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Kenya (African Education)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 15th April 1957.

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

11.25 p.m.

Photo of Mr Fred Mulley Mr Fred Mulley , Sheffield Park

I desire to raise some questions concerning African education in Kenya. I should like to begin by thanking the Under-Secretary of State for attending at this late hour to reply to the debate. It may be that in the days to come the Adjournment Motion will often be moved at about this time.

I had the privilege of visiting Kenya in January as a Member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegation, and the points which I want to raise arise from that visit. I would make it clear that I do not regard education as the only problem in Kenya; nor do I regard African education as the only educational problem, but it seems to me that African education is one of the highest priorities, if not the first priority, and it may be that we shall have a general debate upon Kenya or East Africa in the near future, when the other matters can be discussed.

Following the Beecher Report the Government of Kenya's policy has been to provide eight years' education, from 7 to 15, for every African child. This is a policy with which no one would quarrel. But we found upon inquiry that if Kenya has to do this from its own foreseeable resources it will not be until 1985 that it can be attained.

Some idea of the problem can be gauged from the estimated cost, which would be at the rate of £22 million per year. Since the total budget of Kenya at present is a little over £30 million this project obviously cannot be carried through from Kenya's own finances. Anyway, it would be impracticable to attempt to provide universal education at the moment, because of the shortage of teacher and other facilities.

In the matter of teachers, I understand that this year it is hoped to train 1,800 in Kenya, against the average rate of 1,200 over the preceding few years. We were told that the minimum need for this programme, is 2,900 teachers, and one of the most urgent needs is £500,000 to provide additional teacher training facilities. In the modest three-year plan that the Government of Kenya have set in the field of African education they need about £2½ million in addition to the £500,000 for teacher training, over three years. The most that they are likely to be able to provide from their own resources is about one-third of this figure, because we must remember that there is other expenditure of high priority, such as that for agriculture, industry and health, in addition to the winding-up of the emergency, which is still very costly.

In Kenya, as in many other parts of Africa, the original education was provided by missions, and these missions still provide a very large amount of such education as there is. But it is provided on the basis of a 100 per cent. Government grant for recurrent expenditure, and it seems to me that in the future the provision of education must increasingly be a wholly Governmental responsibility. In passing, although I do not make much point of this, I think that it is a pity that the Government should today be finding so much money for mission schools over which they have no control.

Another encouraging feature was the great interest in education shown by the African district councils—indeed, the Government need to be careful here, because the district councils' enthusiasm is so great that they may overtax themselves in this direction. Perhaps the clearest impression one brought back was the overwhelming desire on the part of all communities and all Africans for educational opportunities.

All the African children pay school fees. Although, in our terms, the annual fees of 45s. represents not very much, it represents a whole month's wages in rural Kenya. In many cases, men work in the towns or on the European farms only in order to get the school fees. In Nairobi, where, I believe, a pilot scheme of universal African education is to be introduced shortly, the Africans, in addition to paying the fees have also agreed to an extra poll tax to make the necessary money available. Not only do they want education, but are prepared to pay for it, but have not the resources to pay anything like the full cost.

I visited, also, the approved school at Wamumu, which was set up, as the Minister will know, to deal with Mau-Mau delinquent boys. This school, which has a technical basis, is run, one might almost say, on a kind of public school design, and has been so popular that some African youths are committing offences simply to try to get into it. The demand for education has been enormous, particularly among the boys.

Further encouragement has been the growth in recent years in the number of girls attending, and wanting to attend schools. This is particularly important, because in many other fields—like health —progress can be made only if the more educated Africans are available to take responsibility. For example, in Kisu there were in one area over 600,000 Africans, but only one trained midwife. They could not get more because of a lack of educated girls to come forward to train. It is not only a question of proper education, but of the education necessary to extend in other directions, which the Government rightly want.

In addition to this general requirement of eight years at school there is need to extend technical and secondary school education. As against 450,000 African children in primary and intermediate schools, there were only 2,500 in secondary schools, and 2,300 in teacher training colleges. The most disappointing thing is that the majority of those going to school do so for only four years. There seems to be some kind of 11-plus arrangement, but the object of the examination is to decide whether or not they leave after being there for four years, not whether they should go to this school or that.

It may well be that a child may be worse off with four years' education than with none at all. That period is just sufficient to get away from the basic, primal, tribal discipline but not enough to put any constructive alternative in the child's mind. With this enormous problem, something other than the ordinary educational programme will have to be devised; something on the lines that have been successfully tried in West Africa. Kenya is not ready for that kind of experiment, although there is scope and opportunity for more adult education. It is an enormous problem. I hope that 1985 will not be a significant date in Kenya, and that we shall hear from the Under-Secretary that the Government will find the minimum of £3 million necessary for the Government of Kenya's three-year plan.

My other point is the question of a multi-racial secondary school in Kenya. I know that this is an explosive topic. I do not suggest that all or even many of the schools should be on a multi-racial basis. The priority for African education is to provide the eight-year school programme of which I have been talking, but I believe there is also an urgent need for one voluntary multi-racial school. To succeed, it must have a very high academic standard, so that there will be no sacrifice of educational attainment by European and Asian parents. I would like to see such a school established and become the best school in Kenya. There is already a primary school on a voluntary basis that has made good progress. At the other end of the scale is the Royal Technical College, on a multi-racial basis. I was happy to note that hostels are run on a multi-racial basis, very satisfactorily, I understand.

I make this plea not only on purely educational grounds but because I believe that such a school would contribute substantially to better race relations, which have improved a good deal in Kenya in the last two or three years, although no one pretends that there is not a lot to be done. The cost of setting up this voluntary school as an experiment would not be considerable, after the millions of pounds that we have been discussing earlier today. Because of the controversy that this subject arouses in Kenya the British Government should take the bold step of earmarking money for this purpose. I was already of the opinion that there should be a multiracial school before I came back from Kenya, but my opinion that it would be worth while was fortified by a conversation I had with coloured students from the West Indies recently. They said that the multi-racial schools in the West Indies were the biggest factor in developing the multi-racial society that has been established in the West Indies. Such a school in Kenya would be worth a good deal.

When one makes a special case for a special Colony the question is bound to be raised: what about the other Colonies? Such moneys as we are able to provide for the Colonial Empire must, of course, be spread among competing claims, but I think that there is a special case for Kenya because of its special problems. It is, I think, the only remaining Colony in which there is a large European population owning land and regarding themselves as Kenyans. The whole future of the Colony depends on the willingness and ability not only of people in Kenya, but of the British Government, to establish a multi-racial society.

Time is not on our side in this matter. I believe we have a good chance—I put it no higher—of achieving the kind of society in Kenya which will permit Europeans, Asians and Africans to work together. I believe that constructive steps are needed for African education and the establishment of a multi-racial school to contribute to solving the problem we all desire to solve.

11.41 p.m.

Photo of Mrs Eirene White Mrs Eirene White , Flintshire East

I want to emphasise what my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) has said, because I was on the delegation which went to Kenya. I wish to stress the fact that all hon. Members from both sides of the House who went on that delegation were very much impressed by the really urgent necessity for more assistance to be given to Kenya in this matter of education.

The two subjects on which greater assistance are needed are agriculture and the one with which my hon. Friend has been dealing, education. I hope very much that in his reply the Minister will not merely give a recital of facts, interesting as they might be, but tell us that the Government may be able to do rather more than they have felt able to do in recent times to assist education. The emergency has taken a great deal of money and agriculture has had fairly generous grants, but we feel that education needs more than it has had up to now.

I feel that nothing could be of greater benefit and a better investment than support for education at the primary stage, the multi-racial school—I strongly support my hon. Friend on that—and further education for women and girls.

11.42 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Profumo Mr John Profumo , Stratford-on-Avon

I should like to start by saying how grateful I am to the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) and the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) for their speeches tonight.

I think that the last time this subject was brought before the House was in 1950, by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson). This occasion gives me an opportunity of saying something about this very important matter. I should like also to take the opportunity of saying, on behalf of my right hon. Friend and myself, how grateful we are to the hon. Members who were members of the delegation for the extremely useful report that they produced. It interested us very much, not least the part which pertains to the subject we are discussing.

The history of the growth of African education in Kenya is a most remarkable one. We have not time to go over the whole background. I think that hon. Members know it as well as I do. I should like to take my starting point from the Beecher Report, which has been referred to tonight. The plan which resulted from that Report, with some slight changes, has been accepted as the programme of the Kenya Government ever since. One of its most important virtues is that it is an integrated whole which ensures that intermediate and secondary schools can be provided for at least a reasonable proportion of those attending primary schools and, also, that trained teachers will be available to carry out the programmes.

Perhaps I can best explain the progress which has been made so far in reaching the Beecher targets by giving the House some simple facts and figures. In 1946, there were 326 Africans at secondary schools of whom 16 passed the School Certificate. In 1955, there were 3,060 at secondary schools, of whom 233 passed the School Certificate. In 1946, there were 738 primary and intermediate teachers in training. In 1956, the number was 2,951 and the 42 centres where they were training had a capacity of 3,175 places. In 1946, there were 4,994 teachers at work, of whom only 49 had been graduates. In 1955, the total was 9,431, of whom 162 were trained graduates. In 1946, there were in all 2,291 schools and in 1955 there were 3,488. In 1946, 208,580 Africans were at school, and in 1956 there were 439,646.

That describes how progress has been made towards—and, indeed, in some cases surpassing—the Beecher targets, which were, and remain, the general aim of the Kenya Government. It is the Kenya Government's policy not only to fulfil this plan, but also to move as rapidly as means permit towards compulsory education for children whose parents are normally resident in urban areas.

In those urban areas, the problem has already been met by extending the present four-year primary course by two years to cater for those who fail to gain admission to an intermediate school; and, by 1960, this course should be available to the great majority of children in the urban areas. After that, the system will be expanded to eight years as circumstances permit—that is, the full primary-cum-intermediate course—while intermediate education in rural areas is further developed at the same time.

What are the limitations on the development of education as we see it at present? In Kenya, the limitations are financial and not physical. There is, of course, a great shortage of capital to finance ail desirable projects, even those to which hon. Members have referred, outside the subject which we are discussing tonight; but this is just as true of any other part of the Commonwealth, including the United Kingdom.

The essential consideration, surely, is that Kenya should not embark on a programme of development which is beyond her capacity to maintain. These matters are kept under constant review, as, I think, hon. Members know, and the present plans for the Kenya Government represent the full extent of their capacity to execute and maintain development work.

Photo of Mrs Eirene White Mrs Eirene White , Flintshire East

We were told most emphatically in Kenya that if the Kenya Government could have greater help with initial capital, they could manage the maintenance.

Photo of Mr John Profumo Mr John Profumo , Stratford-on-Avon

I was coming to that.

It would only be possible to do more if the Kenya Government were to accept a permanent grant from Her Majesty's Government. In fact, of course, this country does make grants and loans for capital purposes to all Colonial Territories, including Kenya, through the Colonial Development and Welfare Act, but such grants are made only for purposes which it is known in advance a territory will be able to support permanently. Kenya has been allotted, I think, a fair share of the money which is at my right hon. Friend's disposal under that Act, but that share has been fully taken into account when the new overall plan was developed.

The House will appreciate that it would not be possible for Her Majesty's Government to finance educational development without giving to Kenya an advantage which would be denied to all other territories which do not receive a grant in aid. Apart from this, extra expenditure on education of the size suggested by the hon. Member—£3 million—would, I am advised, cause the Kenya Government to bear a permanent burden of recurrent expenditure which at present will be beyond their capacity to sustain.

The second limiting factor in the expansion of education is the need to place the greatest emphasis, within the development plan as a whole, on schemes which will generate enough wealth to carry the recurrent cost of expanding social services. This is especially important in a young country.

The third limiting factor in developing education, as the hon. Member pointed out, is the need for teachers, and especially trained teachers. Teacher training figures largely in the Beecher recommendations, which envisage by 1960 centres training 2,500 teachers in a two-year course—that is, turning out about 1,250 teachers every year. Unfortunately, however, this did not allow for the heavy wastage rates which the profession now shows, and it does mean that the Beecher programme has had to be expanded.

Apart from revising and unifying teachers' conditions, therefore, the Kenya Government have increased teacher-training provision. Although the Beecher target for teachers in training has already been surpassed—there were 2,951 in training last year—the 1957–60 plan will add a further 40 classes and by 1960 there will be 4,150 teacher-training places, turning out over 2,000 trained teachers every year. This will be enough to ensure that over 10,000 trained teachers—more than the Beecher recommendations—are at work by 1960, even allowing for the wastage to which I have referred.

It has been suggested by some people that even within the reduced capital plan adopted by the Kenya Government, African education has far too low an allocation. I do not think that that is true. Within the current plan, African education accounts for 3·46 per cent. of all expenditure, while education as a whole accounts for 10·46 per cent. In the new plan African education will have 4·03 per cent. while education as a whole is reduced to 9·47 per cent., and this means that the provision for the other races is reduced.

Quite apart from this, however, there is the first allocation ever made separately to technical and trade education. If this is taken into account the expenditure on the development of African education is rising from 3·46 per cent. to 4·7 per cent. Those are percentages of the territory's entire development plan.

What do we hope to achieve in the next few years? If I may summarise this shortly, we hope to achieve two new intermediate boarding schools; 65 new secondary classes, including two new schools; 120 new primary and intermediate classes, 40 new teacher-training classes and two new trade schools.

The hon. Member mentioned multiracial education, and I should like to say a word on that. It is the policy of the Kenya Government not to create secondary multi-racial schools at present. Because of the differing backgrounds, and particularly the language problem created by the existence of the three major communities, education has developed along racial lines. The Hospital Hill School is an experiment the results of which are not yet fully apparent.

Experience of integration in other parts of the world shows that much more is involved than just common schooling and that it is most likely to be successful where the social pattern in each com- munity has first evolved into the same mould, otherwise definite harm may be done to racial and cultural relations and to the children themselves. I should explain that there is no bar whatever to the private creation of inter-racial secondary schools for those children whose parents wish them to be educated there.

So far as mission schools are concerned, it is not true to say that there is no control over those. All schools are liable to full inspection by the Government, and the Government have the obligation, which they carry out, to see that the money given by way of grant in aid is properly spent. I hope that I have covered points put to me by hon. Members. I should have liked to have dilated, had there been time, on the special problem in Nairobi. That is being tackled, although there are special problems there. We hope, however, that within the next few months a really practical scheme will have been worked out.

I may not have been so forthcoming as hon. Members would have wished, but I hope that I have at least been able to indicate the importance which my right hon. Friend attaches to this matter, and how carefully he is studying it, and what the Kenya Government are doing to tackle the problems with which they are faced. I assure hon. Members that this matter of African education will continue to receive the most careful consideration not only by the Government of Kenya, but by my right hon. Friend within the limits of the financial restrictions which must, of course, have our attention, and especially in relation to what was said by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East.

I hope that what I have been able to say does show how carefully we are considering this matter.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at six minutes to Twelve o'clock.