Book Project

An Anticolonial Development: Public Schooling, Emancipation, and its Limits in 20th Century West Africa

Following independence, West Africans expanded public education more rapidly than any other world region before or since. In just over two decades, states transformed skeletal colonial infrastructure built for hundreds into national systems that welcomed upwards of a million schoolchildren. The breathtaking spread and scale of public education was a triumphant rebuke of colonial hierarchies. It also, in complex ways, perpetuated them. An Anticolonial Development: Public Schooling, Emancipation, and its Limits in 20th Century West Africa explores this dual legacy.

Collège Moderne du Plateau, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire

The book examines the impetus behind West Africa’s era-defining project of public schooling, which united students, teachers, intellectuals, political elites, foreign diplomats, economists, and international aid agencies in a common mission. But it looks, too, at the deceptions of public education, which ultimately eroded its emancipatory project. Education was terrain for bitter division as much as for sweeping consensus, for the postcolonial public school sometimes widened the inequalities it purported to narrow. Combining more than sixty interviews with former students, teachers, and school administrators with research in state and institutional archives in West Africa, Europe and the United States, An Anticolonial Development analyzes the rise and fall of public education as the principal project of anticolonial development in West Africa.