nature study, geography and history, and the teaching was of no value to the pupils. In 1926 the school was reported to be so poorly staffed that it was unable to admit pupils.46 Yet this school was supposed to serve the members of the cosmopolitan population of Benin Division and take them to greater heights, which the 1936 intelligence report accused them of failing to achieve.

          As already shown, colonial Western education, especially government or state sponsored schools, was aimed at producing clerks or if need be pupils for higher education (at King�s College, Lagos) and teachers for government schools (at Government College, Ibadan).47 It was also aimed at a particular class. In Benin Division, it was aimed at children of the members of the pre-colonial ruling aristocracy. Benin City, were the only Government school was built, was inhabited largely by members of the aristocracy and their dependants. These titleholders were instructed to recruit pupils for the school and it was natural to expect them to recruit their own children. However, their response was poor. Of about 300 pupils in Government School, Benin City, in 1916 only thirty (of which thirteen were children of the Iyase of Benin) were children of titleholders. A policy of giving special education to the children of the chiefs was pursued with fanatical zeal during Lugard�s tenure as Governor-general of Nigeria. A separate class with boarding facilities was approved for the children of �chiefs� or titleholders in Government School, Benin City, in 1916.48 The school was to be organized along the lines of English public schools with boarding houses and monitors. It was expected to teach �discipline� and a �command of men,� believed to be invaluable for future role as chiefs.49 Students were also to be taught elements of English and Scottish history, as well as practical education in arts and crafts, reading, writing, simple account keeping, and the geography of the British Empire, Nigeria, and Benin Province.50 That agriculture and technical subjects like carpentry were excluded from their curriculum meant that they were not being prepared for peasant agriculture or artisanal life. H. C. Moorhouse, Secretary to the Southern Provinces, defined clearly the life they were being prepared for when he stated that

          The sons of chiefs should achieve not only literary attainments,

             but also and primarily the maintenance of discipline, good

             behaviour and high moral tone. Later when these educated boys

 return to their homes, they should be able to make themselves

 leaders of their compatriots and finally become of inestimable

 value in the better administration of the country.51

Products of such schools like the late Oba Akenzua II (King of Benin, 1933-1978) were usually sent on to king�s college, lagos, to complete this special education that prepared them for their future roles.

          This colonial Western education, especially its post-primary phase, was largely reserve for members of the former ruling class as a means of perpetuating the precolonial social structure and consolidating the formerly dominant elements as intermediaries between the colonial state and the other sectors of the colonized population. This is attested to by the fact that when the Benin Native Authority started awarding scholarships indiscriminately to enable Benin Pupils to attend King�s College, Lagos, the Lieutenant governor, Southern Provinces, Hon. C. W. Alexander, frowned at it. The only Benin scholarship pupil then at King�s College, M. E. Omoregha, was withdrawn before he could complete his course.52 Earlier on, the Superintendent of Education in Benin Province had requested the District Officers to ask the headmasters �only to recommend boys of real ability, preferably of well known local families� (my emphasis) for the Native Authority Scholarship selection examination to King�s College.53 This kind of special education can be likened to the British public school for the children of the British upper (ruling class).54 But in the colonial situation, it was aimed at creating a collaborationist class through educational training and administrative employment, which maintained the aristocracy�s advantaged position in the society.

          The colonial state also strived  to ensure that only the desired type of education and the envisaged quantity of recipients were catered for by its measures and practices in the educational sector. This was easily achieved with the state�s control over the Native Administration and the only government school in Benin City. The Christian missions were slow to established schools in Benin Division, which had only one mission school in 1916, at a time when Asaba and Ishan Divisions had eighteen and two respectively.57 With the near absence of Christians missionary schools in Benin Division, the colonial state had virtually total control over colonial Western education in the division. For instance, the general levy which enabled children to  attend government school, Benin City, freely, irrespective of class and financial ability was abolished in 1917. The introduction of individual payment of fees in its place forced some of the pupils to withdraw. The school�s population was reduced from 327 in 1913 to 310 in 1919 and 246 in 1927.55 A similar doubling of fees in 1941 was reported to have resulted in the withdrawal of many pupils, especially from Edo College, the only secondary school.59 In addition, Provincial Commissioner, James Watt, recommended:

            I do not think that [a] school ought to be maintained in any

place in which there is not [a] sufficient number of children

whose parents are unable and unwilling to pay for education.56

Another measure adopted in 1927 to control the increasing demand was the weeding out of pupils, for instance, those labeled as �backward and useless boys,� in order to make room for �more promising materials.�57 Thus headmasters were reported as keeping classes down to reasonable sizes.�58 The weeding out of pupils was at a time when facilities did not exist for the rehabilitation of school dropouts.

          The Christian missionaries, expected by the colonial state to provide colonial Western education to other segments of the population, worsened the situation by their negative response. For reasons that are still unclear, their growth in Benin Division was slow and unenthusiastic. Their establishment of schools was particularly slow. Ayandele blamed this on the hostility of the colonial officials towards the Christian missionaries, because they only allowed the missions land grants on a lease rent basis, instead of free-hold basis used elsewhere in West Africa. Also, they failed to recommend the missionaries to the titleholders.59 This hostility might have been directed toward the person and likely activities of Bishop Johnson, whose political antecedents were already known in Lagos. Johnson had agitated against the 1897 deposition and deportation of Oba Ovonranmwen.64 The CMS mission established in Benin in 1901 were Johnson�s personal enterprise. This probably accounted for the colonial officials� hostile attitude toward the CMS in Benin. Also their activities were resulting in clashes with non-Christians and political heads of communities.60 Since the colonial officials depended on these political heads for peaceful administration, they sided with them.

          But the Johnson-led CMS that established itself in Benin Division lamented that �the smallness of the means at our disposal have made it extremely difficult for us to establish Mission schools in the districts.�61 Between 1902 when the CMS arrived, and about 1923 when other denominations started to enter the division, the CMS had established only one school in Benin City, the St. Matthew�s CMS Day School. This was the only Christian mission school in Benin Division at a time when other divisions had numerous mission schools, some of which were being assisted with government funds as shown in the table below:





No of CMS Schs

No Assisted


No Assisted






















Sources       N.A.I.  BP553/1915 Educational in Benin Province

                        N.A.I.   BP 191/17   Benin Province Annual Report for 1916





No of GovSch

No of CMS Schs

No Assisted


NO Assisted


No Assisted


NO Assisted


NO Assisted

TOTAL Assisted


























































Source NAI BP 6/1927 Educational Returns Annual


          The St Matthew C.M.S School, Benin city taught the scriptures, hygiene, English, Yoruba, Bini, geography, signing, and physical drill. The catechist as a school manager and the headmaster assisted by one monitor and one pupil teacher catered for seventy pupils in 1919.62 The arrival of other denominations led to competition in the opening of schools, and a struggle for government financial assistance. The CMS converted its mission stations in the rural areas into schools. The proliferation of these schools was not achieved without attempts at state control. The missionaries were required to obtain the permission of the local chiefs and to notify the Resident and the District Officer before establishing mission station in any place.63 Permission was initially obtained only with difficulty from the local chiefs, whose authority the mission activities tended to undermine. It was not usual for these mission stations to be closed where missionary activities threatened or breached the peace of the community. This obviously affected the schools as well. The colonial state official�s obsession with law and order made them to usually side with the local chiefs and non-Christian population.

          The educational ventures of the Christian missionaries were not free from colonial control measures, despite the relative independence of the missionaries. Where their proliferation and expansion could not be checked, their qualitative development was curtailed. The colonial state directed its control measures at the perpetual financial insolvency of the missionaries and the evangelization aim of their schools. The colonial state�s insistence that the mission modify its educational aims, towards the training of �good Citizens� and insistence on the submission of their schools to government inspection as a condition for government financial assistance established the basis for state control. These policy measures, which were codified in the 1926 Education Ordinance, empowered the governor, the director of education, and a committee of the Educational Board to prohibit the opening of new schools, if the schools could not be efficiently conducted and adequately staffed. This policy was being faithfully implemented in Benin in the 1920s and drew a protest from Bishop Broderick for the Roman Catholic Mission in 1924.64 It was only after apparent relaxation in the policy that the mission and other private agency schools started to proliferate.

          In addition to missionary rivalry, the demand by many rural communities for the establishment of schools by the missions and other agencies encouraged the proliferation. Communities, like Obadan and Oke, which could not attract missionary schools, built their own schools through cooperative societies, while Chief Jackson Obaseki built a private school in Abudu in the 1930s. By 1938, these schools had increased to seventy-eight of which ten were in Benin City and the rest in the rural areas.65

          The quality and standards of education especially in the rural areas were very low even as late as 1936. According to a report on these schools in 1938:

          about forty-five percent of these schools have only one teacher

who often has to depend upon the collection of fees for salary.

 The average attendance of non-assisted schools is less than


          The missionary agencies� attempts to secure funding from the colonial state to improve the standards of their schools was largely frustrated by the difficult conditions laid down by the state. These included the employment of certified teachers, the provision of scholarships to middle schols.67 The missions could hardly meet these conditions given the prevalent poverty among the parents of the school children who were largely peasants. Also, there was apathy among these peasants toward the Christian faith, which made it unlikely that they would contribute to the missions� efforts. The missions also lacked the funds to meet the state�s conditions on their own. The colonial state officials refused to relax the conditions to enable the missions to receive government financial assistance. According to District Officer R. L. Archer, the mission schools provided inferior education, which did more harm than good, and therefore should not be supported.68 The missionary agencies� attempts to secure funds from the Benin Native Authority to improve the standards of the rural schools which would qualify them for government assistance, was similarly frustrated. The Native Authority�s grant of only �125 in support of the RCM schools in Benin City, which had 441 pupils in 1930 was stopped. In 1934, the Native Authority was instructed to secure the lieutenant governor�s approval for assistance to mission schools and was told that grants should be requested only in exceptional cases, must be annual, and must be discontinued at the end of each year.69 As a result of this frustration of the efforts of the missionary agencies, most of their schools remained unimproved and were denied necessary government assistance. Thus while the number of voluntary agency schools increased three-fold from twenty-seven in 1929 to seventy-three in 1938, the number receiving government assistance increased  from three to only five in the same period. These five assisted schools were all located in Benin City, while all the rural schools were unassisted.70 Consequently, a general tendency to leave the village school for those in the city developed. The result of this was over crowding in the city schools and reduced attendance in the village school.71 This development was confirmed by the Senior Educational Officer who observed that:

            In 1940 I discovered that large numbers of children from the

                Benin Districts [rural areas] attended school in the city, living

during the week under appalling conditions of accommodation

and under nourishment. I was assured on all sides that they

came because there were no good schools in the districts. The

best method of abating the evil seemed to be to improve the

village schools.72.

On-the-sport assessment in that year also showed that of the 2,772 pupils in Benin  City schools in 1940, 743 came from the villages in the division.73

          To ameliorate the problems of education in the division, the Education Officers had, since the 1920s, been recommending the utilization of the constant surplus in Benin Native Authority funds. The Oba and titleholders as functionaries of the Native Authority showed willingness and enthusiasm towards the development of colonial Western education in the division. But their efforts were as usual frustrated by the colonial state, which rarely approved their initiatives or intended support for educational development. The issue of Benin Native Authority scholarships to King�s College, Lagos, and assistance to the RCM schools in Benin City have already been highlighted above. The native authority also tried to solve the problem of idleness and delinquency among unemployed school leavers through the provision of post-primary education facilities. Oba Eweks II�s request in 1930 for a secondary school like King�s College, funded by the Benin Native Authority and staffed by both Africans and Europeans was turned down on the ground of the lack of a European superintendent to ensure �the right kind of discipline and moral tone.�74 Thus the division was denied secondary education facilities until 1937 when the middle school was converted into a secondary school, Edo College, Benin City. This remained the only the government owned post-secondary institution till the establishment of Provincial Teachers Training College, Abudu, in the 1950s. The division remained without another post-secondary institution until 1947 when a private secondary school � Western Boys High School � was established in Benin City.

          The artisans� and peasants� response to colonial education was not very different from that of the titleholders. They were initially reluctant to embrace Western colonial education. Till the 1920s, when the missionaries started forcing their way into the rural areas, schools were restricted to Benin City. Apart form the distance from Benin City schools, the fear of the negative social influences of colonial education, and the inability to pay schools fees,75 there was also the general distrust of colonial officials and their policies. This general distrust and resentment were also extended to the missionary agents of both European and African extraction. They were correctly viewed by the people as the same, which was expressed in the saying A we ghe �Ebo we we na ghe fada, literally, �We say look at the white man, and you say look at the reverend father.� This saying meant that there was no difference between the colonial officials and the missionaries. This attitude towards the missionaries developed into hostility due to the iconoclasm and disregard for precolonial social values which the missionaries encouraged among their converts. This led to censure of missionary agents, conflicts, and the sacking of missionary stations by enraged peasants. The people were further alienated by the hypocrisy of many of the mission agents, who exploited the labour of converts for private ends, involving themselves in illicit sexual affairs with converts (including married women), 76 embezzled church collections, and engaged in tyrannically and oppressive activities.77 The rivalry between the various missionary bodies further added to the confusion and bewilderment of the mass of the people. But with time, there came a gradual realization that colonial education was a new means of gaining social leverage in colonial society. This realization resulted in the toleration of missionaries for the sake of their schools, and a new wave of migration of rural youths to Benin City to attend schools. Even the introduction of individual payment of schools fees in 1916 in state owned schools could not stop the mass demand for and interest in colonial western education.

          The high demand for colonial Western education reached its peak during the depression years when it was reported that peasants seemed to be realizing the value of education and sending their children to schools in large numbers.78 Missionary infant or �monitor� schools sprang up like mushrooms in the villages. Villages that could not attract missionaries, like Obadan and Oke, took the lead in establishing peasants cooperatives society schools for their children.79 They were soon joined by private individuals who exploited the situation to establish day and nights schools. They were mainly aided by the Benin Native Authority, which granted free land to individuals who wished to establish schools. With colonial state policies and measures effectively restricting post-infant school education facilities to Benin City till the 1940s, the rural-urban migration continued unabated. Instead of improving the educational facilities in the villages as recommended by the Senior Education Officer in 1940,80 the colonial state increased the school fees by 100 percent in 1941, and this forced many pupils out of school. Less than 1 percent of all pupils remaining long enough in school to complete elementary class four.81 Many could not continue their education, especially secondary education (which was inadequate) and post-secondary education (which was nonexistent) in the division. Only very few pupils who won scholarships or missionary bonded aid were able to continue secondary and post-secondary education outside the division or province or colonial territory.

          Rather than the indifference of the people of Benin Division to colonial education as alleged in intelligence reports, it was the colonial state�s policies and measures that deliberately discouraged the expansion and development of colonial education and restricted the educational achievements and aspirations of the people. The relatively poor educational achievement and attainment of the people in relation to their neighbours in the province and protectorate was to result from this controlling role of the colonial state. This was confirmed by F. D. McDrath, District Officer in Benin Division, in 1946.

          I have every sympathy with the Native Authority�s decision

 to face risks (and the odium of imposing heavier taxes in a

few years time) in overcoming Benin�s grave handicap of

educational backwardness, by comparison with most other

people of the southern provinces. Except for the city

schools, the missions have failed, perhaps through no

fault of their own; Government has done next to nothing,

 the Native Authority is right to assume responsibility now.82

          Though Benin Division�s first university graduate (late Hon, Justice Samuel O. Ighodaro) emerged in 1938,83 he remained the only university graduate till the early 1950s. This unimpressive educational attainments put the division at a disadvantage and was to affect the emergent Benin middle class in their relations with their more educationally advanced neighbours in provincial, regional, and national politics, and especially in employment and appointment to offices. The result was that in spite of the increase in the number of schools provided by the Benin Native Authority and voluntary agencies especially from the 1940s, the educational attainment of the people, especially the indigenes of Benin Division, remained lower than those of other divisions in Benin Province.




          This chapter has shown that right from the inception of colonial rule, the colonial state had a concern about the education of the people of the division. The needs of the colonial economy and administration for a service class with special skills and the late arrival of missionary agencies influenced colonial education in the division. It was aimed at creating a small class of skilled technical and administrative functionaries, and agricultural raw materials plantation farmers, possibly perpetuating the continued domination of the society by the offspring of members of the overthrown ruling aristocracy. These aims made the colonial state to use various means to control and retard the educational aspirations and development of the people of the division. This affected the quality of the education provided, the numbers of recipients, and the social class and family background of the recipients, in spite of the enthusiasm of the people for education, which developed in the 1920s. This resulted in the poor educational attainment of the people of the division.





1.                 j.a. Macrae-Simpson, A Political Intelligence Report on the Benin Division of Benin Province, 1936,� mimeograhed, 2. See also Paula Ben-Amos, �Social Change in the Organization of Wood Carving in Benin City, Nigeria, �Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1971 (Ann Arbor, Michigan University Microfilms) 31.

2.                 Macrae-Simpson, �A Political Intelligence Report,� 2.

3.                 E. A. Ayandele, The Missionary Impact on Modern Nigeria 1842-1914: A Political and social Analysis (London: Longman Group Ltd., 1977), 157-159.

4.                 Bill Freud. The Making of Contemporary Africa: The Development of African Society since 1860 (London: Macmillan Press, 1984), 136.

5.                 Uyilawa Usuanlele, �State and Class in Benin Division 1897-1959: A History of Colonial Domination and Class Formation,� MA thesis, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, 1988, Chapter 4.

6.                 Majorie Mbilinyi, �African Education during the British Colonial period, 1919-1961,� in M.H.Y. Kaniki (ed.), Tanzania under Colonial Rule (London: Longman Group Ltd., 1980), 248.

7.                 Mbilinyi, �African Education.�

8.                 A. Temu and B. Swai, Historians and Africanist History: A Critique (London: Zed Press, 1981), 160.

9.                 N.A.I. CSO 1/13, Annual Report of Niger Coast protectorate for year 1896-1897, Dispatch no. 159 to foreign Office,. 10 Dec. 1897, 348.

10.             Ibid.

11.             N.A.I. CSO 1/13, vol. 1, Dispatch no. 15, Annual Report of Niger Coast Protectorate, 1897-1898.

12.             Interviews with Chief T.I Imasogie (aged 92 years), 29 May 1986, Madam Osemwonwa Erebe (aged 81 years), 16 May 1985; and Chief Edokpolo Obakozuwa (aged 85).

13.             N.A.I. CSO 1/13, vol. 13, Dispatch no. 260, Annual Report of Niger Coast Protectorate 1899-1900, 500.

14.             Quoted in Babs Fafunwa, A History of Education in Nigeria (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1982), 113.

15.             J.C. Anene, Southern Nigeria in Trasion 1885-1906: Theory and Practice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,. 1966), 314.

16.             N.A.I. CSO 1/13, vol. 14, Dispatch no. 29, Moor to Colonial Office, 6 Feb. 1901.

17.             Ayandele, The Missionary Impact, 158.

18.             See J.U. Egharevba, A Short History of Benin (ibadan: Ibadan University Press, 1968), 92-93.

19.             A.E. Afigbo, �The Background to the Southern Nigeria Education Code of 1903,� Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, 4 (2), June 1968, 206-212.

20.             N.A.I. CSO 1/13, vol. 14, Dispatch no. 157.

21.             N.A.I. BD 13/2, Quartely Report of Benin City District, Jan.-Mar. 1905.

22.             Mbilinyi, �African Education.�

23.             Fafunwa, iA History of Education, 93 and 119.

24.             F.O. Ogunlade, �Education and Politics in Colonial Nigeria: The Case of King�s College, Lagos (1906-1911),� in Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria,I 7 (20, June 1974, 340.

25.             N.A.I. CSO 1/13, vol. 14, Dispatch no. 29, Moor to colonial Office, 6 June 1901, 68.

26.             Quoted in Ben-Amos, �Social Change,� 31.

27.             N.A.I. BP 6/1927. H.T.C. Field, Superintendent of Education Benin City, to Resident (BP), 4 Feb. 1928, 24.

28.             Mbilinyi, �African Education.�

29.             N.A.I. CSO 1/13, vol. 14, Dispatch no. 160 enclosure, Moor to Rev. J. Buchanan, 15 June 1901, 480.

30.             Ibid.

31.             Ibid., 482.

32.             Quoted in N.A.I. BP 78/27, B. Bewley, Resident (BP) to DO, 22 Dec. 1931.

33.             N.A.I. BP 55/3/1915, Watt to DO, 19 Oct. 1915.

34.             Ibid.

35.             Quoted in Ibid., 20 March 1916.

36.             Afigbo, �The Background to the Southern Nigeria Education Code.� 207.

37.             Quoted in Fafunwa, A History of Education, 16.

38.             Ibid., 119-125.

39.             N.A.I. BP 1290, J.W.A. Thorburn, Superintendent of Education, to Resident (BP), 30 July 1936.

40.             N.A.I. CSO 1/13, vol. 15, Dispatch no. 157, Moor to Secretary of State for Colonies, 12 June 1901, 470.

41.             N.A.I. BP 62/1922., E Dawson, Resident (BP) to Secretary, Southern Provinces, 11 May 1923.

42.             N.A.I. BP 762. Quoted in Extract of Minutes of Meeting of Benin School Committee, 29 Dec. 1929.

43.             N.A.I. BP 62/1922, C. N. Cummins, Inspector of Schools (Asaba) to Resident (BP), 6 Oct. 1922, 22.

44.             N.A.I BP 4/2/4.,Benin Province Annual Report for Year Edning 31 Dec. 1917, 10.

45.             N.A.I. BP 62/1922, D. I. Field, Inspector of Schools,BeninCity to Resident (BP), 20 Feb. 1926, 82.

46.             Ogunlade, �Education and Politics�; and Annual Report for Nigeria (Lagos: Government Printers, 1937), 3.

47.             N.A.I. BP 55/3/1915, Watt to Secretary, Southern Provinces, 16 Sept. 1915.

48.             Ibid., Watt to DO, 20 Sept. 1915.

49.             Ibid., Watt to Henry Carr, 18 Oct. 1915.

50.             Ibid., H.C. More House, Secretary, Southern Provinces, to Commissioner (BP), 26 Aug. 1915.

51.             N.A.I. BP 78/27, B. Bewley, Resident (BP) to DO (BP), 22 Dec. 1931.

52.             Ibid., Superintendent of Education (BP) to DO (BP).

53.             Mbilinyi, �African Education.�

54.             Nigerian Blue Book 1913 (Lagos: Government Press, 1914); N.A.I. BP 66/1919, Educational Returns Annual 1919; and N.A.I. BP 6/1927, Education Returns Annual 1927.

55.             N.A.I. BP 553/1915, Watt to Inspector of Schools (Asaba), 28 Jan. 1916.

56.             N.A.I. BP 6/1927, Educational Annual Reports of Government School, Benin City, 1929.

57.             Ibid.

58.             E.A. Ayandele, Holy Johnson: Pioneer of African Nationalism (london: Frank Cass and Co. Ltd., 1970), 279.

59.             N.A.I. BP 43/20, Rev. E. Chuoba and Committee of St. Matthew�s Church, Benin City, to Do (BD), 12 March 1923.

60.             James Johnson, quoted in Ben-Amos, �Social Change,� 31.

61.             N.A.I. BP 69-1919, Education returns of St. Matthew�s CMS Shool, Benin City, 1919.

62.             N.A.I. BP 1191, H.C. Moorhouse, Lt. Gov. Southern Provinces, to Bishop Broderick, Roman Catholic Mission, Asaba, 4 Nov. 1924.

63.             Ibid.

64.             N.A.I. BP 41, vol. 7, Annual Report of Benin Division, 1938.

65.             N.A.I. CSO 26/2. File 14617, vol. 12, Annual Report of Benin Province, 1938.

66.             N.A.I. BP 762, F. F. Herbert, Ag. Chief Inspector of Education, (Ibadan) to Superintendent of Education (Benin City), 5 Dec. 1929.

67.             Ibid., Extract of Minutes of Meeting of Benin School Committee, 29 Dec. 1929.

68.             Ibid., Secretary (Southern Provinces) to Resident (BP), 11 April 1934, and 13 April 1934.

69.             N.A.I. BP 41, vol. 7, Annual Report of Benin Division, 1938.

70.             N.A.I. BP 1290, J.W.A. Thorburn, Superintendent of Educatiion, (BP), to Resident (BP), 30 July 1936.

71.             N.A.I. BP 726, Report of Superintendent  of Education, Benin Province, quoted in DO (BD) to Resident (BP), 26 March 1945.

72.             N.A.I. BP 41, vol. 9, Annual Report of Benin Division, 1940.

73.             N.A.I. BP 62/1922, T. N. Lloyd, Superintendent of Education (Benin City), to Chief Inspector of Education (Ibadan), 28 July 1930.

74.             Personal communications with Pa Omoigui Oyiawe, the Odionwere of Igue-Iyase (aged about 100 years), 24 April 1986.

75.             As late as 1936, the Odiowere of Ugboko opposed the establishment of schools in Ugboko because previous missionary agents had had illicit sexual affairs with his wives. N.A.I. BP 1929, DO (BD) to Resident (BP), 16 Dec. 1936.

76.             Missionary agency records are full of reports of these malpractices of their agents. See, for instance, N.A.I. CMS Y2/2, file 15, Report on Benin District, 1922-1933; and N.A.I. R.C.M. BD 3/5, Diocesan letters: Benin City Palaver, 1951-1952.

77.             N.A.I. CSO 26/2, File 14617, vol. 8 Annual Report of Benin Province, 1933.

78.             N.A.I. BP 762, Quoted in DO (BD) to Resident (BP), 26 March 1945.

79.             N.A.I. BP 762, Report of Superintendent of Education (BP), quoted in DO (BD), to Resident (BP), 26 March 1945.

80.             N.A.I. CSO 26/2, File 14617, vol. 12, Annual Report of Benin Province, 1938.

81.             N.A.I. BP 934. F. D. McGrath, DO (BD), to Resident (BP), 8 Oct. 1946.

82.             Personal Communication at his Benin City residence, 30 May 1986.

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