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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The Cultural Transformation of Western Education in Sierra Leone
Author:Bledsoe, Caroline
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic terms:Sierra Leone
Great Britain
educational policy
Education and Oral Traditions
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/1160454
Abstract:The introduction of European schooling into West Africa in the late eighteenth century set in motion a profound cultural transformation. The Mende of Sierra Leone, the target of some of the earliest educational experiments in West Africa, began to reinterpret the Western ideals about the free dissemination of knowledge that were imposed on them. Focusing less on what is taught than on how it is taught, the article shows that the Mende have transformed ideals about imparting knowledge according to local cultural tenets about secrecy and the control of knowledge. These tenets hold that, since valued knowledge is a key economic and political commodity, teachers, as proprietors of knowledge, deserve compensation for imparting it: a model of education manifested most strikingly in the region's famous secret societies. As was the case with more 'traditional' knowledge, the chief cultural idiom by which children acquire 'civilized' knowledge in school, and thus advance in the modern world, is through 'buying' or 'earning' blessings from those who teach them. By addressing ideologies of knowledge, power, and secrecy, the article sheds new interpretive light on the evolution of education in a country - indeed, among the very ethnic group - that comprised a keystone of nineteenth-century British educational experiments in Africa. Bibliogr., sum. also in French. (Also published in: Les jeunes en Afrique: évolution et rôle (XIXe-XXe siècles) / Hélène d'Almeida-Topor ... [et al.] (éds.). - Paris: L'Harmattan, 1992, t. 1, p. 383-406.)