HC Deb 13 December 1950 vol 482 cc1303-12

Motion made, and Question proposed. That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Wilkins.]

11.12 p.m.

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

May we now leave this woolly discussion and give some attention to the findings of the Beecher Committee on African education? It is a most apposite subject in view of the announcement this afternoon by the Secretary of State for the Colonies on constitutional advance. We on these benches have always stood for the brotherhood of man, whatever his colour, and it is in that context that I should like to examine this question of education in Kenya.

In 1948 the Government of Kenya drafted a 10-year plan for education. The difficulty was mainly one of finance. The task of reconciling the educational needs of the African people with the ability of the Colonial Government to pay was a most difficult one. The Government were aware of the insistent demand, inside and outside the Colony, and as fully aware of the need to speed up education among Africans, but after detailed examination they reluctantly found that the scheme finally arrived fell short of the ideal of education toward a fuller and better life for the African natives. The main objectives of the 10-year plan, as set out in the foreword, are as follows: to provide within 10 years a full course under qualified teachers for approximately 50 per cent. of the children of school age, and to ensure that there shall be an adequate supply of trained teachers and a satisfactory number of pupils of both sexes to secure adequate education up to and including secondary school level. The Advisory Council on African Education, on the 15th March, passed this resolution: This Council urges that the proposed inquiry into expenditure on African education should be expedited, and that the Glancy Committee should be reconstituted for this purpose as soon as possible. Why the necessity for an inquiry? The answer is that the local native councils were bankrupt because of the money they had spent on education in the junior and primary schools. In 1950 the native councils were spending £209,000 instead of the £145,000 they were budgeting for; and the Government were committed to spending £334,000 instead of the £246,000 they had anticipated.

The Beecher Committee met, and its findings have been promulgated. Very shortly, this is what the Committee suggests should be done. There should be educational surveys in the areas of Kenya. The Committee aims at 2,000 primary schools for a four-year course for the age group seven to 11 years, and there would be 340 intermediate schools for a two-year course for the age group 11 to 14 years and the intake at the age of seven should be about 180,000 pupils. There would be district education boards with the district commissioner as chairman, the education officer as second executive officer, four African members and four other members, missionaries nominated by the provincial commissioner. They have already sent, to Lancashire in particular, to recruit English teachers for help in this Kenya educational system.

It is intended that the senior secondary schools shall be pushed ahead very quickly, so that by 1950—that is, this year—there will be in the third form 330, in the fifth form, 120; by 1957 there will be something like 960 in the third form and 480 in the fifth form. Other schemes contemplate something like 30 girls' boarding schools and three technical schools. Similarly it is intended to extend the teacher training, and other parts of the educational system.

How is this going to work out? In particular, how do the Africans feel about it, because it is the Africans who will be wearing the shoe, and we are the cobblers who are making that shoe. The Africans are not very complimentary about it. In the Kenya Legislative Council, when voting took place on this issue, 24 were in favour and seven against. The seven against were four Africans and three Indians. So there was a solid African line-up against the proposals of the Beecher Committee.

I should like the House to look at the arguments deployed by the African members. Even though we do not agree with them, let us look at those arguments and see what substance there is in them. First of all, the African members said there was only one African member on the Beecher Committee, and they had put up something like 18 suggestions of which not one was accepted. They say that the Government should take full control of the African schools, and that the missions should be limited to teaching theology or divinity. They opposed the four-year course of the primary schools, saying that it was insufficient. The youngsters, they argued, would come out, if not illiterate, certainly of little use to themselves or the society which they would join.

Again, it was found that there was exception taken among the Africans to the idea that only Europeans could be inspectors and supervisors. They suggested that Kenya should be searched for Africans who might be qualified, before Europeans were engaged. They also objected to fees being paid by teachers in training. They argued that this would limit the applicants. Also, they said that a two-year course for the old one-year course would cut down the number of teachers who would qualify, and that teachers' salaries would be lower than they had been.

The Africans argue, again, that one can find enormous wastage, and that many of the teachers will leave the profession or will not continue on these lower salaries. Another point to which they object is the statement that at the moment only Europeans are fit to supervise examinations. They say that this is a reflection on the integrity almost of all the African teachers. But, above all, when one looks at the finances one sees that the Africans are expected to pay, not merely taxes for education, but also to build and equip schools and pay fees for their children as well. In the same vein they take exception, or object, to the composition of the district boards. They argue that they have less say in the organisation of the junior and primary schools now than they had before. In the old days the old native councils organised the primary schools, but under the new set-up with the new district councils they have less say.

But it is on finance that at the moment we find most to comment about. Under the findings of the Committee, finance for the plan was based on 30 per cent. of the total expenditure for the European schools, 30 per cent. for the Asian and 40 per cent. would be allocated to the African part of the educational system. In this 10-year plan the European capital would be about £725,000, about the same for the Asians, and for the Africans a little more, perhaps £800,000. We find that this year, according to the OFFICIAL REPORT of 27th November, the Europeans have already spent something like £1,140,000, the Asians about £502,000 and the Africans about £401,000. Already it seems that the Europeans have got well ahead and overspent their quota, while the Africans have not spent all the money allocated to them.

By 1960 it is expected that the enrolment rate in the first year will be 180,000 out of a total African population of five million. The Africans feel this is a very small proportion indeed of their numbers and they would like to see a faster tempo of educational development. Kenya is not a wealthy land, and I cannot see much more than secondary industries being developed there. Economically the African does not contribute much to the economic wealth of the country. Poll tax is £1 a year, much of which goes back to local district councils.

Allowing for this, I would add two personal pleas. I would say that if this plan is to be implemented and we continue in this way, we need much more technical education, and much more education for women and girls. I am glad to see that the scheme for developing the technical college at Nairobi has been expanded, and that land for this scheme is being earmarked right, left and centre. But to me the key seems to lie in the expansion of education for girls, and I am delighted that every effort is being made to get more girls into the schools. This cuts across many native customs, but the problem of economics is largely bound up with the social customs of the African people. I am told that even Makerere-trained men prefer an illiterate girl as a wife because she is an asset compared with an educated girl who will not face the donkey work.

Again, the wastage in all forms of training is simply colossal. I am told that the girls disappear from the teaching profession at an alarming rate. I should like to ask the Minister of State whether it is correct that the life of a teacher is a little over two years. The wastage of women teachers going back to their ordinary lives is simply appalling.

Having said all these things about finance, about the number of schools, and about the proportion of Africans who are being educated, I honestly believe that if the Beecher Report is implemented it will mean a large expansion indeed in education for the African. It does seem to be an assault upon mass illiteracy. It is certainly not what the African leaders wanted, or even hoped for, but in the light of the financial situation we have to face this, and we have to ask for patience not merely from Africans but from many well-wishers over here. The time factor is clearly involved, but I pray that we shall not have to wait too long, and certainly not for the generation some people will have us believe we shall have to wait. I hope the Legislative Council will quicken the tempo of educational advance in Kenya, otherwise many of the African leaders over there and their well-wishers here will have their patience sorely tested.

11.28 p.m.

Mr. Alport (Colchester)

I had not intended to intervene at this late hour, but I am sure that those of us who have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) will welcome the notice he has drawn to the important question of African education in Kenya. After all, his words will be read and studied far beyond the walls of this Chamber, and I am sure he has done right to draw particular attention to the problem of educating African women. It is one of the biggest problems that Africa has to face at the present time because, as he has said, it is one which is surrounded by greater prejudice than is almost any other aspect of this subject.

Is the Minister of State satisfied with the progress that is being made at present? I have asked a number of Questions during the last few weeks on whether the numbers of women who are being enrolled into the teaching profession in East Africa are sufficient for the needs of these Colonies, and in particular of Kenya. It is generally agreed that the numbers available at present for this type of work are quite insufficient. What policy has the Government of Kenya for meeting this situation?

What effort has been made to try to encourage those who are leading primary and secondary schools—I am referring to African women—to undertake a career afterwards? I know that the chances of any girl leaving an African school in Kenya and obtaining proper employment afterwards which will enable her to take advantage of the education she has received, are very small indeed. Yet, I do not believe that either the problem of educational advance or the problem of race relations or the problem of social advance in Kenya will be solved unless we are able to encourage and elevate the status of the African women as a whole. I am glad to see in the Beecher Report that particular attention is paid to this aspect of the problem.

There is one other point to which I would like to refer. I note that the Beecher Report pays particular attention to the importance of having a foundation for African education in the teaching of Christian religion. I think that any of us who have had experience of East Africa realise the grave danger which Kenya and other Colonies there are faced with as the result of the de-tribalisation and the loss of the standards of conduct which so often are involved in that process. Indeed the whole basis of our education, if it is to be successful, is to replace these gradually disappearing standards with what we believe to be the right standards of morality, conduct, and ethics of Christianity. Unless there is this basis we can never, I believe, hope to see real educational advance. Therefore, I take this opportunity—and I apologise to the House for keeping those who have remained a little bit longer—an opportunity which we so seldom get, of emphasising these two vital points in connection with the advancement of the African in the future.

11.33 p.m.

The Minister of State for Colonial Affairs (Mr. John Dugdale)

I am very glad that the two hon. Gentlemen the Members for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) and Colchester (Mr. Alport) have both dealt with this extremely important question. I am afraid that I have nothing like as long as I should like to deal with the whole of it, and the fact that I am not dealing with it all at as great length as I would wish, does not mean that I do not attach immense importance to it.

First, let me say that Mr. Mathu, the leader of the Africans on the Legislative Council, was himself a member of the Beecher Committee and did, in fact, sign the Report. Second, the fact that the Africans voted against it in the Legislative Council is, I think, only an occurrence which happens often in this House when people vote against something because of certain facts in it rather than because they object to the whole thing itself. They voted against it because of certain aspects with which they disagreed, particularly the payment of teachers. These matters are being discussed further and I hope it may he possible that we shall reach some agreement with the Members of the Legislative Council.

I welcome this Report so far as it goes, and remembering, of course, that it concerns Kenya only, and not the whole of East Africa, the plain fact is, in general, that in spite of some very fine pioneering work done, very little progress has been made in education in the past in East Africa and, indeed, in many other Colonies as well. No one, least of all the Governments concerned, can regard with complacency a situation where only some 20 per cent. of the children get any education whatever, and nearly all of a rudimentary kind. The need for education is tremendous.

East Africa needs trained men and women to work in factories, firms and in offices; in short, to carry on the life of the country as it should be carried on, and as it cannot be carried on until there are sufficient trained people. What a difference it would make if we had 5,000 more skilled artisans and engineers to carry on the life of the country, or if we could find an additional 100 doctors and veterinary surgeons. That is the practical side. But education is far wider than the mere acquisition of technical skill. When I went to East Africa recently, I found that throughout the country there was a real hunger to learn. Over and again, when I asked people what they wanted, the answer was not new houses, still less new cars, but new schools.

What is holding up the provision of these schools? First, there is the lack of trained teachers, which is a very serious problem. I appeal to people interested in teaching in this country to come forward and see whether they would not like to take up teaching in the Colonies. There is a great future in that. But that is not all. We want to get a far greater output of trained African teachers. We have already doubled the output of African teachers since the war, and it will be doubled again as a result of the Beecher Report recommendations. In addition, the quality of the teachers will be much improved. But we must also have teachers from the United Kingdom until there is a sufficient number of African teachers. It will take a very long time to cope with all the education necessary in this very expanding service.

The second great need is finance. I must be quite frank. No country can expect to have a first-class, or even a second-class, system of education unless it is willing to pay for it, and it can only pay for it by taxation. The East African territories have the money to start a first-class system of education if, and only if, they are willing to raise their leval of taxation. It is impossible, unless a country is exceedingly rich, to start a good system of education with a low system of taxation. It just cannot be done.

I hope that those who see the need for education will be willing to pay for that which they desire. If we get a sufficient amount of money forthcoming from East Africa, if we get a sufficient number of East African trained teachers, and, at the same time, if we get the help we need from people with teaching experience in this country, we shall see, not only in Kenya, but throughout East Africa as a whole, as the result of this Report, a system of education of which we and, what is far more important, the Africans themselves, can be proud.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-one Minutes to Twelve o'Clock.