HC Deb 07 December 1951 vol 494 cc2703-24

11.9 a.m.

Mr. James Johnson (Rugby)

I want to thank the Under-Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations for his courtesy in allowing the subject of this debate to be changed at such short notice. We had originally chosen the subject of Central African federation, but we on this side of the House felt that to have that debate without the Secretary of State being able to speak would be a pity, to say the least, and would cause misunderstanding among the peoples of Africa. So we have changed the subject of debate, and we are grateful to the Minister and his Department in allowing us to make the change at such short notice.

This subject is a second choice, but I believe that it is almost as important, taking the long-term view, as the original one. While secondary education is important, it is also vital that higher education should go side by side with it, because the Africans themselves must in the near future produce many more of their own leaders, particularly doctors, dentists, lawyers, teachers and the like if they are to proceed upon their own way to emancipation, as we all hope.

Secondly, I believe that they must have their own universities on their own soil and in their own climate, because, at the moment, many of them are coming over here to alien conditions, living with landladies, some of whom perhaps, are not all that they might be, and, indeed, many of them are going south to the Union of South Africa, where the climate of opinion is not a happy one in this matter of colour. It is vital that we should have as many university colleges as early as possible and that they should be as large as possible.

I want to reinforce that by quoting the Inter-University Council for Higher Education in the Colonies which is, of course, a more weighty authority than myself. On page 7 of its Report it says: With the raising in 1951 of the minimum requirements for entrance to the United Kingdom universities, the number of colonial students qualified for admission will decrease. This adds a further element of urgency to the need for developing the colonial universities and colleges and completing their building programmes, so that they can absorb the students who cannot proceed overseas for undergraduate studies. Our aim should be for our colonial people to take their degrees in their own countries and then to come to this country for post-graduate studies.

What are the figures and what has happened in Africa? In 1950 the number of Africans in their own universities and colleges was something like 1,114 out of a total of 2,763 in the whole of the Colonial Territories. I think over 4,000 came to this country. I have not the figures of those who went to the United States or to the Union of South Africa, but there must have been a very large number. The distressing feature is the alarmingly low proportion of women. Only 43 women were in colleges or universities in the whole of the African Continent, which has a population of 60 million people.

We can give West Africa a medal for what they are doing. They are doing a wonderful job in the university colleges in the Gold Coast, in Sierra Leone and in Nigeria. They are doing a fine job with extra mural work up country, too. But when we come to East and Central Africa it is a somewhat different picture. It is the other side of the medal. Only Makarere has been brought up to university standard, and the figures are most illuminating. In science there are 68 men and one woman. In the medical faculty, there are 30 men and no women at all, and in the education department there are 38 men and no women again. This is a sad picture.

The cost per student is remarkably high. It was said in the House last Wednesday that the cost can be high as £500 a year for Indian students. That alarmed me exceedingly. Again, there is a grave defect in the medical faculty. The standard is not sufficiently high and Africans who pass their degrees are not accepted by the universities in this country. In other words, we are only turning out there what might be termed African medical assistants. This is a particularly bad thing.

I would again emphasise the importance of having in East Africa inter-racial universities. Makarere is supposed to be becoming one, but I can only find there three Indians and one European. We want many more of the other races there if we wish to have a healthy society later on. Is the university college there full? Is there sufficient accommodation at Makarere? Above all, why the high cost in fees?

I found some interesting figures about the teaching staff and its ratio to the students. Obviously, it would be most unfair to compare these colleges with those of the United Kingdom, but the figures for the university college of the Gold Coast are as follow. There are 61 staff teaching 213 students, which gives a ratio of 28.64 per cent. In Nigeria there are something like 66 staff for 27 students giving a ratio of 20.18 per cent. But in East Africa and Uganda there are only 31 staff for 237 students which gives the remarkably low ratio of 13.08 per cent.

I would emphasise the need for a high teaching ratio in the Colonies. They have their own specific problems and above all, we need much time for research in the Empire and in the Colonies. Regarding Government bursaries, we find that the Government of Kenya gave 38 university bursaries in 1950 to Europeans to enable them to come over here. They gave 24 to Asians, but only 13 to Africans. I would have thought that the Africans because of their numbers, their poverty and their need to turn out their own leaders, lawyers doctors and the like should be given more if at all possible.

Again, there is no university college anywhere within hundreds of miles of the Zambesi. There is not one in Southern Rhodesia. It means that the Africans there who do not come here or go to the United States go south to the Union. That is not a very happy position when one thinks of Malan and his outlook on the question of colour and race. Above all, I would stress the need for extramural activity in East and Central Africa.

We speak about federation for Central Africa and a constitution for Tanganyika, and the like, and it is important that we should popularise and make plain these changes to the people in Africa. If only we could get something like we have in Nigeria where wonderful work is being done by Mr. Robert Gardiner, who is himself an African from the Gold Coast. He has been responsible for setting up something like 68 extra-mural classes from the North right down to the coast in the South to satisfy the enormous thirst for knowledge of the Nigerians. The position is that 20 million Africans are dependent upon Makarere which is only now being lifted out of its old inferior status.

Lastly, we come to the question of finance. We cannot do much without money. The Colonial Welfare and Development Board has been exceedingly generous. They gave £1,100,000 to the East African college and £400,000 to Nigeria. Kenya has lately decided to increase by five times its annual grant to Makarere. The Government, and, of course, the Colonial Development and Welfare Board are being much kinder. Again, the Cocoa Marketing Board is munificent. In the West, on the Gold Coast it gave £1 million and then another £1 million. Nigeria gave £250,000 and another £1 million on top. But what about the Coffee and Cotton Marketing Boards of Uganda? Could they not help finance an East African college?

And what about some people helping on the lines of the help given by Sir Robert Ho Tung who gave one million dollars to the University College of Hong Kong for women residents? I am told that sisal, for example, is selling at £220 a ton in Tanganyika. Much money is made in these areas, and it would be a magnificent gesture, not merely financially, but also psychologically, if the white population in East Africa gave money for the benefit of the coloured peoples.

I think it is no mere coincidence that the East African predominantly white society is lagging behind whereas West Africa with a predominantly African population has been much more forward in this educational advance. I hope that the East will copy the West in the very near future in this matter. Technical education is sadly and woefully lacking. In fact, one can say almost dogmatically that there is no opportunity for Africans in East and Central Africa of any higher technical education. I know that the first sod has been turned for the building of the inter-racial African technical college at Nairobi.

I appeal to my own teaching profession that many more British teachers and university lecturers should go out and help these peoples in Africa. I myself am a teacher and geographer and I am proud of the work done by many geographers and anthropologists who have gone out to Africa, among them Dr. Audrey Richards of London University and Professor Hamilton Whyte of Bristol University. I am told that the occupants of chairs at Edinburgh and Cambridge have gone out. There is here a magnificent chance for wonderful work to be done for the people of Africa.

I know that the proportion of locally-born teachers is increasing year by year, because the post-war harvest of graduates in the home universities are going among their own people. If the 19th century was famous for men like Livingstone and other pioneers going out to Africa in the field of religion so the 20th century should be equally famous for people going out in the field of education and leading these backward peoples towards a fuller and richer life in the future.

11.22 a.m.

Mr. C. J. M. Alport (Colchester)

I am sure we all welcome the opportunity that the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) and his colleagues have given us to debate this important subject. I agree with many of the things which the hon. Member said, and particularly with his appeal to members of the teaching profession here to go out and help in the many difficult educational problems which exist throughout Africa.

But I hope he did not intend to give the impression in his earlier remarks that we did not welcome African students to our universities and university colleges here. There is obviously a good case to be made for the development of universities and university colleges in Africa. At the same time, until those are available, I am sure we would not wish to withhold from those Africans who wish to take up higher education the opportunities which our educational system in this country can provide for them.

I should like to take up some of the points the hon. Member raised with regard to higher education in East Africa and in particular his references to Makarere University College. That college has made great strides during the last few years. We welcome the introduction and development of the department of anatomy and physiology and the opening of the medical school which took place when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) was Secretary of State for the Colonies. We must be careful that the standard of teaching and of the degrees given by those schools are on a level with the standards we demand in our country.

It is all very well to demand that when those degrees are given they should be recognised by our own medical authorities here, but at the same time we must be certain that enough time is allowed to elapse for the teaching to develop in these medical schools so that they may produce something that is really equivalent to the standards of medical teaching in this country and not merely equivalent on paper for degree purposes.

It is right to remind the House that the development of this medical school follows the pioneer work of the Church Missionary Society at their medical school at Mengo and continued since by the Government Medical School, founded in 1928. At the same time I am sure the House will welcome the development of the Institute of Medical Research at Makarere, which gives that college the opportunity of studying what is obviously an important aspect of African problems at present.

I should like to ask the Minister of State for the Colonies whether there is any prospect of an engineering faculty being introduced in the college. In view of the development now taking place in Uganda and the prospective development in the years ahead it is absolutely vital that we should have a body of trained African engineers able to help in the development of East Africa generally. I am well aware that the technical college in Nairobi, which again the right hon. Member for Llanelly played a substantial part in bringing into being or getting started, will give engineering diplomas, but I think that equal facilities should be available at Makarere.

In his reference to finance I do not think the hon. Member for Rugby quite did justice to the Kenya Government and to East Africa generally and the European section of the community. The Colonial Development and Welfare Fund contributed £150,000 towards the technical college at Nairobi, and the Kenya Government, from taxation largely raised from the European and Indian communities have given £120,000 in addition to the valuable site on which the new buildings are to be erected.

May I remind the hon. Member for Rugby that this technical college is a development of the pioneer work done in the Nito at Jeannes School under the inspiration of a leading settler, the late Lord Delamere. I cannot think it would be helpful to the atmosphere in East Africa if we did not bear in mind that in the past there were people among the European community in the earlier days who realised the potentiality and importance of higher technical training for Africans.

Mr. J. Johnson

I hope I am the last man to appear churlish. I said that the Kenya Government were financing these efforts, and I specially mentioned that within the last year they had decided to increase by five times the annual stipend towards the upkeep of Makarere College.

Mr. Alport

I was merely emphasising, as I am sure the hon. Member would like me to do, that that money is primarily a contribution from the European taxpayer in East Africa. From the point of view of East Africa, and bearing in mind the different conditions which exist in East Africa as opposed to West Africa, I think the development of technical education is more important, not in the long run perhaps, but at the present moment than the training of lawyers and—

Mr. J. Johnson


Mr. Alport

No, not doctors; they are very important, but I think that the training of the men to whom I have referred is more important at the present moment than the training of the arts type of student.

I greatly welcome the initiative which has been taken by Sir Phillip Mitchell, the present Governor, in the development of this type of technical education, not only in Nairobi but also in the Institute of Muslim Education at Mombassa. The financing of that Institute is an important aspect to bear in mind. A sum of £100,000 has been given by the Colonial Welfare and Development Fund, and a private donor, the Aga Khan, has given £100,000 in addition. The Sultan of Zanzibar has turned over, if I may use the expression, a further £100,000 which was given by the Colonial Welfare and Development Fund for the development of Zanzibar, and further, the Kenya Government has given £50,000 for this purpose.

I am certain that the development of this Institute of Muslim Education for the provision of facilities not only for East Africa but the whole of the coast right from Somaliland to the far south is not only of immense value in training and providing education and technical opportunities for a hard working and intelligent section of the East African communities, but is also a tribute to the cultural work which the Muslim world has done for many centuries in that part of Africa.

There are three points which I should like to raise with the Minister, and they are in some ways parallel to those points which the hon. Member for Rugby raised. First of all, what about the development of higher education in Central Africa? I am just as concerned as he is about the apparent lack of facilities which exist at the moment in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. In Southern Rhodesia the facilities at Fort Hare are available, where the educational facilities are extremely good. But in Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland those facilities are not available. I was glad to note that in the proposals with regard to Central African federation the development of higher education was to come under the federal government, and I believe that would assist in a development which I believe hon. Members in all quarters wish to see.

The second point which I should like to raise is with regard to the education of women. I am of the opinion that many of the problems which we face in Africa can only be solved provided we can elevate the status of African women in the African community. I received last year some figures which bear out the figures produced by the hon. Member.

In East Africa, with the exception of Uganda, there was one woman as opposed to 49 men undergoing university education in the United Kingdom, and there were five women as opposed to 184 men undertaking university education outside the United Kingdom. The disparity between those figures is obviously lamentable. I believe that the Colonial Office and the Governments not only of East Africa but of West Africa as well should—with great value to the solution of African social and economic problems—pay special attention to the whole problem of female education in Africa, and in particular to the provision of better facilities for those who wish to undertake higher education both in this country and elsewhere.

One of the reasons why there are so few African women available to undertake higher education is because of the deficiencies which exist in primary and secondary educational facilities for women in colonial Africa. We must therefore apply our minds and energies to ensuring that those facilities and systems are improved.

My next point, which I believe is just as important as the development of African higher education, is the necessity to ensure that those who receive the facilities and opportunities which education of that nature gives should have a prospect of suitable employment after they have finished their education. I have seen many times—and, indeed, it is, I think, well known to the House—numbers of people who started their educational careers with great promise, and who gradually moved into a period of disillusion and frustration because they were unable to use their training and qualifications in order to contribute, as they had intended, to the improvement of the conditions of their own peoples to whom they were prepared to dedicate their energies.

It is wrong for us to say that we do not want to see these men and women leaving the universities and merely looking for opportunities of employment in Government service, because I believe that, in fact, in the majority of the Colonies there are no real alternatives to Government employment for these men and women to obtain the sort of employment which they need. The circumstances there are very difficult compared with those of our own country.

I ask the Minister to consider, with the Governments concerned, when dealing with the expansion of higher education for which we are all pressing in this House, not only the theoretical needs but the actual possibilties of employment for those who have finished their education at universities or university colleges. Every effort should be made to create opportunities for the proper and suitable type of employment in Government service in the Colonies concerned.

It is not merely a question of making jobs. It is a question of ensuring that we do not lose the great capital asset which this improved education provides for Africa by allowing all the money and the energy and enthusiasm which is generated during the period of education to run to waste as a result of the failure to provide opportunities for that education to be used after it is completed.

11.38 a.m.

Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)

Although the subject which we are debating is rather less controversial than the one which was first proposed, I think we should all agree that it is in itself a very exciting subject because, after all, it is the struggle of the peoples of Africa towards the light—not merely for subsistence but, in this higher realm with which we are concerned, to become themselves the heirs of learning and fresh seekers after truth.

The founding of the university colleges in Africa is a milestone in educational progress and we welcome it very warmly, although, as my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) has pointed out, the educational map is as yet far from complete. Not only have we only one college in East Africa to serve Uganda, Kenya, Tanganyika and Zanzibar but, as has already been stressed in this debate, we still await proposals for higher education in Central Africa.

I think we are all agreed that at the moment we are in a transitional stage. At present we have in this country a fairly large number of African students. We are certainly glad to see them here, and I know that the Colonial Office in the last few years has been making very considerable efforts to see that their period of stay here is worthwhile and that they are able to settle here happily. There have been some difficulties, and I know that some students who have come here have had difficulties through being inadequately prepared before they arrive. Some of them have language difficulties as well as subject difficulties. They have sometimes not been able to complete their courses here satisfactorily. That is a most disappointing thing, not only for them personally but very often for the communities from which they come and which have placed great hopes in the young students who come to this country.

I urge that when these people come here the greatest possible care should be taken, both in selection and in cases where a promising student has imperfect knowledge of English. In the latter case, he should be given extra tuition before embarking on the main university course. I speak with some knowledge of this, because the University College at Aberystwyth, with which I have personal associations, and where colonial students are very happy, has had one or two instances of students having to be turned down at the end of the first year, which is a very humiliating and disappointing experience for them and for their families and friends.

We should regard this as a transitional period because, while we are very glad to have students here as undergraduates, the pattern which is being worked out in Africa at the moment is the right one—that normally undergraduate training should be done in the students' own territory or in a neighbouring territory, and that students coming to this country or going to the United States or other countries should be post-graduate students or those seeking some specialised training or education after their primary degree course is over.

I am thinking, for example, of the course run under the auspices of the Institute of Education of the University of London, where experienced teachers who wish to fit themselves for posts of higher responsibility attend the course after they have had some experience of teaching. They attend for extra training, and I am sure that is exactly the kind of facility we ought to continue to provide in this country.

Generally, it is less desirable for students to come here at undergraduate age. At that period they are particularly sensitive emotionally it is before they have reached some stability in their own outlook on life. They mix with people of a similar age here who, naturally, are extremely sympathetic emotionally towards them but who may not have a full knowledge of the home conditions of these students. Such a situation may lead, perhaps, to difficulties for the students themselves—difficulties which they might not experience if they came here when they were a little more mature.

I was very pleased to observe that during the debate special stress has been laid upon the education of women. If I were to confine myself strictly to the subject with which we are concerned—namely, higher education in the sense which my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby has suggested, university standard education—then, as far as the African territories are concerned, I should have very little to talk about. There are only 38 women receiving education at university standard in Africa at present. My remarks, therefore, would have to be very limited.

There are, of course, other aspects of higher education in the sense of vocational training, with which I want to deal in a moment. It is quite clear that if we are to increase the number of women students at the higher levels, either the university level or the vocational training level, we must seriously tackle the question of primary and secondary education for girls. The Minister will know how unsatisfactory the position is, with the exception of West Africa. Even there, difficulties exist in the Mohammedan parts of the country. Apart from West Africa, where I think as much progress is being made as resources will permit, we have a very serious situation. That is certainly the case in Central and East Africa.

In Northern Rhodesia there is one small secondary school catering for girls. In Nyasaland, with a population of about five million, there is no secondary education whatsoever for girls, except for the occasional girl who goes to a boys' school, when she can find a place there. It is a most serious matter that such a situation should exist in Nyasaland, for which, after all, we have sole responsibility.

In East Africa, in Kenya itself there is only one secondary school catering for girls where they can take the full secondary course. There is one in Zanzibar, and there are two in Uganda, and efforts are being made, I understand, in Tanganyika to provide at least two secondary schools for girls in which the full secondary course will be available.

It is obvious that we cannot expect to have more women at universities or teacher-training colleges if we cannot provide adequate secondary education. I know that in the whole problem of education in the Colonial territories we have the dilemma which always exists in these matters—quality versus quantity; should we spread primary education very widely at a low level or should we provide the fullest possible opportunities for the most capable people in the community? We have to strike a balance between these two possibilities, and it seems to me that at the present stage in Africa there is much to be said for at least making certain that we provide the leaders for the future, because they themselves will then help to raise the standard all round.

I am sure we shall be very much interested in the report which will be made some time next year from the Nuffield Commissioners, who with Colonial Office officials are now in Africa studying this problem. We remember the advance which was made after the Phelps-Stokes Mission after the First World War, and we hope for a similar advance this time.

We have a vast task before us here. When we read accounts of what is happening in West Africa, we cannot help feeling that they are passing through a most exciting period in educational advance. In the Gold Coast, of course, they have had the advantage of the college at Achimota for the last quarter of a century, which has provided the leaders among the Africans for future advances. In other territories, which are not so far advanced, I feel we must press very hard for improvements, and I hope and believe that all communities will do so.

We do not wish to be in the least ungrateful to those who have already shown generosity and public spirit, and no-one will quarrel over the contribution which has been made by such people in Kenya. I would, however, remind the hon. Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) that Sir Philip Mitchell, the Governor of Kenya, not long ago publicly drew attention to the high standard of life which is being enjoyed in Kenya. That makes this a suitable moment to suggest that further benefactions to seats of learning, along the tradition we have built up in this country, would not come amiss. Something has been done, but there is room for much more, and I hope that those who have benefited from the recent prosperity will follow the example of the benefactors in this country.

I am convinced that it is only through education that we shall be able to solve the difficulties in the multiracial communities. Until we have an equivalent in Africa of the British middle classes we shall not have the leaders from the African people.

Perhaps I may return to the question of women's education. This is extremely important, not so much intellectually as socially. I am not unaware of the many difficulties which exist. It is not so long ago that we had to struggle for higher education for women in this country. My mother was one of the relatively early students at Newnham College and was regarded as something of a pioneer, even in those days. In Africa, where they have the tribal system and religious difficulties, the problem is peculiarly difficult. We must do all we can to help the Africans to help themselves. Wherever the problem of the education of women exists, there is always a certain resistance from some of the women themselves, and, of course, from Ate men because it upsets the pattern of social life. It does so all the more, I think, because we find so many parts of Africa where the woman is quite literally the hewer of wood and the drawer of water and where it is regarded as highly uncomfortable for everybody concerned if she wishes to be something else. That is apart from the religious difficulties in certain areas.

I am sure that, as we fought our way to higher education in this country, it is essential that we should do so in Africa, and especially if we educate the men, because there must be wives to take their places with the educated men. For instance, men teachers must have wives who can also be leaders in the community. I hope that we shall not have it said in Africa, as we have sometimes had it said in this country, that to educate women is a waste because they are likely to get married, for there are ample opportunities, I am sure, in Africa for the married women themselves in the promotion of education—for instance, in informal education, on which so much of the advance of education in Africa must be based.

I hope, therefore, that after all these words from both sides of the House the Minister of State, whatever else he does, will take to heart this matter of the education of African women.

11.51 a.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)

The debate today is taking place at rather short notice, but it is on a subject of very great interest and, as the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) said, of a very exciting nature. The rapid advance, in Africa, in the field of higher education is among the most interesting and encouraging developments of our modern times, because it is taking place in an atmosphere, relatively, of tranquillity, of co-operation, and of agreement on all sides that the advance should be made.

I had the opportunity of acting for two years as Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education in West Africa, when I saw something of the problem at first hand, and had opportunities of going into it very carefully with African leaders of the first order—Dr. Taylor Cummings, of Sierra Leone, Mr. Justice Korsah, of the Gold Coast, and Mr. Ransome Kuti, of Nigeria—teachers and leaders of outstanding quality.

It is true, amongst other things, that the education of women requires to be stepped up a great deal. But it is also true that in Africa, and especially in West Africa, and most particularly in the southern States of West Africa, women already occupy a very remarkable position of their own. Some of the great trades, for instance, are almost entirely in their hands. The fish trade, for instance, a very remarkable trade, run from the coast to far inland, is almost entirely in the hands of women; and the complicated system of social education amongst, say, the Ashanti, providing for the education of the young women by the older women—the so-called Queen Mothers—is a very intricate business indeed; and the women have their place conceded to them by the men as the specialists in their own field.

It is, indeed, even true that African men think that the African women are rather flighty—as one African expressed it, "White man's wife, she good; she keep man's house. Black man's wife, no good. She spend the money." So we have a contrast of the homekeeping, industrious white wife compared with the gadabout black woman—not always the aspect from which we here commonly regard them.

But it is true that, especially amongst nursing sisters, and so on, there is a very great room for very great expansion of education amongst the women. At present a very great deal of that has to be done in this country. I am sure that that is a pity. I agree however with my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Mr. Alport) that we must not seem to deny in any way opportunities for education in this country. It must be a process of attraction to the institutions in their own country rather than exclusion from the institutions here.

Nothing provokes more instant suspicion in the mind of the Africans than a feeling that, for some reason or another, they are being excluded from opportunities which are available to others. There is the necessity first of all for getting institutions of higher standards in their own country and of then improving the conditions there. That is much more useful than saying, "You cannot come here. You must be educated in your own country."

For that reason, I would ask the Minister of State in his reply to the debate to give us information as to how the newly developed university colleges in the Gold Coast and Nigeria are progressing. The University College of the Gold Coast has received great advantages, as was said by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson) through the most generous benefactions given by the Cocoa Board, a board largely controlled by peasant farmers. The idea of getting money out of peasant farmers in Africa or, indeed, anywhere else, for any object such as education is one of these difficulties only those who have tackled such a task can fully realise.

But it is also true to say that the Cocoa Board has very great resources compared with those which are available to the relatively newer and poorer boards and communities on the other side of Africa. The Gold Coast and Nigeria include the great cocoa belts which cover half of the cocoa production of the world, and enormous sums are available. For all that, it is still very, very creditable that first in the Gold Coast and then in Nigeria these great sums—actually, great sums: relatively, to their countries, enormous sums—have been made available for the cause of education.

But Gold Coast higher education has to work its way up to development in several fields which are already in full blast—or almost in full blast—in Nigeria. Medical education, for instance at present is concentrated in Nigeria. I think that before long some medical school will have to be got going in the Gold Coast, based on the hospital at Korlibu or one of the other hospitals. There are plenty of opportunities for clinical development and better hospitalisation. I am sure that it will not be long before the Gold Coast wishes to undertake medical education as well as other lines of progress.

As for Nigeria, it is faced with the extremely difficult task of moving its university from buildings, such as they were, in Lagos—the Yaba buildings—to a site being literally carved out of the bush at Ibadan. This is the actual construction of a university. Very few of us have seen such a thing taking place—the actual birth of a university on a virgin site. It is extremely interesting. But it also, of course, has created many problems of its own, problems of tropical housing, problems of small communities—small European and small educated communities—moved a long way from other society. Small, highly educated communities have feuds and difficulties of their own. The chronicles of Barchester are full of such things.

I hope that it has been possible to proceed rapidly with the erection of the new building at Ibadan, particularly for the medical school, because, frankly, the hospital accommodation at Ibadan was fairly primitive. There was a great deal to be done there. The buildings from which they were being moved, at Yaba were, relatively speaking, fairly far advanced. I trust that the Minister of State will press on with the construction of these new buildings at the utmost speed, because the honour of our community is deeply bound up with bringing these university colleges to fruition as rapidly as possible.

During the war Britain sent out a commission. It examined all these matters and reported, still during the war. I think it was an example of a very high power of detachment that Britain was able to consider these new problems in the middle of a crisis which made it very difficult for us to know whether our own community and civilisation would survive or not. Having made that examination and come to these conclusions, and having gained the consent of the African community, it is extremely desirable that the progress should not falter, and that in these matters the utmost priority should be given, particularly in building materials and in teachers, for this is a great opportunity which is opened to our people.

I have been very struck with the remarkable quality and calibre of some of the teachers who have gone out there. The Africans themselves have teachers of high quality, such as Mr. Robert Gardiner, a man of outstanding quality in any educational circle. I think that it is, however, true that for a long time a combination of European and African teachers will be necessary. But they must be Europeans of the very finest quality; second quality teachers may do more harm than good. We must also send first-rate teachers in technical education. The African feels that the great secrets of engineering are extremely important for him to master; he feels that the key of the future lies there.

The whole House has the utmost good will towards this development. I trust that the Minister this morning will be able to give us an encouraging account of the progress that has already been made.

12.3 p.m.

Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)

Although there has been some disappointment at the change-over from the original subject to this one, I am sure that everyone present has appreciated the contribution which has been made by both sides of the House to the debate. I would add to what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson), who opened this debate by saying that I feel extremely grateful to the Under-Secretary for agreeing to this switch round.

One very gratifying factor is that both sides of the House agree that whatever may be the dissimilarity between the peoples of Africa and the peoples of this country, we agree that the common experience, needs and capacity of both peoples far outweigh any divergencies. We start on that basis. This is why those of us who have had the privilege of visiting Africa have been inspired by the development of that capacity which has been latent and unable to express itself because of the lack of stimulus and opportunity.

Two of the most inspiring moments which I had during the visit I paid to Nigeria some three or four years ago was, in the first place, when I visited the Ibadan University—and I endorse all that has been said so eloquently by the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvin-grove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) about that institution—and, secondly, when I went to the Jos Plateau and saw the Jos people, who are often regarded as a very primitive people. I visited the house of the manager of the tin mines there, and asked him what he thought of the capacity of the people living in his area. He said it was rumoured that some of them still practised cannibalistic rites on occasions, although it was illegal.

But after lunch, he took me into another room and showed me a number of large sheets of paper on which there were geometrical designs or similar impressions, and he said, "What do you think of these?" I said that I thought they were quite impressive and such as I myself could not hope to draw. He observed, "These were done by a number of Jos youths who, three years ago, could hardly speak English, and who certainly could not read or write." That latent capacity had been brought out to perform the excellent work there shown.

That is illustrative of the great capacity of the African people. Although among the African people there is difference of colour, history and circumstances, I believe that the capacity itself is very much the same. That is why I rejoice today that we can discuss this matter so quietly and so hopefully, and can bring forward suggestions by which we can still further serve the cause of African development.

I think we all agree that there cannot be very much development of higher education in Africa unless there is simultaneous development in economic expansion and also in the improvement of social conditions. Just as in this country it was impossible to expect much development in the realms of higher education unless better social conditions were also present, so, I would submit we cannot separate this most important subject of higher education from other aspects of African life. I will not develop that idea further, except to say that until a much higher standard of life for the ordinary people of Africa can be enjoyed, and the economic resources of Africa can be much further developed there will be that limitation imposed on them in the development of the capacity to which I have referred.

As it is, the African students, either here or on the Continent itself, are the living symbols today of the Africans of tomorrow. That is why I submit it is as necessary to encourage African students to come here for their higher education as it is to provide facilities for higher education in Africa itself. The African gains a great deal by coming out of his own environment and Continent, even for three or four years, just as we gain a great deal by visiting other parts of the world. If there is any suggestion that we want to confine them to their own Continent, that may be translated as being another endeavour to keep them in their place and not to allow them to understand and enjoy some of the values of Western civilisation.

I agree with all the pleas made today for more facilities for educating the girls and women of Africa and that we have to have regard to the religions as well as the sociological obstructions that exist in parts of the African Colonies. In Northern Nigeria, for instance, the Muslim faith, which possesses many excellent qualities, has, nevertheless, until recently, retarded even the consideration of women's education.

I remember meeting, in Northern Nigeria, a young man who was coming to this country, but was only permitted to do so provided he took his wife with him. I met him quite casually in a university town of this country and made inquiries about him, and found that although he had been in that town for some two years, his wife had hardly been seen. Although there were those who had tried to visit her, she was still practically in purdah in an English town.

We have to appreciate that the task of providing higher education for the women, as well as the men of Africa, is a very difficult one indeed. A great deal depends, not only on ourselves in this country, but on the Africans themselves. In recent years we have done much to impress on the Africans that we are as desirous as they are of fulfilling their capacity of mind and spirit. We have some 5,000 colonial students in this country, or which some 2,000 are from West Africa. That is very encouraging.

Still more encouraging is the fact that in recent years far more are seeking other professions and training than that of the law. No doubt law is necessary, as I am sure all lawyers here will whole-heartedly agree, but to me it is encouraging to recognise that, at the present time, of the colonial students in this country, some 720 are in the medical faculty and only 700 are taking training in law. On the other hand, nurses, who are included in the survey of higher education, number 820. I should like to say briefly what a debt we owe to the African colonial nurses in the service they are rendering at the present time in our British hospitals.

It is also encouraging to know that some 500 colonial students are now taking engineering. I understand that roughly speaking two-thirds of that number are drawn from the African Colonies. All this is very encouraging, but it still reminds us of the great deal that has to be done. There is a tremendous need still unmet, and I stress the importance of higher education this morning not because any of us wish to disparage or ignore the consequences of primary education, but because we cannot get effective primary education unless we get an increasing measure of higher education development.

I should like to turn now to another aspect of this most entrancing subject. All of us are agreed that we do not want to dissuade Africans from coming here. But it is necessary and fair to recognise that all African students and other colonial students in this country are taking the place of British students who still wait in the queue for the opportunity to have their own education. I do not regret that, but I say it is worth while appreciating the sacrifices that are being made. I address these remarks primarily to students and not to anyone in this House.

I am most anxious we should realise it is not enough to provide places in our Colonies for these African students, but also that we must look after the welfare of these students here. The British Council, acting on behalf of the Colonial Office, meets some 99 per cent. of these students, sponsored and unsponsored, who arrive in this country—

12.12 p.m.

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