The primary objective of the missionary bodies to Nigeria was to carry out evangelical work i.e. preaching the gospel to the natives. Remarkable efforts were made by various missionary bodies in building churches and schools which were all used for evangelizing. The basic content of instruction in schools was reading and writing which were necessary for the understanding of the gospel.

Islamic education, in its own case was part of religious duty. Children learned up to one or two chapters of the Quran from a local mallam, or religious teacher, before they were five or six years old. Religious studies included the Arabic alphabet and the ability to read and copy texts in the language, along with those texts required for daily prayers. Any Islamic community provided such instruction in a mallam’s house, under a tree on a thoroughfare, or in a local mosque. This primary level was the most widespread. A smaller number of those young Muslims who wished, or who came from wealthier or more educated homes, went on to examine the meanings of the Arabic texts. Later, grammar, syntax, arithmetic, algebra, logic, rhetoric, jurisprudence, and theology were added. These subjects required specialised teachers at the advanced level. After this level, students traditionally went on to one of the famous Islamic centers of learning.




For the vast majority, Muslim education was delivered informally under the tutelage of mallams or ulama, scholars who specialized in religious studies and teaching. Throughout the colonial period, series of formal Muslim schools were set up and run-on European lines. These schools were established in almost all major Nigerian cities but were notable in Kano, where Islamic brotherhoods developed an impressive number of schools. They catered to the children of the devout and the well-to-do who wished to have their children educated in the new and necessary European learning, but within a firmly religious context. Such schools were influential as a form of local private schools that retained the predominance of religious values within a modernized school system.

It soon became apparent that missionary schools were devoid of standard and uniform curricula, as each missionary body established schools to suit their specific needs. The practice of the missionary bodies in establishing and managing schools continued for about four decades after which, the colonial government became critical of the small denominational schools that were not able to produce clerks who were needed for the growing administration and expanding commercial enterprise in Nigeria.

From 1882, the government began a bold intervention by promulgating codes and regulations, guidelines and policies on organisation and management of schools. Government also began to appoint inspectors and to make grants to schools to ensure quality. Thus, between 1882 and 1950, many codes and regulations were issued by government to regulate the quality of education in various parts of the country. Between 1952 and 1960, each of the then three regions enacted and operated new education laws (the West in 1955, both the East and North in 1956). The initial experiment at Universal Primary Education Programme was started in the West and East in 1955 and 1957 respectively.


The 1882 Education Ordinance

Education legislation began in Nigeria with the introduction of the 1882 Education Ordinance for British West African territories that is Lagos, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Sierra-Leone and The Gambia. It prescribed the following criteria:

(i) Award of grants for organizations and discipline, with special grants for schools, which obtained high percentage of, passes, and thus attained high standard of general excellence.

(ii) A capitation grant for each subject

(iii) A capitation grant in proportion of the average attendance at school.

The other provisions of the ordinance were: annual evaluation of pupils, methods of granting teachers certificates, a system of grant-in-aid, and the establishment of a general board of education with the power to establish local boards. The ordinance also recommended that one-third of the salary of the inspector of schools for the Gold Coast should be paid by the Lagos Colony. Lagos and Gold Coast were jointly administered.

The ordinance however did not achieve much of its goals as they were too narrow, and closely imitated the English Elementary Education Act of 1870, which aimed at satisfying the needs of the English child at that time. And since environmental factors matter a lot in the formulation and implementation of education policy, there was a need to review the 1882 education ordinance to make it environment relevant.




The 1887 Education Ordinance

The 1887 education ordinance was enacted to correct the first one which failed to solve the education problem of the colonies. Consequent upon the separation of Lagos Colony from the Gold Coast in 1886, it became mandatory that a purely Nigerian education ordinance be enacted. It created an education board and also stipulated rates and conditions for the award of grants, standard of examination, classification of teachers’ certificates and the board’s power to grant scholarship for secondary education.

The 1887 education ordinance made provisions for:

– constitution of a board of education which was made up of the governor, who was -the chairman, members of the Legislative Council, four nominees of the governor and -the inspector of schools;

-appointment of an inspector of schools and a sub-inspector of schools and other education officers;

-extension of grants-in-aids to teacher training colleges;

-empowerment of the governor to open up and maintain schools;

-assessment of the conditions of grants-in-aids to infant and primary schools,

secondary schools and industrial schools, based partly on the subjects taught as well as the degree of excellence in the schools and safeguarding of religious and racial freedom;

-issuance of certificate to teachers;

-admission of indigent and alien children into schools;

-establishing scholarships for secondary and technical education.

This second ordinance could be seen as the first effective attempt by the government to promote education and control the rate at which the missionary bodies expanded their own type of education.


The 1916 Education Ordinance

The 1916 Education Ordinance and the Code were approved on 21st and 24th December, 1916 respectively. The amalgamation of the Colony and the Protectorate of the South with Northern Nigeria in 1914 and the appointment of Lord Frederick Lugard as the Governor-General of Nigeria, brought about another shift in the education system as the Governor-General was dissatisfied with the education system both in the Southern and the Northern parts of the country. He set up boards of education to look into the areas of the country. The ordinance and code that later emanated were five and included:

  1. Training on the formation of character and habits of discipline;
  2. Cooperation between government and missions;

iii. Giving rural as well as urban education;

  1. Increasing the number of literates in Nigeria to meet the increasing demands for clerks and similar officials;
  2. Government control of all schools including non- assisted schools

They were the results of Lord Lugard’s efforts to cater for the whole country as education was based on good character and usefulness to both the individual and the community. The ordinance tried to reorganize the school system in Nigeria. It also recommended that grant-in-aid be offered in the following percentages:

(i) Tone of the school, discipline, organization and moral instruction – 30 percent.

(ii) Adequacy and efficiency of the teaching staff – 20 percent

(iii)Periodical examination and general progress – 40 percent

(iv)Buildings, equipment, sanitation – 10 percent

The Amended Ordinance No. 8 of 1919, gave more powers to the inspectors by allowing them to inspect any school, whether assisted or non-assisted and also empowered the education board, upon the recommendation of inspectors, to close non-performing schools.




The 1926 Education Ordinance

In the month of March 1925, a memorandum on Education Policy in BritishTropical Africa was dispatched to the colonies as the basis for the British colonial education policy. The need to provide a modus operandi for this memorandum and the necessity to stop mushroom primary schools from operating in Southern Nigeria provided the impetus for this ordinance. The ordinance was a landmark in the development of education in Nigeria and an outcome of the recommendations of the 1920 Phelps – Stoke Commissionon Education in Africa. Its terms of reference included:

(a)To inquire into existing education work in each of the areas to be studied;

(b)To investigate the education needs of the people in their religious, social, hygienic and economic conditions;

(c)To ascertain the extent to which these education needs were being met; and

(d)To make available in full the result of the study.

The report of this commission geared the British colonial administration to demonstrate increased interest in African education. It issued its first education policy in1925. The 1925 memorandum outlined guidelines for operation in the colonial education system. This policy consisted mainly of the recommendations of the Phelps-StokeCommission. These included the following:

(i) Establishment of advisory boards of education that will assist in supervision of educational institutions.

(ii) Adaptation of formal education to local conditions

(iii)Study of vernacular in schools

(iv) Thorough supervision and inspection of schools

(v) Education of women and girls

(vi)Emphasis on religious training and moral instructions.

Upon turning the education situation around in the colony and the Southern Provinces, an education ordinance was enacted in 1926 in which:

  1. The registration of teachers became a condition for teaching in any school in the colony and southern provinces;
  2. New schools would only be opened after approval by the director of schools’ education and the board of education;
  3. Closing of the schools operated in a manner detrimental to the interest of the community where they were sited;
  4. Defining the functions and duties of supervisors;
  5. Strengthening of the board of education to consist of the director; the deputy director of education, the assistant director, ten representatives of the missions and other education agencies, and redefining the board’s functions to include advice to the government on educational matters;
  6. Regulating minimum pay for teachers in the assisted schools. This was a provision in respect of the ordinance, whose main objective was to curb the development of substandard schools which were growing almost uncontrollably


The 1948 Education Ordinance

The report of the director of education, who was appointed in 1944 to review theten years plan and that of Sir Sidney Phillipson on the procedure for assessing grants-in-aid for 1948, was the basis for the promulgation of the 1948 Education Ordinance. The ordinance decentralized education administration. It created a central board of education and four regional boards, that is, those of East, West, Lagos and North. It alsorecommended the establishment of local education committees and local education authorities.


The 1952 Education Ordinance

The 1952 Education Ordinance was introduced so as to enable each of the threenewly created (Eastern, Western and Northern) regions to develop its education policies and systems. The ordinance became an education law for the country. The membership of the central and the regional boards were modified, while the colonial board was abolished. All schools, whether public or private, were to be subjected to inspection by the regional director or his representatives and the inspector general or his representatives.

The West African Examination Council, (WAEC) was set up in 1952, as a corporate body charged with the responsibility of conducting examinations in the public interest in West Africa. Such examination was to qualify candidates for certificates which were equivalent to those Oof similar examining authorities in the United Kingdom.

The ordinance emphasized the overall responsibility of the central government.

The Regional Education Laws

In 1954, Nigeria became a federation of three (i.e. Eastern, Western and Northern) regions and the Federal Territory of Lagos, which was the Federal capital as a result of theadoption of the 1954 Constitution. Each region had the power of making laws for its territory and citizens.

The regions exploited this constitutional provision and made regional laws.

The outcome of this exercise was the Education Law of 1955 in Western Region, the Education Law of 1956 in Northern Region and the Lagos Education Ordinance in 1957.




The Ashby Report of 1959

In April, 1959, the Federal Government set up the Sir Eric Ashby Commission to identify the high-level manpower needs of the country for the future. The Ashby Report prescribed that education was indeed the tool for achieving national economic expansion and the social emancipation of the individual. The commission led by Sir Eric Ashby, comprised three Nigerians, three Americans and three Britons. The commission reported:

*The imbalance between one level of education and the other

*Limited admission opportunities for primary school leavers

*Few school teachers were qualified and certificated

*That the Nigerian education was parochial and literary

*Imbalance in the development of education between the North and South.

The commission recommended the expansion and improvement of primary and secondary education, the upgrading of the University College at Ibadan to a full-fledged university and the establishment of three other universities at Nsukka, Ife and Zaria. It also recommended the establishment of university commission in Nigeria so that the universities will maintain uniform academic standard. The post-secondary school system was to produce the post-independence high-level manpower needs of Nigeria.

The changing concept of the education ordinances during the colonial period, as a result of their being revised portrays the dynamic nature of education, i.e. an education that is meant to solve societal problems; it is also regarded as one that is meant to change people’s lives, as the society keeps evolving, to accommodate the global changing experience resulting from the interrelationship in the world of humans.


Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: