Articles in this series:
Educational Developments of the 1930s
Pre-war’s Ethiopia’s educational system began to take shape after the Emperor Haile Sellassie’s coronation in 1930.
At that time a Ministry of Education and Fine Arts was established under Blattengetta Sahlu Sedalu, a former graduate of the Menilek School. The Ministry’s First Secretary was Ato Kidina Mariam Aberra. The Ministry, according to Zervos, was then allotted 2 per cent of the Treasury’s revenue, besides the special education tax mentioned in a previous article.
Other action was also taken. The Emperor is reported by his Swedish advisor Eric Virgin to have given orders that soldiers should learn to read and write, and that priests should instruct the youth.
A University Plan
A plan for a University was later drafted by the Ethiopian Government’s American educational adviser, Ernest Work, formerly of Muskingum College, in the United States. The plan envisaged a system of six years primary education, six years high school, and four years University education. Special attention was to be paid to teacher-training and agriculture. The basic problem, Work explained, was, however, that there were no trained Ethiopian teachers available to implement the plan.
Notwithstanding the immensity of the problems facing the country, significant advances were made in the next few years.
In 1930 the Lycee Haile Sellassie I was founded. It was decided that it should give technical and linguistic training to some 100 students. Instruction was in French, and the subjects studied included mathematics, physics and chemistry, civil engineering, veterinary science and modern languages.
The modern education of Ethiopian girls may be said to have begun in the following year, 1931, when Empress Menen founded the girls’ school which bore her name. Students followed their courses in French, and had a succession of French head-mistresses: Mme. Garricoix, Mme. Havard, and Mme. Garrigue, the last of whom commenced her duties in August, 1935, little over a month before the Italian fascist invasion.
Subjects studied at the Menen School included science and mathematics, as well as household management, dressmaking, and physical training. Students sat annually at the French Legation for an examination qualifying them for the French Certificate of Primary Studies – and if any reader has such a certificate they should give it, for the sake of history, to the Institute of Ethiopian Studies!.
Report on the school is provided by Mrs Sandford. Writing of the period immediately before the war, she says that some 80 girls were at the school. The Hungarian journalist Farago describes the institution’s installations as the “most modern” in the
capital, and adds: “the dormitories impressed me most of all. They were hygienic and tidy, and a Swiss pensionat could not have been more comfortable.”
How to Educate a Daughter
The importance of the Menen School for Girls may be seen from the fact that it was established in the face of strong opposition to women’s education. Dr Merab, always a good observer of the Addis Ababa scene, noted in 1928 that very few even among rich families, were willing to employ a priest to educate their daughters. Popular opinion, he says, believed that an educated woman would not took after the house, while prejudice held that the husband of a literate wife would not live long as his spouse would resort to curses and other wicked practices to kill him. Merab, on asking one of his Ethiopian friends why he did not educate his only daughter, received the following reply, “Where have I the money to pay a priest or dabtara [i.e. lay cleric] to educate my daughter, and to buy a eunuch to supervise the priest or dabtara.
St George’s School
Several other schools were also established in the years immediately before the Italian war. St. George’s school, situated near the cathedral of that name was opened in September 1929. It under the direction of a Swiss, M. Bloch, who was later succeeded by an Ethiopian, Ato Akale: it had five teachers and about 200 pupils. Instruction was in French, and provided entirely free of charge.
School of the Redeemer
The School of the Redeemer for Orphans was founded by the Emperor in 1932. Situated at Gulale, on the north-western outskirts of the capital, it was run by an Ethiopian headmaster, Ato Haile Mariam Gezmu, and seven other teachers, including a Lebanese, Frederick Kamal, and later by an Ethiopian assisted by a Greek. About a hundred exclusively male students were lodged and taught free of charge. Instruction was in French and Amharic. Subjects of study included science, mathematics, shoemaking, blacksmiths’ work, and other trades.
Teacher Training and Boy Scouting
A Teachers’ Training School was established in 1934, with a view to providing teachers for provincial schools.
A Boy Scouts’ School was also founded in the same year, and was directed at first by the above- mentioned Frederick Kamal, and later by all Ethiopian assisted by a locally born Greek. Instruction was given in French, and included all primary subjects, as well as typical Boy Scout activities.
The Imperial School of Art was established under the direction of Ato Agagnew Ingida, who had studied in Paris at the Academie des Beaux Arts. Interviewed by Farago, on the eve of the war, he declared: “I owe everything to His Majesty. He enabled me to study, and now he is my only patron”.
Another interesting school in the capital was the School for Falashas, or Beta Esra’el students, founded in 1924 by the French Jewish scholar, Jacques Faitlovitch and his sister. Sponsored by the American Pro-Falasha Committee, its director was Professor Tamrat Emanuel. The school had three successive sites in Addis Ababa, First established near Ras Makonnen bridge, it was later moved to Felwaha, and finally to Gulale, on land provided by the Emperor. The school, according to a traveller of this time, Hermann Norden, catered mainly for the children of Falasha families employed in the city.
From the above outline we may fairly say that modern education, by 1935, had advanced considerably since Emperor Menilek’s day.
The foundations of primary education were also laid at this time in a number of provincial towns, where fourteen primary schools were established between 1928 and 1935. It was of course impossible to set up secondary schools until students had first passed through primary school!
Two schools were established in 1928: a French language school at Dessie, founded by Princess Sahine, mother of Empress Menen, and an English language school at Gore, called after Tafari Makonnen. The British mining engineer Bartleet, who visited this latter school, says it had cost 40,000 Maria Theresa dollars to build, and that this had been collected by a 2 per cent. ad valorem export tax. The institution had two Syrian and two Ethiopian teachers, and fifty pupils, who studied Amharic, French, English, mathematics, and geography.
Three schools were set up in the following year: the Tafari Makonnen school at Jijiga, and the Haile Sellassie school at Lekempt, both of which gave instruction in English, and a school at Dire Dawa where both French and English were used.
1930, the year of the Emperor’s coronation, witnessed the establishment of a second school at Harar, which in 1933 was united with Menilek’s old school, under the name Ecole Ras Makonnen.
In 1931 an English language school was founded at Asba Tafari by Dr. Worqneh Martin.
In 1932 a Haile Sellassie school was established at Ambo, and a Medhane Alem school at Jimma. Both gave instruction in French.
Two English speaking schools were set up in 1934: one at Gondar; the other at Debra Markos.
The last three pre-war schools, founded in 1935, the year of the fascist invasion, were at Adwa and Makale, both of which were based on English, and at Salale, on French.
By this time there were eight English language schools, situated on the periphery of the Ethiopian Empire at Maqale, Adwa, Gondar, Debra Markos, Lekemti, Gore, Jigjiga and Asba Tafari; five French language schools, more in the heart of the country, at Harar, Dessie, Jimma, Ambo and Salale, and one at Dire Dawa, where both languages were used.
Foreign Community Education
Several foreign communities also contributed to the furtherance of Ethiopian education, in many cases through the medium of missionary societies.
The French community ran several schools under the auspices of the Alliance Francaise which served the education of youth irrespective of nationality. By 1935 the Alliance had 450 students enrolled at its Addis Ababa school. In Dire Dawa it had two schools: one for academic studies, directed by M. Bonhomme, with 200 students, and another, directed by Brother Galmier, which taught handicraft trades to about 30 students. Another 200 students, supervised by M. Maurel, were enrolled at the Ras Makonnen School at Harar.
French Roman Catholic missions were also educationally very active. Besides the Brothers of Saint Gabriel, who ran the Alliance Francaise schools, there were Capuchin and Lazarist Fathers and the Franciscan Sisters. The Capuchins, whose headquarters were at Toulouse, France, ran educational projects in various parts of the country. In Addis Ababa they had a small school for 20 pupils and an orphanage for 30 boys, educated at the mission’s expense. Village schools were also operated at Dobba, Sure, Lafto, Bilalu, Midagduu, Lafto-goba, Endeber and Enemor in Gurage, Wassera in Kambata, Dubo in Walamo, Mine and Daga-dima in Arsi, and Metcha in Shawa, and a small orphanage at Asba Tafari. The Lazarists also ran a school and orphanage at Gulale, and a school at Mandida, also in Shawa.
The Franciscan Sisters of Calais also played a modest role in girls’ education. In the capital they had a school for 30 pupils at the railway station, another for 120, mainly day-girls, near the market, and two orphanages with 25 and 70 inmates respectively. These missionaries also ran an orphanage for 40 girls at Harar, a girls’ school and orphanage at Dire Dawa where 70 day-girls and 40 boarders were taught music, design, sewing, typing and shorthand, and an orphanage for 40 girls at Dobha.