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A PLEA FOR COMPULSORY EDUCATION IN
By A. G. WISE.
THE Commission on Elementary Education in Ceylon, appointed in January, 1905, has presented its Report, which contains recommendations of a novel and important character. This Commission was appointed to inquire into and report on the Education Question, with a view to propose practical steps to give effect to the suggestions contained in the Report of the Committee appointed in 1901, and was also directed to report on the education of Tamil coolies employed on estates, and other matters connected with education in general. After an exhaustive description of the existing system of elementary education in Ceylon, the Commissioners discuss the question whether the time is ripe for the introduction of a general system of compulsory education for boys. They sum up strongly in favour of compulsory education for boys, pointing out that in most parts of the Colony boys who are not sent to school are not set to any regular work, that they are not acquiring habits of industry, but are for the most part of their time running wild, or in many cases grow up without the most rudimentary sense of self-control. They rightly contend that a population of this kind is especially dangerous in a country like Ceylon, in which wealth is rapidly on the increase, even among the labouring classes; while, as in India, "the cultivator has been brought into contact with the commercial world, and has been involved in transactions in which the illiterate man is at a great disadvantage." It is pointed out that the Dutch had an extensive and successful system of vernacular schools throughout the conquered districts of the island, at which attendance was enforced by fines, and the Commissioners strongly recommend compulsory education for boys (and in certain districts for
girls), with a conscience clause. At this proposal the various religious bodies are already up in arms, and are offering such strenuous opposition that there would seem to be grave danger lest the whole scheme may fall to the ground. As all the existing agencies at work since the colony became a British possession have succeeded in providing education for only 204,889 children out of 534,970 children, it is time that the Government took this matter seriously in hand. The new proposals will be the means of giving instruction to over 330,000 children, who are now running wild and helping to swell the criminal classes. Crime is on the increase in Ceylon, and the direct connection of illiteracy with criminality is proved by valuable statistics collected by Mr. S. M. Burrows, a former Director of Public Instruction. If the religious missions insist on closing their schools, the Government should face the problem boldly, and take over the whole educational system, charging the cost to the general revenue. Of course, no attempts at proselytization should be countenanced. The native priests, Buddhists, Mohammedans, and Sivites naturally favour the proposed conscience clause.
Turning now to the vexed question of estate schools on plantations, I would first of all express my regret that a passage in Mr. Burrows' report has been reprinted without comment. He voices the opinions of some planters, that if the children were made to attend school it would "deal a serious blow at the labour-supply, and would certainly reintroduce infanticide." Referring to this objection, Sir Lepel Griffin says he has "never heard education put in so terrible a form, that a mother is prepared to kill her child rather than allow it to go to school. This seems to add to education a new and additional terror." The "infanticide argument appears to Sir Lepel an argument of "an astonishing character," and "an absurd and exaggerated view." Mr. H. Mitchell Taylor writes: "I feel sure that the opposition on the part of the planters in Ceylon and
India will vanish in the face of public opinion. As to the spectre of possible infanticide as a result of a mild form of compulsory attendance at school, surely such conjuring cannot be serious. I never heard of such a thing, and, after thirty years' intimate association with coolies in the Western Colonies, I could not conceive of any such possibility. Of course, it goes without saying that the persons responsible for enforcement of regulations must be endowed with some amount of tact. In the Western Colonies the planters are legally required to provide schooling for the children of indentured emigrants only, but it has been found from experience that this provision has been very largely taken advantage of voluntarily by the unindentured immigrants, who, after a short residence in the Colonies, very soon recognise the benefits of education for their own offspring, and, curious to relate, those who have most prominently come to the front are the children of the Madrassis."
The Commissioners appear to take a similar view of the benefits likely to arise. They recommend that the planters shall furnish quarterly returns, showing how many children attend school, with inspection of all "line" and other schools, and, finally, that the ordinance which provides for compulsory education in other parts of the island shall contain provision that the estate superintendent should, before a date specified by the Governor, satisfy the Director that he has made adequate provision for the instruction of the children. The same ordinance should contain a provision empowering the Government to establish a school on any estate which, after clear warning, neglects to make proper provision for the schooling of the children, and to levy a rate on the estate to defray the cost of construction and maintenance of such school.
It now only remains to hope that the Government of Ceylon will delay no longer in dealing with this important question of education, which Sir Henry Blake himself has admitted to be one of four questions requiring special and
immediate attention. For my own part, I consider that a system of free compulsory vernacular education for all Sinhalese and Tamil boys should be established throughout this flourishing colony, and it is to be trusted that the authorities will carry out the recommendations of the Commissioners as speedily as possible.
EAST AFRICAN PROTECTORATE.*
It is about ten years since the Foreign Office assumed practical control of the administration of the territory now known as the East African Protectorate. During that time great progress has been made. The country was in every way undeveloped. It was inhabited by tribes whose everyday occupation had been for generations one of raiding and killing one another, and in slaying and selling women and youths, who for some time resented any attempt on the part of Britain to bring peace and order into the country. The language and customs were strange, and required mastering. There were no roads, and our only base was hundreds of miles from the principal stations. Our staff to carry out the work was small, but from the belief in the future civilization of the country the work of the staff was continuous and energetic. The British East African Company having surrendered its charter, the Foreign Office did not commence its control until October, 1895. This Company had effected a certain amount of local influence at certain stations, Ndü, Machakos, and Fort Smith. The Government, in taking over the territory, took over the existing officers, which was the means of maintaining the continuity of the policy which had been carried on in the country to that date. The territory was then divided into a number of districts, with a headquarter station in each district, and was under an officer styled the District Superintendent, each of whom was directly responsible to the chief administrator at Mombasa. On the Foreign Office assuming control, all the up-country districts then included in the East Africa Protectorate were placed within the limits of one province named Ukamba, and the district officers were responsible to His Majesty's SubCommissioner, who in turn was responsible to the ComCollated from the recent Parliamentary reports relating to administraAfrica," No. 6, October, 1905.
THIRD SERIES. VOL. XXI.