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Background of the Study

        Uzuakoli is an ancient chiefdom in Bende Local Government Area of Abia State. It is made up of five villages: Amamba, Eluoma, Ngwu, Amankwo and Agbozu. It is believed that Ozu had five brave sons whose names were Oma, Ngwu, Mbah, Nkwo and Ozo. When these sons grew up, they built their homes a little further away from their father’s, which became the central meeting point.

It is from their five homes that the five villages which make up Uzuakoli developed. The five villages united to form Uzuakoli, a compound of the names of their father, Ozu, and their grandfather Akoli, the name was corrupted to Uzuakoli by the railway authorities and Uzuakoli is the version generally used today[1].

Uzuakoli has a total landscape of 28.8 square kilometers, bounded in the North by Lohum; East by Ozuitem; and South by Ubani and Lodu Imenyi, respectively. It falls between 7.32 and 8.36 East of the Equator. The climate of the area does not differ from the rest of the rain forest belt of Eastern Nigeria. Uzuakoli enjoys a warm tropical climate with well-defined wet and dry seasons[2].

        Prior to the establishment of colonial rule in Igbo hinterland, Uzuakoli was a notable slave market with many middlemen from Awka, Aro, Bende and surrounding communities living and trading there. It assumed this role of an important slave market after the colonial military conquest of Bende in1896[3], which robbed the latter of her middlemen role as a slave market to the Aro and thus the Aro moved over to nearby Uzuakoli that was a more central location and had long lobbied for the market.[4] Slaves were bought at Eke-oba and Eke-Ukwu (the two markets made up the Abangwu market in Uzuakoli), and taken through the slave route to Bende via Ozuitem, Arochukwu and then transported oversea through Cross River State.[5] Apart from slave trade, Uzuakoli has remained an agrarian society noted mostly for yam and cocoyam cultivation/production with a population of 60, 000 according to the 2006 census result.

The origin of modern education in Nigeria dates back to September 24,1842 when Rev. Thomas Birch Freeman and Mr. and Mrs. William De Graft of the Wesleyan Methodist arrived Badagry to start both Christian and education work. Later, other missions such as the Church Missionary Society (CMS), the Roman Catholic Mission and the United Presbyterian Church arrived Nigeria for the same purpose. The origin of 19th century missions in Nigeria followed the evangelical revival movements in Europe during the late 18th century. The European evangelical movement was due largely to the work of John Wesley. Wesley's challenge to the established Anglican Church, led to the anticlerical and evangelical movements and, consequently, to the "Protestant awakening" which swept across Europe and America in the 19th century.[6] This awakening demanded renewed zeal and commitment on the part of individual Christians as well as deep concern for the personal act of conversion. It was Wesley's message that strengthened the desire for missionary work. Other missionary groups represented in Nigeria were the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society, the Presbyterian Church, Adventist, Baptist of Scotland, and the Baptists from the (American) Southern Baptist Convention, Society of African Missions (the Catholic Mission) from France and the Primitive MethodistMission.[7]

Colonial rule, which was also a driving force in the missionary process, was not established in Igbo hinterland until after 1900. The Aro-Expedition of 1901-1902 opened the Igbo hinterland and touched off a scramble among missionary bodies of various hues. The work of the missionaries in Southern Nigeria was not easy sailing. For a while, a few Africans and their rulers patronized the missionary enterprise, others rejected its intrusion in any form. On the whole, support or lack of it for missionary work was greatly influenced by internal developments in Southern Nigeria. Further invitations arose out of schisms over joint ownership of church bells, personality clashes or inter-village rivalry. The differences in ideology and orientation of the foreign missionaries touched off rivalry by among then to outwit each other in the capture of adherents. As it became difficult to convert adults in the African society, education was seen as the easiest and most sustainable way of winning converts. As children educated in the school of a particular mission sect, grew up to automatically become adherents/propagators of that denomination of Christian faith.

 The Primitive Methodist Mission first came into Africa in 1870 through Fernando Po (present day Equatorial Guinea).It was then a Spanish territory. They built a station and started evangelical work, but their progress was hampered by the activities of the Spanish Catholic Mission who later banned it. The mission started making plans in 1890 to move to a British controlled territory and Nigeria was chosen as the new location. Archibong Town became the first town in which the mission settled in Nigeria in 1893[8] and by 1895, a church, a school and a mission house were built there[9]. Later they moved to Oron, Adadia, Ikot-Ekpene and the environs. Reverend William Christie, a Scot, was instrumental to the occupation of many of these towns.[10] Having also realized the importance of education to evangelism, the Primitive Methodist Mission built in 1905 Training Institute at Oron, to train catechist and teachers to further their imperialistic cum missionary agenda. The British conquest of Arochukwu and subsequent destruction of its famed Ibinu-Ukpabi, encouraged the mission to begin to consider the idea of venturing into Igbo hinterland for evangelization.    

Reverend William Christie first made a start at Arriam (Erriam) and later Ndioro in Ikwuano LGA Umuahia, but failed to get a footing there. Relief came his way when the Bende District Officer, Major W.A.E. Cockburn who placed a high premium on Christian missionary enterprise, invited him. He was convinced that Bende people would be friendly and quite disposed to the whiteman.[11]Bende District was by that time having its first contact with European Missionaries in this period (1909-1910).Reverend Christie had a hostile reception at Uzuakoli, a slave market, which attracted a wide clientele. The colonial government officials and missionaries discovered to their chagrin, the role of the middlemen in the lucrative trade. Equally, endemic fighting was reported as exceedingly common.[12]However, Christie was impressed with Uzuakoli and its avenues and the planned quarters of the various trading groups from Abiriba, Arochukwu, the Delta areas, Awka and Onitsha.[13]Before he passed the gauntlet on to Reverend Dodds, he paid a few more visits to Uzuakoli and prepared the ground for its effective missionary occupation by stationing a teacher there in October 1910. The latter conducted regular Sunday services in his bid to build a church in the town. Reverend Dodds on assumption of office continued to press on and in 1912 established a small church in Uzuakoli and Mr. Dappa was sent to the town to nurse the new church to life.

          To provide teachers for the churches and primary schools that were springing up in Igboland[14], Reverend Dodds had in 1913 sent some boys to the Training School at Oron. Due to the far location of Oron from Uzuakoli, Bende, Isuikwuato, and the inadequate means of   transportation, the idea of building an institute in the Igbo hinterland similar to that at Oron started gaining momentum.

   The introduction of Western education became possible when at its maiden Synod in Eastern Nigeria, the Council of Primitive Methodist ministers in Nigeria, made the following observation:

Our object is in general terms, the spread of specifically Christian education for the African as an African. Stated more generally, it is an attempt to provide education not merely as an independent good, or as a means to material ends, but also in definite relation to his spiritual foundations of life as exhibited in the teaching of Jesus Christ, and at the same time to relate the instruction to African life so that the product may be truly African as the native material provided.[15]

Thus, right from the very beginning, the Primitive Methodist was committed to providing it’s converts with ‘Christian education’. For the missionaries, evangelism was to be promoted through formal education. Another reason education was seen as critical to evangelism was the need on the part of both the teachers and the newly converted to acquire the skills of reading the Bible and writing in the white man’s language. Consequently, missionaries turned their attention to youths and schools as sources of conversion because they soon realized, to their utter dismay, the futility of trying to convert influential men in the Igbo society.

 A central site was sought for the establishment of the Primitive Methodist and an Institute in Igboland; Bende that provided a strong foothold for the mission, was considered too remote. The railway line that crossed Uzuakoli in 1915[16], gave it an added advantage over other villages since it made for easy communication.

Theoretical Framework

The theory used for this study is the Social Systems Theory and Structural Functionalism: The social system theory is a collection of interrelated parts which form some whole, using an organismic metaphor to describe formal organizations (schools) with the same principles and concepts used to describe biological organisms. General systems theory is most closely associated with Ludwig Von Bertalanffy, whose work in the 1920s and 1930s captured the dynamic relationship between biological organisms and their environment. A Viennese biologist, Bertalanffy brought together the common principle of an evolving systems approach in such diverse disciplines as biology, the social sciences and economics under the rubric of general systems theory. He defined a system as “sets of elements standing in interrelation”[17]

 General system theory provides concepts that are useful for understanding and analyzing the functioning of schools and the broader context in which they function. Schools are social systems and like all social systems, there are inputs, processing and output system; a system of interdependent parts to achieve a goal. Schools are specific type of social system that sociologists label ‘formal organizations’[18] unlike informal organizations that are more typically less organized, schools like Methodist College, Uzuakoli have been painfully and carefully instituted to accomplish specific objectives and typically have more rigidly enforced rules and norms that govern social interaction and performance.

Edgar Schein described two major goals of social system, such as schools that interact in a highly interdependent state: (1) external adaptation, which addresses the mission and purpose of the system, and (2) internal integration, which addresses the internal functioning of the system. A school without internal bond of commitment, supportive cohesion, a sense of caring and support is unlikely to achieve its mission.[19]In the context of managing the problems of external adaptation and internal integration, social systems develop group boundaries that define insider and outsiders and rules for behavior that regulate interactions and exchanges. Over time, they also develop cultures, which Schein defines as:

a pattern of basic assumptions-invented, discovered, or developed by a given group as it learns to cope with its problem of external adaptation and internal integration-that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems to achieving system level goals and objectives.[20]

      To fully understand the social system theory as it relates to this study, one has to bear in mind, the reason for the establishment of Methodist College, Uzuakoli. The missionaries’ aim of coming to Africa, or the so-called ‘heathen lands’ as Africa was called then, was primarily for evangelization of the Christian faith as seen from their own societies ideology as distinct from that of the other Christian missionaries. The differences in ideology and orientation of the foreign missionaries touched off a rivalry between them to outwit each other in the capture of adherents. As it became difficult to convert adults in the African society, education was seen as the easiest and most sustainable way of winning converts. Again, education appealed to the Africans in different ways. It was a means of knowing the ways of the whiteman and integrating fully into his new system of economic and political ideals.  So, education by the missionaries was not seen as an end in itself, but as a means to an end. Missionaries used Western education to train Africans as catechists, messengers, and other positions needed to assist them in realizing their desired objectives and those of their colonial cohorts. To achieve that aim, clergymen were appointed as principals, while most of the teachers were Methodists who were trained teachers in training institutes owned by the Methodist Mission. The curriculum apart from having subjects in the arts and sciences, also have a strong religious and moral instruction imbibed in them. A former old boy of Methodist College Uzuakoli noted, ‘your teacher was first of all your pastor before he becomes a teacher’.[21] So according to Edgar Schein’s two goals of a social system (1) external adaptation, which addresses the mission and purpose of the system-which addressed the mission and purpose for the establishment of the college, was the mission’s need for converts in South-Eastern Nigeria, Schein’s number two goal of a social system-internal integration, which addresses the internal functioning of the system was achieved by appointment of clergy men as principals, trained teachers, and the introduction of curriculum which placed overwhelming emphasis on religious education. They practiced strict student admission process and creation of a strong moral/religious discipline. All these factors worked in synergy to achieve the purpose of the missionaries just like that of an organism.

Statement of the Problem

Methodist College, Uzuakoli, is one of the foremost elitist secondary schools in Eastern Nigeria contemporaneous with Methodist College, Ibadan; Dennis Memorial, Onitsha; Hope Waddell, Calabar; and the Government College, Umuahia. It has produced notable men in all areas of human endeavors in Igboland and Nigeria. It’s role in the development of manpower that have helped to shape the future of Igboland in particular and Nigeria in general is well known.From inception in 1923 to the present, this role has not received scholarly attention. This work is undertaken to bridge this important but neglected theme. However,the Civil War of 1967-1970 completely destroyed and ruined the College. At the end of the war, it came under Government control, which led to deterioration in morals, management and educational standard of the College. This period of the College’s history is yet to be researched and documented.

Purpose of Study

The aim of the study is to preserve for posterity, the history, role, and achievement of the Methodist College Uzuakoli in the annals of educational and manpower development of Nigeria. The little that has been written about the institution cannot be said to be comprehensive enough for a fuller understanding of the role and place of this famous Institution in the educational life of the Igbo people in particular and Nigeria in general. Its impact on the development of Uzuakoli is yet to be assessed. The history of the College during the inter-war year and afterwards has been ignored. These are the lacuna this work attempts to bridge.

Significance of Study

The Study will help to better appreciate the role Missionary schools like Methodist College Uzuakoli have played in Manpower development in pre and post independent Igboland and Nigeria.The work will also serve as a reference point to policy makers on education, to past and present students of the college and other general readers. It will help to guide those seeking reforms in our education sector to know the history of our educational development vis-à-vis Methodist College, Uzuakoli and draw one or two examples of what is needed to improve the standard of our education.

Scope of Study

  The study start with the establishment of the Ibo Boys Institute,Uzuakoli that later became Methodist College, Uzuakoli in 1923. It ends in 2012 when the College was handed back to the Methodist church after the state government’s initial takeover in 1970.

Literature Review

As earlier stated, the history of western education in Nigeria is, to a great extent, the history of the activities of the missionary societies that came into Nigeria. The origin of modern education in Nigeria dates back to September 24, 1842 when the first Wesleyan Missionaries landed in Nigeria and began evangelization. Then education was seen as a major part of that goal. Since then, it has been a history of mixed fortunes for the Nigerian educational sector.

       H.C. Ogbonnaya et al, Methodist College Uzuakoli: A Short History[22] is an attempt by the Old Boys Association of Uzuakoli to produce a written history of their alma mater. The work gives a brief history of the College from its establishment in 1923 to the aftermath of Nigerian civil war, with the bulk of the work focusing on the period between Nigeria’s independence in 1960 to the start of the civil war. The work on the whole is exploratory and presented on a pamphlet; it gives this research work a good background. However, the present work intends to give a more detailed and comprehensive history of the College beyond the start of the civil war and the period of government administration.

     S.K. Okpo, A brief History of the Methodist Church in Eastern Nigeria[23]offers a brief history of the Methodist Church from the time of the landing of the Primitive Missions in Fernando Po, to the indigenization in 1976. It examined the efforts of the Methodist Mission in spreading the gospel in various parts of Eastern Nigeria. The contribution of foreigners as well as Nigerians to the mission was greatly appraised by Okpo’s work.

     The interest of the work to this research is the author’s concise narrative of the efforts of the mission towards the development of education starting from the Oron Institute; Ibo Boys Institute; and efforts at women education championed by Miss Amy Richardson and Mrs. Langley. On the whole, the work details the contributions of education as it concerns the training of ministers for evangelizations. The work is very useful to any enthusiast of the Methodist faith and history, as it details the efforts of the Methodist Missionary enterprise in Eastern Nigeria, but did not extend to 2012. Hence, the need for this research.

             Francis Anyika’sMethodism in Igboland, Eastern Nigeria, 1910-1932[24], offers a detailed analysis of the beginning of Primitive Methodism in Nigeria, to the time of its unification with the Wesleyan Methodist sect, which was predominant in Southwestern Nigeria. Anyika divides the thrust of the primitive mission in Igboland into three stages, namely: the first advance, which covered the period, 1911-1914; the second advance which covered 1915-1919; and the third advance covering 1920-1925. The work by Anyika also treated factors that threatened the evangelization drive; varying from the hostility of some Igbo communities, the paucity of personnel and outbreak of the First World War. This informed the need of the mission to educate the indigenous populace to compliment the work of the few Europeans in Igboland. Anyika’s book further looks at the establishment of the Methodist College and its development up to 1932. Beyond this date, further development of the College was left untreated.

           F. K. Ekechi’s,Missionary Enterprise and Rivalry in Igboland, 1857-1914[25] concentrates on the Anglican Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.) and the Roman Catholic Holy Ghost Fathers (C.S.Sp.). A major theme of the work is the rivalry of these two missionary bodies, and in examining this, he makes considerable use of the archives of both societies. With the penetration of the interior by the missionaries there also came rivalry, and with its policy of education, the Catholic missionaries gained the upper hand. The C.S.Sp. were quick to cooperate with government educational plans: they realized the status-conferring quality of education and the attraction that this might have for the Ibo. The C.M.S. lost many of their students to the 'secular education' of the Catholic mission. The story was similar in Calabar, as the Efik grew dissatisfied with the education offered by the Presbyterian mission: they thought it 'too religious'. The Catholics seemed to have been able to foresee the attraction of education earlier than the C.M.S did. The work by Ekechi is basically on the rivalry between two mission societies in South-Eastern Nigeria and its implications for educational development in Eastern Nigeria. Though the study takes Onitsha, as it’s focal, the facts therein are a reflection of the general state of affairs of missionary education during the colonial era in other areas of Igboland.

C.N. Ubah’s, “Western Education in Africa: The Igbo Experience, 1900-1960”

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