Articles in this series:
002. Missionary and Other Educational Developments of the 1930s
We saw in recent weeks that the years prior to the Italian fascist invasion of 1935 witnessed a significant expansion of both Government and Missionary education in Ethiopia.
Subsidised Government Education
One of the most important developments of this period, which has passed unnoticed by many historians of Ethiopia is that students who founded the Tafari Makonnen School, as we have seen, in 1925, were, two years later, given a monthly allowance of three Ethiopian dollars, or Maria Theresa thalers, a month. This stipend significantly widened the class from which students were recruited, and did much moreover to overcome parental opposition to their sons’ schooling.
Italian Government and Missionary Activity
Besides the French, whose educational role we examined in our last issue, the Italians were also active. Their contribution was, however, significantly less than that of their northern Latin sisters.
The Italian Government, which was open to the importance of improved communications, particularly in view of its impending invasion of Ethiopia, nevertheless opened a school of wireless telegraphy, to train operators for its Legation and various provincial consulates, in Gondar, Dessie, and elsewhere.
The Italian Consulate at Gondar, according to the contemporary journalist Hermann Norden, likewise gave instruction to some two dozen Ethiopian children of the locality.
Italian missionaries also played a valuable educational role. They were to be found in several provinces, most notably in Kaffa and Walaga. Italian missionaries which were also to the fore in the capital, where the Consolata Mission, a Roman Catholic organisation, ran two schools, one for boys, and the other for girls. Instruction in both was in Italian. The pupils of these two latter schools were, however, mainly Italians.
In Eritrea there was also a Capuchin school of arts and crafts, which had an enrollment, in 1935, of 300 day students and 40 boarders.
Swedish Missionary Activity
A number of Swedish missionaries during this period also continued to play a valuable role in education. The Swedish Evangelical Mission ran two schools in the capital, one directed by the Rev. Axel Jonssen for boys, the other, by Miss Tekla Nilsson, for girls. There was also a boys’ school and a girls’ school at Lekemti, directed by the Rev. U. Karlsson and Miss Stina Shold respectively, and a mixed school, for both boys and girls, directed by the Rev. N. Nordfeld, at Nejo.
Another Swedish missionary organisation, the Bibeltronga Vanner, or Friends of the Bible, ran a boys’ school and a girls’ school in the capital, as well as a boys’ school at Gulale, directed by Miss Rostin, and another at Harar.
American missionary activity was also worthy of note. The principal American missionary organisation, the United Presbyterian Mission,had two schools, one at Sayo with 150 day-boys and 20 girl-boarders, and the other school at Gore.
There was, in addition, an American school intended primarily for children of the capital’s foreign community. This educational establishment was operated by three American women. Instruction was in English, Amharic and French.
The Egyptian Government likewise operated a special school, the Madrassat al Ittifak el Islam, for Arab and other Muslim children. Its teaching staff was composed of four graduates of the Al Azhar school in Cairo, who taught some two hundred Muslim students, many of whom were Ethiopian.
Greeks, Armenians, and Indians
Special schools for foreign communities were also run by the Greeks, Armenians and Indians. The Greek school, which was the largest, had some 250 students in 1935, but the Armenian could boast of the most modern premises.
Missionary-Educated Ethiopians in Government Service
Prominent missionary-educated, high ranking Ethiopians employed during this period included Berhane Markos, Director of Posts and Telegraphs and later Consul at Port Said; Tadesse Mashesha, the Emperor’s Secretary, and Director in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Belachew, the Controller of the Franco-Ethiopian railway; and Medane Gabre, a lawyer.
The educational and other developments of this pre-war period were accompanied by a significant expansion of printing presses, and printed literature in general.
By the eve of the Italian war there were thus seven printing presses in Addis Ababa: the Government press, which Emperor Menilek had founded in 1910; the press of “Le Courrier d’Ethiopie”, which had been set up in 1913; the Emperor’s “Berhanena Salam” press, established in 1923; three presses dating from 1926, namely, the “Goha-Tsebah” or “Dawn” printing press, the “Hermis” printing press, which printed “L’Ethiopie Commerciale”, the “Louc” printing press, founded by an Armenian, H. Bagdassarian; and the “Artistic Printing Press”, founded in 1934 by two other Armenians, E. and G. Dierrahian.
A factory for the production of blocks, for printing, was also established in 1934, by a Greek called Nicogos.
By this time Addis Ababa could likewise boast no fewer than seven newspapers, four of them in Amharic, two in French, and one in Italian.
The Amharic press comprised three weeklies: “Aymero”, the oldest of all, which had four pages; “Berhanena Salam”, which, after Haile Sellassie’s accession to power, was regarded as a semi-official publication; Blattengeta’s “Atbiya Kokob”, or “Morning Star”, which was managed by the Greek journalist Kavadias; and “Kasatie Berhan”, or “Propagator of Light”, an eight page monthly, founded in 1935.
French, Italian, and Greek
The French language press consisted two papers: “Le Courrier d’Ethiopie”, which appeared twice a week, and had eight to ten pages, and since April 1932 ran a supplement , entitled “Le Petit Courrier d’Ethiopie”, giving radio news; and “L’Ethiopie Commerciale”, a weekly of twelve to fourteen pages.
The Italian newspaper, “Il Notizario” was a bi-monthly Fascist-run periodica, of six to eight pages, founded in 1933.
Mention should also be made of two short-lived Greek newspapers: “Aithiopikos Kosmos”, or “Ethiopian World”, a weekly edited by P.K. Vrennios from 1927 to 1931, and “Aithiopika Nea”, or “Ethiopian News”, about which little has apparently been recorded.
On the eve of the war the Ethiopian and Italian Governments also issued stenciled bulletins of sometimes fairly propagandist news received by radio.
Mention may also made of several Ethiopian newspapers published abroad, prior to 1935.
The first, founded and edited bv Dr. Erich Weinzinger, an Austrian resident in Addis Ababa, in 1926, was known sometimes in German, as “Aethiopien-Korrespondenz” and sometimes in French, as “Correspondance d’Ethiopie”. Something of a polyglot production, it carried articles in German, French and English. It appeared irregularly, and was published in a succession of different places: Paris and Vienna in 1926, Addis Ababa in 1927, Paris from 1928 to 1931, Hanover in 1929, and Vienna in 1933.
The object of this pioneer publication was, as it declared, “to let Ethiopia be better known in Europe”, and “to strengthen the economical and social ties between Ethiopia and foreign lands” as well as to “strongly” fight “the Imperialistic colonies of the Great Powers in Africa.”
An extraordinarily high circulation of 10,000 copies per issue was claimed. The Greek author Adrien Zervos, however, later scaled this down to a mere 2,000, while one hostile French writer, A. Armandy, claimed that the publication was not in fact read anywhere at all!
Two other foreign publications about Ethiopia were produced in Paris before the war. These were “L’Ethiopie Nouvelle,” which was edited by a Frenchman, A. Batailler, and published every two months; and “Ethiopie”, a monthly, edited by Arturo and Madelaine Hirvet-Cappa.
After the outbreak of hostilities with Fascist Italy a handful of newspapers devoted to the Ethiopian cause were founded abroad. They comprised “La Voix de l’Ethiopie”, a short-lived quarterly, produced in Paris in 1935 and 1936; the “Voice of Ethiopia”, a weekly, founded and edited in New York by the Ethiopian doctor, Melaku Bayen; “Abyssinia, A weekly Newspaper of the League of Nations in Action”, published for a short time by the League of Nations Union, as a supplement to its journal “Headway”; and Sylvia Pankhurst’s ‘‘New Times and Ethiopia News,” which ran for twenty years, from 1936 to 1956, and issued a number of Amharic supplements for distribution to the Ethiopian Patriots.