The British Empire Library


An African Experience: An Education Officer in Northern Rhodesia (Zambia)

by T. E. Dorman

Teacher and Friend: Memoirs of an Education Officer in Colonial Africa

by John D. Clarke


Courtesy of OSPA


Review by W. A. Dodd (Tanganyika! Tanzania, 1952-1965)
As Tony Kirk-Greene has pointed out "by 1990 the colonial memoir had begun to establish itself as a literary genre. Those voices which had remained silent since the end of empire now wanted to be heard". The voices of T. E. Dorman and J. D. Clarke have joined that chorus.

Dorman's memoirs focus upon his time as an Education Administrator in Northern Rhodesia. However his is not a book about Education. Rather is it an account of his wider experiences, about his family, servants and African colleagues, missionaries and volunteers, rising politicians and visiting British M.P.'s, about witchcraft and UNIP, Alice Lenshina and independence for Zambia.

The author is clearly a man of opinion, unafraid of generalisation; "Africans, no matter where they are in the continent, are basically simple people"; those in rural areas have "calm dignity, good manners and politeness" while those in towns are "slightly aggressive and lacking in refinement"; American 'do-gooders' get short shrift: ''a singularly scruffy and untidy collection of juveniles who were very similar to some of the British VSO personnel we endured"; and the late Freda Gwilliam of the Colonial Office was "a most forthright and impressive lady who generally knew what she was talking about" (sic).

Dorman's is a readably cheerful book, unpretentious, indeed unsophisticated. It will interest those who served in central Africa in the 1950s and '60s, and also those now seeking the flavour of some expatriate thinking at that time.

While Dorman paints on a broad canvas, John Clarke's book is focused on Education in Nigeria between 1924 and 1950, although there are chapters about such topics as the Niger River, his war-time service and his work for Unesco in Liberia. However the heart of the book, and its true importance for those interested in Education in colonial Africa, concerns the establishment of the experimental school at Omu in Ilorin Province.

Education in colonial Africa was rich in experiments designed to adapt Western education to the culture of African society: notable were such institutions as Achimota in the Gold Coast, Malangali in Tanganyika, the Jeanes Schools in Kenya, Nyasaland and Northern Rhodesia, Bakht er Ruda in the Sudan and Omu in Ilorin where Clarke tried to realise his aim ''to banish illiteracy without destroying the spiritual basis of Africa". But there was more to it than that: at Omu everything from school organisation to the school farm, from the use of Yoruba to the recognition of folklore, from Islam to Animism, from discipline to arts and crafts, everything was directed to the adaptation of Western education to the needs of African society.

In short, ''Teacher and Friend" must be essential reading for those studying Education in colonial Africa: and those who served in Nigeria before independence will enjoy it also.

British Empire Book
Author
T. E. Dorman
Published
1993
Pages
256
Publisher
The Radcliffe Press
ISBN
1850435685
Availability
Abebooks
Amazon
British Empire Book
Author
John D. Clarke
Published
1993
Pages
207
Publisher
Allies Behavioral Center
ISBN
0963928805
Availability
Abebooks
Amazon


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