There are a number of reasons given for educating the colonised; four of these reasons will be discussed below:
Firstly, education was seen as a heritage. Wives of traders that settled for extended periods of time in Africa did not do very well because of ill health and their inability to become part of the society. To solve this problem, traders had families with local women. The European trader bound himself to make provision for his consort (‘temporary wife’) and offspring as a rule before he could enter into such a relationship. The products of these relationships were called
‘mulattoes’ and were entitled to be educated. There were also legitimate marriages between Europeans and Africans as well. European men married African women and African men came home with European wives after many years of studying abroad. A Mulatto Fund was set up in Cape Coast where all European traders were to contribute a portion of monthly earning towards the education of children with mixed race and to support the African women who bore these children. In some instances children were educated in the home country of their European parent.
Education then became a right for those who had European descent.
21 A slaving company, successor to the Royal African company after it was dissolved in 1752.
A second reason given for education was the desire to present Africans with Christianity. It is not entirely clear why the Portuguese offered religious teaching, except that it was ordered by the king. The Dutch however, initially presented religious education to those who were ‘qualified’.
Religion was deemed a heritage for those whose background was ‘favourable’ (children who had some religious background or were of mixed parentage).Eventually ‘Christian schools’ were set up to make locals more favourably disposed to the Dutch authorities.
British religious education came after there had been some established schools in the Gold Coast.
The Wesleyan Mission (Methodist) arrived in 1835 to find a school set up by Sir Charles McCarthy, the governor. Books he had ordered for the school included psalmsters, prayer books bibles and testaments. The missions actively promoted education as a means to impart religious beliefs and to make it possible for Africans to read the bible and search the scriptures for themselves. The Wesleyan Mission was known for its emphasis on education even back home in Britain. The Basel Mission also came to the Gold Coast and settled in the Akwapim Ridge where the health of Europeans was better (due to cooler weather). Their influence through religious education has been felt through their introduction of Boarding Schools that produced a number of teachers and catechists. The ministers and catechists trained by the missions were instrumental in encouraging chiefs and locals to become educated. With time, the missions took most of the responsibility in educating the locals. Education was mainly a tool to provide faith. In terms of vocation they chiefly encouraged teachers, ministers and catechists.
Next, many educational initiatives were connected with the desire to govern and promote commercial activity in the colony. Education was seen as a tool for making locals favourably disposed to British norms and rules. These were the reasons the British government gave for education at the time according to C.K. Graham are enumerated below:
1. To assist to influence the colony by giving instruction in England to some African children who were either promising in themselves, or important for their African connections.
2. Educated Africans would carry back to their country “minds considerably enlightened”
and would be particularly well instructed in the Christian Religion.
3. It was felt that a large proportion of kings and headmen would value the friendship of the British government and in good measure adopt the views of the government, if their sons were educated in England.
4. In connection with the above point, it was thought that the young men educated in England would eventually put into force what they learnt in England when they eventually succeeded their fathers.
It is amusing to note that generally among the Akan society (which includes, but is not limited to, the Fantis and Asantes) inheritance is passed on not from the father to his son but from the father to his nephew (sister’s son). This means that in the event of a chief’s death or destoolment it is his nephew (not the son, who would have been educated in England) that would succeed him. This makes a mockery of the last two reasons given above for educating young men in Britain because the chief’s son who had been educated so as to become more cooperative with the British would have very limited influence in society since he was not the one who eventually became chief.
With time, the British learnt the rudiments of the tradition and tried to encourage education for heirs to the throne. This however did not always work well because locals would reject a chief who had ‘left the protection of the gods’ and had been out of touch with the society whiles studying in Britain. In some cases educated royals were seen as threats and troublemakers. The dabbling in chieftaincy issues by the British was a source of many later problems including resistance. But in the meanwhile, education was given with the hope of having loyal and submissive subjects in return.
The final reason for education was to have an appreciably trained workforce. As an additional benefit to the first three reasons given for education, educated Africans were extremely useful as teachers, interpreters, clerks and traders. For instance the need to communicate with inhabitants propelled the opening of a school for translators in the 1600s. An educated populace was definitely more desirable and productive. It is unfair to imply that colonial education only made Africans suitable for low level jobs. There were those whose education permitted them to lecture in European universities. Such an example would be A.W. Amo who was sent to live in Europe with the son of the Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbutte in 1707. He studied and lectured at the universities of Halle, Jena and Wutenberg (where he received his doctorate). He was later
awarded the title of counsellor of state at the Court of Berlin. After 37 years in Europe he returned to the Gold Coast.