Education for Development: Going to School in Postcolonial West Africa (1950-1980)

My dissertation argues for the importance of the school in fashioning the postcolonial state in Africa. I do so by bridging two historiographies—those of education and development—that have so far been kept separate. In fact, during the 1960s and 1970s, no development initiative absorbed more funds than the seemingly-mundane provision of public primary and secondary education. Schooling, my work shows, was postcolonial Africa’s most important development project.

My work engages multiple perspectives on postcolonial education. I write from the vantage point of the classroom as much as from that of the statehouse. Presidents, ministers, and international experts populate my chapters just as much as teachers, students and parents. Throughout, I ask: how did education bring these two young West African nations, and their citizens, into being?

Collège Moderne du Plateau, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

Unlike previous comparative histories, my approach takes seriously the pairing of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire as one proposed by the historical actors themselves. Further, superseding the stubborn historiographical divide between Anglophone and Francophone Africa alters the frame of analysis. I show how Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire were not self-contained postcolonies whose backs were turned to one another, but coeval players, and neighboring rivals, in a dynamic regional context.