The Introduction of Western Education in Sierra Leone and the Emergence of the Educated Elite (1787 – 1850)
In 1787, the Sierra Leone colony was founded as a “province of freedom” by British philanthropists and abolitionists to settle down former slaves from England, in addition to a number of African-American blacks who fought on the British side in the American War for Independence. The first settlers were joined by the 1790's by new African-American settlers, Nova Scotians and Maroons, as well as freed slaves who had been liberated by the British navy since 1808. The Sierra Leone colony became therefore, a centre for the suppression of the slave trade. British abolitionists under the leadership of Granville Sharp regarded the introduction of western education and Christianity throughout the colony as the best means to help campaign against the business of the trade in men. On January 01, 1808, Sierra Leone was declared a crown colony. The colony which was established as a base to get rid of the unwanted blacks came to represent in the British eyes the best means for the advancement of western civilisation, Christianity, and legitimate commerce to their own benefit. To have their objectives attained, the British provided the Creoles in the Sierra Leone colony with western education and possibilities of trade in addition to other privileges. The introduction of western education in the Sierra Leone colony led to the formation of a new class of people known in the Sierra Leone society as “the educated elite” or “the westernised elite.” The Sierra Leonean educated elite were well aware of the European culture and civilisation. They adopted a European dressing style and possessed European names. Furthermore, the education they had acquired helped them to understand and cope with the changes colonial government brought about in the colony.
Keywords: Educated elite, Sierra Leone, education, Christianity