EXPLORING THE IMPACT OF WESTERN EDUCATION IN EZEAGU LGA: THE CHADWICK EXAMPLE

BY DONS EZE, PHD, KSJI

Introduction

Ezeagu, which until 1975, when it was excised from Udi Division and created as an autonomous division, is one of the relatively educationally advanced local government areas in Enugu State. This was perhaps, due largely to the proximity of the area to Enugu Metropolis where coal was said to be discovered in 1909 (Eze, D. 1999), as well as through the efforts of Chief Onyeama of Eke.

The first school in Wawa area was the Government School, Udi, which was established in 1914. This was against 1857 when the Church Missionary Society (CMS) established the first school in Igboland (Wabara, S.N, 1977). In effect, Western education came to Wawaland much later than the other parts of Igboland – a clear 57 years late.

Due to the discovery of coal and the establishment of various layers of government in Enugu which attracted nearby villagers to the area, as well as the efforts of Chief Onyeama N’Eke, who invited Catholic Missionaries from Igbariam to establish both Church and school in Eke in 1914 (Onyeama, D. 1982), Western education began to spread to many areas of Wawaland, including Ezeagu.

The Chadwick Model

When in 1944, Mr. Edward Chadwick, a colonial civil servant, was posted to Udi as Divisional Officer, he was delighted to have found a land already fetile for cultivation and a people willing to cultivate it. In other words, Western education no matter how rudimentary was already in many communities in Udi Division before Chadwick arrived in the scene.

But Chadwick did not see its impact. He then decided to introduce his pet project called “Communal Development” or “Mass Education” programme, popularly known as “Day Break in Udi”. The programme could be likened to our present day Adult Literacy programme.

Chadwick’s programme worked like this: “A village asked to be allowed to start a literacy classes, and when the people see that it is easy to learn to read and write, they begin to realize that there is nothing to stop developing in other directions if they like to. They then usually make a motor road into the village, if they are not close to such a road, and start erecting buildings at the village centre, but they choose for themselves what they will build” (Chadwick, E.R., 1949).

Chadwick’s model was therefore a programme of community mass mobilization through adult literacy classes. It combined theory with action, praxis.

Chadwick chose four communities in the then Udi Division in what he called “laboratory test”, to practice or to demonstrate the programme. The four communities were Udi Town, Ogwofia Owa, Akama Oghe and Nze.

In each of these communities, Chadwick left a legacy. At Udi Town, a maternity centre was established; at Ogwofia Owa, a Cooperative Consumers’ Shop was set up, the first of its kind in Nigeria; and at Akama Oghe, the people built a dispensary house.

For Chadwick, Western education was a stimulus that should precede community development. In other words, his programme would start with adult literacy classes, then other development projects would follow.

Having tested his programme in the “laboratory” and found it successful, Chadwick proceeded to extend the scheme to all communities in Udi Division. In no time, many communities in the Division keyed into the programme and began to compete among themselves in adult literacy classes and embarking on community development projects. Through the programme many access roads were built, health centres established, etc. It was a programme or scheme that combined learning with community development.

Establishment of Schools in Ezeagu

In spite of the long presence of the colonial government in Ezeagu area and the pioneering efforts of Edward Chadwick in stimulating communal development through adult literacy classes, it was the Christian Missionaries that were at the vanguard of educating the people and establishing educational institutions in Ezeagu.

Apart from various primary schools that existed in many communities in Ezeagu which were built by some Christian Missionaries with help from their host communities, the first post primary educational institution in Ezeagu was Our Lady of Lourdes Teacher Training College, Iwollo Oghe, which was established in 1956 by the Catholic Mission.

The government, or rather, Ezeagu County Council, only came up around the1960s to establish a secondary School at Ishigwu, Umana, while the same Catholic Mission went further in 1961 to establish Fatima High School, Aguobu Owa.

In 1963, Chief P.C. Ndu led some communities of Oghe to partner with the Catholic Mission to establish the Sedes Sapientia Girls’ Secondary School, Oghe. The Nigerian civil war, 1967 to 1970, however, halted further establishment of educational institutions not only in Ezeagu, but throughout Igboland.

At the end of the war, and following government’s takeover of schools from both the Christian Missionaries and some private school owners, government primary and secondary schools began to spring up from different parts of the state, to the extent that virtually every autonomous community in Ezeagu Local Government now has at least one secondary school.

In 2008, the Enugu State Government led by Mr. Sullivan Chime decided to convert the the first post primary educational institution in Ezeagu, the Lourdes Teacher Training College, Iwollo Oghe, to a College of Agriculture, while in 2017, the government of Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi upgraded the institution to a polytechnic. Enugu State Polytechnic, Iwollo, thus remains the only tertiary educational institution in Ezeagu Local Government Area.

Impact of Western Education in Ezeagu

Western education has made a relatively good impact on the people of Ezeagu and on the local government area itself, as evidenced by the high calibre of academic giants, top flight professionals, astute politicians, successful business men and women, etc., that abound in the area.

Ezeagu Local Government Area also has produced world class scholars and academicians, university administrators, top civil servants, managers and captains of industry, qualified professionals of various callings, judges of international repute, celebrated lawyers, renowned medical practitioners, technicians, scientists and engineers, etc. For all these, we give all thanks to God.

All these, notwithstanding, we however observe that our education system appears like a pyramid where very few people perch at the summit of the ladder, while the vast majority of the people are amassed at the base. As such, the system does not make much impact on the people.

Go to different “Ogbo Manu” (centres for labour market) across the country, majority of the people you find there such as carpenters, masons and different types of artisans, are people from Ezeagu. Or if you visit different farm locations or settlements, both in and outside Enugu State, majority of the people who occupy these farms are Ezeagu people, who only scratch the surface of the earth.

It is not that Ezeagu people were dullards or that these people were not willing to go to school when they were young. It is mainly because these people did not have the opportunity, they did not have anybody to sponsor them in schools. As a result, they ended up as school dropouts, doing all sorts of menial jobs.

What therefore is the way out? How do we stop more Ezeagu people from dropping out from schools, and to become useful members of society, and contributing meaningfully to national development?

The only way out will be for us, or rather for Ezeagu students to begin a campaign on education development in the local government. They should establish an “Education Foundation Trust Fund”, with credible Ezeagu people as trustees, and begin to solicit for contribution to the fund from prominent Ezeagu sons and daughters, business men and women, captains of industry, politicians, top government functionaries, etc. Proceeds from the Trust Fund will be used to support the educational career of brilliant but indigent students from Ezeagu Local Government.

If Chadwick, way back in the 1940s, valued and could stimulate people’s interest in education through his communal development programme, why should we, in this day and age, close our eyes to the value of education? The best way to develop a society or a nation, is by investing in human capital, that is, educating the people. That is why the campaign should be taken seriously.

Ezeagu, in spite of its many years of contact with Western education, still lags behind in basic infrastructural facilities. Many communities in the area do not have motorable roads, particularly during the rainy season, something that Chadwick had laboured for during his own time. They do not have electricity and water supply, while many women in the area still die in labour and their children die of malnutrition and other childhood diseases, because they have no access to healthcare facilities.

Education should truthfully reflect its social and cultural environment. It should make life meaningful to the people. That was what Chadwick did when he came up with the concept of “communal development”, which combined adult literacy with community development.

References

Chadwick, E.R. (1949) Communal Development in Udi Division, South Eastern Nigeria, UNESCO Publication.

Eze, D. et al, (1999) The Wawa Struggle, Enugu, Delta Publications.

Nwabara, S.N. (1977) Iboland: A Century of Contact With The British, London, Hodder and Stoughton

Onyeama, D. (1982) The Story of An African God, Enugu, Delta Publications.

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