75 years  

The Colonial Dept 1927-1953

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Philip Clarke : student 1946/7

Philip Clarke recalls the inspiration and support of lecturers, particularly Dr Margaret Read, teaching practice and his own interests in English as a second language or medium of instruction:

"After 7 years in the Army – 5 in the Indian Army – and an offer of a teaching post in New Delhi, I opted for the Colonial Service in Trusteeship-of-UN Tanganyika, conditional on taking a Teacher’s Certificate. One was on half pay of £200 p.a. 

The Colonial Department was headed by Dr Margaret Read, an anthropologist with field experience in Nyasaland, assisted by L. J. Lewis, 10 years in Mission School, Nigeria; Vivian, 5 years Government school, N. Rhodesia; John Bright, seconded after 10 years in Sudan. Others dropped in. Karl Mannheim, the sociologist, lectured on Principles of Education to the whole Institute until he died halfway. There was a lively woman psychologist (Fletcher?):

"We were some 50 students, from overseas mostly. Four of us were destined for Tanganyika, John Cameron and myself in Government; Margaret O’Shea for Mission schools and Jack Bennett with 10 years in Mission in Bukoba. Also Stan Wood for Uganda; Philip Stevenson, who married the department librarian, switched to Northern Rhodesia.

We did 1 day a week teaching practice – useless for the schools we faced – a visit to Rothamstead, a few days in the country with a “School Inspection”, a visit to County Education HQ and informal contacts with Africans in and out of IOE. We wrote a 10,000 word essay. We attended Swahili classes at SOAS, where an assistant lecturer, George Magembe, became my colleague over the next 15 years.

John Bright introduced us to the concept of English as a second language and the medium of instruction. This became my main concern. We remained in close contact when he moved to IOE Makerere and even later at Cambridge Local Exams Syndicate. He helped to set off the “English for Foreigners” courses and the textbook bonanza, which is still running.

I presented a paper at Margaret Read’s seminar reconciling Malinowski’s ideas on social change with those of Wilson working with Wanyakusa in Tanganyika – an intellectual stimulus after Army years, which readied me for tackling, at a later stage, Noam Chomsky on deep grammar.  The army had given the experience of administration that one very quickly needed in heading a school, as I did from 1948. The IOE course provided none. It was the Army, not the course, that fitted us for our role in the African boarding school. Nor did the course deal with setting and grading exams.  All too soon one was involved in them, on local and national levels.

We met for a cheese roll and tea lunch in a lower room and profited from our wide-ranging discussions. Afternoon talks by visitors: an elderly officer from Ceylon, Batten ,who had written World History in graded English; a visit to Peckham Health Centre; a book exhibition (my father’s old college friend had marshalled Longmans); V L Griffiths from the Sudan; a Mrs Hay from Northern Rhodesia; Harvey from Zanzibar – it was a varied experience, as were the papers other students gave at the Margaret Read seminars. She, by the way, was still in office on my first leave and sent me on a Development Course at Ruskin College.

The whole 9–month course through the bitter food rationed winter of 1947 was a great opportunity for widening one’s outlook, for making contacts and absorbing the appropriate approach to our task in African education. It ended with a 2-day exam and a group photo on the roof."

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Compiled and edited by Clare Bentall and Angela Little. First issued Spring 2005.