75 years  

The Colonial Dept 1927-1953

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Edward D (“Robbie”) Roberts : student 1946/7, Vice-Chairman of the Institute of Education Council and Chairman of its Finance and General Purposes Committee 1978-1991:

Robbie Roberts describes the mixture of subjects and the exposure to different instructions which characterised his course at the Institute. He also recalls the influence of visitors and educationalists from the Gold Coast.

"In 1946 I came to the Institute to be ‘re-oriented’ under the guidance of Dr (soon-to-be Professor) Margaret Read for a career in the Gold Coast (now Ghana).  She devised a most useful and interesting semester for me, based on, but not confined to, the Institute.

I enjoyed the great Karl Mannheim (a brilliant Professor who had been sacked on 13th April 1933 from Frankfurt-am-Main by the Nazi regime); I profited from Doris Baggott’s introduction to primary education.

I attended seminars on the Gold Coast with John Lewis, who knew a great deal about Nigeria and rugby football. I was sent to visit Morris’s Cambridgeshire Village Colleges, to the Hertfordshire Local Education Authority (LEA) (then under Newsome – Sir John, not Sir Peter Newsam) and one of the early London County Council comprehensive schools – an excellent institution, superbly equipped and with first-rate, hand-picked staff. (Would that later ones had been thus similarly endowed!).

I was sent to SOAS to learn Twi under J H Nketia (I would never serve in a Twi-speaking area) and to the LSE for seminars in anthropology, including “At Home with the Savage”. This reminded me that one of the early lecturers in the Colonial Department, Dr Mumford, had laboured as “Lecturer in the Education of Primitive Peoples”.

Dr Read arranged for me to meet Raymond Firth, Meyer Fortes, Nadel, Monica Wingate, WEF Ward (whose letters from Achimota to his old tutor – E F Jacob – had been passed on to me before the War), Christopher Cox, Kofi Busia and others. Within the Institute at that time were Francis Bartels, Gaston Harward, Katie Smith-Kaye – all out in the Gold Coast. Hardly savages and primitive people! I name them in grateful acknowledgement of the enormous help and encouragement I received from these people, not only then, but throughout my 9 years in Ghana and indeed later. From my base in the Institute I received so much for which to be grateful.

The Colonial Department, as I briefly experienced it, was an excellent meeting place, fostering introductions to outstanding, helpful people who clearly were excellent – for had not Aggrey of Achimota said, “Only the best is good enough for Africa”?!"

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