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Western Education and Social Change in Nigeria: The Case of Ekiti-land in the Twentieth Century.

Byline: Olukayode Abiodun Faleye


This paper examines the functionality of western education in Nigeria using Ekiti-land as a case study in the twentieth century. It particularly focuses on the social change brought about by the development of western education in the country. The adaptability and responses of actors to the phenomenon were examined. Using case study analysis this work argued that Western education was functional in the colonial era but dysfunctional in the post-colonial period due to cultural-lag in the society.

Keywords: Colonialism Cultural lag Curriculum Politics Social Change Western



Western Education came to Africa due essentially to European imperialism in the continent during the nineteenth century. The missionary bodies merchants and diplomats from Europe found it necessary to institute their educational system in order to support the colonial regime. In Nigeria Western Education was planted in 1842. The planting of western education at this time was necessary for the spread of Christianity and provision of low and middle manpower for the colonial system. Thus in the colonial era western education was interwoven with Christianity (Ajayi 1965; Fafunwa 1974; Ayandele 1966; Taiwo 1981; Adesina 1980).

Ekiti-land is located in southwestern Nigeria between longitudes 4051 and 50451 East of the Greenwich meridian and latitudes 70151 and 8051 north of the Equator with a total land Area of 5887.890sq km. According to the 2006 population census conducted by the National Population Commission Ekiti-land was home to 2384212 people (Overview' Retrieved 15/12/2013 from

Western oriented education was intimately bound up with the introduction of Christianity into Ekiti-land in 1894. The missionary societies established the western type of education at primary school level based on the three pillars on which instructions in religious matters rested Reading Writing and Arithmetic (Adetiloye 1974 39). The planting of Western education witnessed the erosion of the age-old indigenous education in the area. While Western education served the need of the colonial society it was dysfunctional in the post-colonial era. Indeed the planting of western education created a landmark in the history of Nigeria and Ekiti-land in particular. This social change came with new pattern of stratification that re-enacted dependency in the post-independent era. In this regard it will be interesting to unravel the impacts of the European type education in Nigeria during the twentieth century using Ekiti-land as a case study.

Conceptual Framework

The functionalist perspective emphasizes the vital role played by education in society. According to Haralambos and Heald the expansion of the economies of industrial societies was accompanied by a corresponding expansion of their educational systems in order to cater for the necessary skilled personnel required in industries. Thus the functionalists have argued that the provision of mass elementary education in Britain in 1870 can be seen as a response to the needs of industry for a literate and numerate workforce at a time when industrial processes were becoming more complex and the demand for technical skills was steadily growing' (Haralambos and Heald 1980 p.177). Examining the functionalist perspective Haralambos and Heald (1980 p.178) posit:

The functions of education in industrial society may be summarized as follows: the transmission of society's norms and values; the preparation of young people for adult roles; the selection of young people in terms of their talents and abilities for appropriate roles in adult life; the provision of the knowledge skills and training necessary for effective participation in the labor force.

Social change refers to the transformations that had taken place in society over a given period of time. These must have impacted considerably on the structure of society overtime (Reading 1976; Moore 1963). Social change is a product of several social factors such as cultural diffusion which is inevitable in our globalizing world. However some problems of social adjustment arise in the process of culture contact - this may be material or ideational. This happens due to cultural lag" that is a situation in which all aspects of culture do not change simultaneously. While material culture changes much more readily non-material culture changes gradually (Ogburn and Ninkoff 1958 cited in Olurode and Olusanya 1994 p.19). Thus colonization in Nigeria necessitated cultural contact between the British and Nigerians. This led to the planting of Western education in an environment characterized by high level informality.

While Western education emphasizes formal training and acquisition of certificate for job placement in the Eurocentric structure African indigenous education emphasizes informal training and acquisition of vocational and technical skills needed to function in an informal African society. While the colonial manpower development was meant to perpetuate dependency (Mazrui 2002; 2003; Atalas 2000) the planting and development of Western education in Nigeria was a step towards this direction. According to Illich (1971) the school system is a repressive institution which indoctrinates students to destroy their initiatives induce conformity and brain-washed pupils in accepting the agenda of the imperialists. In this regard the school system derives its authority from its ability to issue credentials which rewards in the labor market.

Thus Western education (when politicized by the human agency) confuses teaching with learning grade advancement with education and a certificate with competence (Illich 1971 cited in Haralambos and Heald 1980). In the colonial era the school system trained and certified students who are willing and able' to acquire the necessary training needed within the colonial structure. This is in line with the postulations of functionalist theorists such as Kingsley Davis and Wilbert Moore who argues that education is a means of role allocation. In this regard education is a mechanism for ensuring that the most talented and able members of society are allocated to those high rewarding positions which are functionally most important for society (Davis and Moore 1967 cited in Heralambos and Heald 1980 p.176).

However the post-colonial period ushered in a new regime directed by the new Nigerian political elites. Unfortunately the colonial educational system was upheld for nearly two decades after independence (Alokan 1977; Ogunlade 1969). This era witnessed inter-ethnic rivalry and politics of nepotism in governance the educational sector was not spared. This is so due to the awareness by the political elites of the role played by Western education in the social stratification of the emerging state-centric society. The politicization of western education shifted attention from the functionality of education in the society - emphasis was laid on the acquisition of certificates as a tool of political and economic aggrandizement without consideration for sustainable development. The consequence was the over saturation of the job market with (mostly) misfit graduates of educational institutions. This denotes cultural lag in the society.

Mapping Educational Development and Social Change in Ekiti-land

Before 1894 Ekiti-land had instituted indigenous educational system for training its youths. This form of education was developed to suit the need of the peoples' environment. The techniques and method of training were passed from generation to generation. This system of education was specifically designed to give every individual the opportunities to acquire necessary skills needed to contribute positively to the general well-being of the society. This is a form of informal education in which the young ones learn from the elderly members of the society. It implies learning by participant observation and apprenticeship. According to Oral tradition in Ekiti-land prior to the incursion of the colonialists the indigenous system of education performed two major functions it impacted wisdom and gainful skills. While the youths learnt the local history norms and values of society they also learn required skills necessary to feed themselves and their families.

As Fafunwa (1974) and Jekayinfa (2003) noted African indigenous education emphasized social responsibility job orientation political participation spiritual and moral values. Children and adolescentswere engaged in participatory education through ceremonies rituals imitation recitation ceremonies and demonstrations. They were involved in practical farming fishing weaving and cooking. Recreational subjects included wrestling dancing drumming and acrobatic display. While intellectual training involves the study of local history legends the environment. In this era vocational training in agriculture and craftwork helped to produce a productive workforce and responsible citizens of the society. Thus the pre-colonial pattern of education in Ekiti-land was relevant to the need of the society and unemployment was a taboo.

According to Adetiloye (1974) Western education was closely bound up with the introduction of Christianity into Ekiti-land in 1894. Literary education in Reading Writing Arithmetic and Religion was the basis of the curriculum. The school system prepared the recipients for new job opportunities in the colonial system; teachers church evangelists pastors clerks and interpreters. Although the church missionary society had established their mission in Badagry in 1843 in Abeokuta in 1846 and in Ibadan in 1875 the Yoruba wars of the 19th century militated against the establishment of Christianity vis-a-vis Western education in Ekiti-land until the end of the wars in 1893. The end of the Kiriji war (1877-1893) witnessed the return of enslaved Ekiti people who were earlier sold by the Ibadan army to the Ijebu and the Egba. The enslaved returned to Ekiti-land with a new faith Christianity.

Among the pioneer missionary workers in Ekiti-land includes Mr. Vaughan Dorcas Oloju Mrs Helena Doherty and Famuboni (later Babamuboni) who arrived Ekiti-land between 1893-1894 to pioneer the planting of Christianity and Western education in the area.

The system of evangelization through the village school was the motto of the early Christian missions in Ekiti-land. Babamuboni an evangelist went everywhere with copies of the English alphabets. He was among the first generation of educated elites who introduced the western formal system of education to Ado-Ekiti in 1894 and from where the knowledge radiated to other parts of Ekiti-land. In 1894 Babamuboni introduced Bishop Philips and James Johnson to Ewi Aladesanmi I (the traditional king of Ado-Ekiti - the Ekiti Capital) as a bearer of peace and prosperity. Following a favorable report forwarded to the Church Missionary Society (CMS) authorities by the two dignitaries the Church began to send additional missionary workers to the area beginning from 1895. In this period Babamuboni persuaded the monarch of Ado Ekiti and his Chiefs to donate pupils to the elementary school system.

The tenacity with which he collected the pupils who started the first school earned him the nickname Agbomolowoolomo" (the one who snatched children from their parents). The missionaries constructed schools in Ado Ekiti in 1896 Ise and Ijero Ekiti in 1897 Ayede Ekiti in 1911 Usi Ekiti in 1912 and Uyin Ekiti in 1914. The 1930s marked the evolution of post-primary education in Ekiti-land with the establishment of Ekiti Central School (later Christ's School) Ado Ekiti in 1933. In the 1930s the Ven. Archdeacon H. Dallimore gathered in the CMS compound at Ado Ekiti twelve boys aged fourteen years recommended from various schools as being good sound fellows the object being to train them as pupil teachers. These students lived in the CMS compound and were taught standard six subjects but were also given instruction in school method and had a little practice in Emmanuel school Ado Ekiti (It was otherwise known as Pupil Teachers' Centre PTC).

The PTC was changed to become standard V and VI for all pupils in the district. By January 1933 the PTC had become Ekiti CMS Central School. In January 1942 the school was extended to class III in which were taught mathematics literature and Science. Between 1944 and 1945 the most brilliant students in the school were groomed for the Cambridge School Leaving Certificate they were all successful. These students spread the ideology of secondary education to other parts of Ekiti-land. The school curriculum included the study of English Mathematics History Biology Physics Chemistry and Geography. The vocational aspect of schooling included carpentry plastering building brick-making tailoring sewing and weaving. This was necessary to enhance basic literacy" and produce semiskilled workers for the colonial system.

For example some school buildings were constructed through the direct labor of students under the supervision of resident European managers (Adetiloye 1974). Indeed the curriculum and training provided by the school system was centered on the need of the colonial society.

The Nigerian educated elites convened the National Curriculum Conference of 1969. Its recommendations formed the basis of the National Policy on Education (NPE) published in 1977 and revised in 1981. In the new reform secondary education was designed to take six years in two stages of three years each; junior secondary and senior secondary schools. While students who leave school at the end of the junior high school stage were supposed to pursue a carrier in apprenticeship and vocational education the Senior Secondary School was designed for students who are willing and able to complete six years of secondary education (Federal Government of Nigeria NPE 1981; Alokan 1977; Ogunlade 1969).

The NPE perceived primary and secondary education as preparatory for both vocation and advanced academic endeavor. Technical Educational institutions were expected to produce independent craft men and technicians while the Tertiary institutions were designed to produce high level manpower for Government Departments and industries (NPE section 3-6 1981). Despite criticisms against the NPE in the literature (Aladekomo 2004; Aluede 2006) the policy emphasized vocational orientation at primary and secondary school levels. It further craved for industrial input in the academic curriculum whether this is done as required depends on the implementation of the policy. However since the 1980s the politicization of education in Nigeria witnessed the emergence of curriculums that overemphasized theoretical training at all levels. This has suppressed and ridiculed vocational training and entrepreneurship at the primary and secondary school levels.

The manipulation of tertiary education as a tool of political and economic domination has led to a scramble for University degrees. In this regard the extermination of able lower and middle manpower and the replacement of same with a mass of disabled high level manpower created widespread joblessness in the last quarter of the twentieth century. This suggests a cultural lag in the society.

It is pertinent to state that government' and international donor organizations' perception of education often focuses on increasing the so called level of literacy" in Nigeria and Africa in general (Tabulawa 2003). They have failed to critically address the functionality of western education in the societal structure. This attitude is misleading as what constitute literacy" differs from one society to the other. For instance the pre-colonial Ekiti people were not illiterates. They were very much aware of the dynamics of their environment and were able to institute the indigenous system of education that met the need of the pre-colonial society. The citizens trained in this system were responsible members of society who are able to cater for their personal family and societal needs. According to Oral tradition in this period unemployment was a taboo and the unemployed were considered illiterates". Thus indigenous education was functional in the pre-colonial era.

The colonial regime encouraged the planting and development of western education as a means to meet the needed manpower in the colonial era. To this end the colonial educational curriculum instituted the learning of European language religion vocation and theories necessary for the colonial society. However in the post-colonial era the functionality of western education experienced a transformation from an instrument of dependency to a tool of political and economic aggrandizement. The consequence were many - mass unemployment crime corruption nepotism and wide spread poverty in Ekiti-land and Nigeria in general.


The development of the western education in Ekiti-land in the colonial era witnessed the suppression of indigenous education. While indigenous education remains resilient it was disconnected from the institutional support of the state. The colonial school curriculum included theoretical moral and vocational training that was paramount to sustain the colonial society. Pupils learn Arithmetic English writing elementary science as well as bricklaying carpentry sowing and weaving. In fact many early school buildings were constructed by the semi-skilled pupils. The bulk of the colonial school curriculum was designed to produce workers needed in the colonial system. Thus Western education under colonial rule was functional - it served the need of the colonial society.

At independence the review of the educational curriculum was ripe yet it was delayed for about ten years and implemented nearly two decades after independence. This lackadaisical attitude of the political elites cannot be farfetched from inter-ethnic politics and disbelieve in nation-building that culminated into violence in the first quarter of the post-independence era. Since the 1980s the provision for vocational training in the Nigerian Policy of Education has been eroded by an overwhelmingly theoretical curriculum. This is due to the politicization of western education as a tool of political and economic aggrandizement too much emphasis was laid on the acquisition of certificates without consideration for sustainable development. The consequence was the over saturation of the job market with school graduates who cannot key into the pragmatic structure of society. This denotes a cultural lag.

Thus to achieve sustainable education and development there is the need for a decertification of the Nigerian educational sector. The issuance of certificates as a measure of skills should be abolished; rather practical skill acquisition and ingenuity should be emphasized at all levels of learning. This is necessary to stimulate a functional educational system in an informal society competing in a globalize world and a technological age.


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Author:Faleye, Olukayode Abiodun
Publication:Journal of Educational Research
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:6NIGR
Date:Dec 31, 2013
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