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CATHOLIC SCHOOLS AS ‘A NATION IN MINIATURE’: CATHOLIC CIVISM IN SENEGAL AND BENIN, 1960–1970s

  • RACHEL A. KANTROWITZ (a1)

Abstract

Catholic school alumni played a crucial role in shaping Senegal and Benin in the first decades after independence.1 Though they came from a variety of religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, they nevertheless strongly identified with their Catholic schooling experience. Indeed, these West African alumni composed a distinct social group that had been inculcated in the habits and values of ‘Catholic civism’, an ideology based around public service, self-discipline, moral restraint, honesty, and community. While many studies of educated youth emphasize their political activism, Catholic school youth engaged in the subtler process of shaping their new countries by transforming colonial-era institutions from within. Beyond politics, students who graduated in the early independence era used Catholic civism as both a social marker and an implicit social critique.

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Support for this research was provided by the Jeanne Marandon Fellowship for Dissertation Research and New York University. I am grateful to the Senegalese and Beninois alumni who generously allowed me to interview them, as well as to those who granted me access to archival documents in schools and Catholic repositories. Thanks are also due to the Hay Writing Group as well as Tracy Steffes, Jennifer Johnson, and Kelly Duke Bryant. I would also like to thank the seminar participants at the Cogut Institute for the Humanities at Brown University. Lastly, thanks to the editors and anonymous reviewers of this journal. Author's email: rakantrowitz@gmail.com

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1 For simplicity's sake, I refer to Benin by its present-day name, though the country retained the name Dahomey until 1975.

2 Saint-Michel Archives, Senegal, letter from the student president A. Kane, addressed to the students, teachers, and school director. Standard, 3:1 (1968–9), 3.

3 Ibid.

4 Laïcité refers to secularism and the French law establishing the superiority of the State over the Church. Foster and Chamedes also note the significant imprint of laïcité on historiography of the French empire, in particular obscuring the role of missionaries. Foster, E. and Chamedes, G. (eds.), ‘Introduction: Decolonization and religion in the French empire’, French Politics, Culture, and Society, 33:2 (2015), 110; Fontaine, D., Decolonizing Christianity: Religion and the End of Empire in France and Algeria (Cambridge, 2016). The secular bias is not unique to French colonial history. Daniel Magaziner looks at the under-examined role of Christian theology in South Africa's Black Consciousness movement and SASO. Magaziner, D., The Law and the Prophets: Black Consciousness in South Africa, 1968–1977 (Athens, OH, 2010).

5 On student movements leading up to and including 1968, see Blum, F., Guidi, P., and Rillon, O. (eds.), Etudiants africains et mouvements: contribution à une histoire des années 68 (Paris, 2016); Straker, J., Youth, Nationalism and the Guinean Revolution (Bloomington, IN, 2009); Christiansen, S. and Scarlett, Z. (eds.), The Third World in the Global 1960s (New York, 2013); Zeilig, L., Revolt and Protest: Student Politics and Activism in Sub-Saharan Africa (London, 2007); Bianchini, P., École et politique en Afrique noire: sociologie des crises et des réformes du système d'enseignement au Sénégal et au Burkina Faso (1960–2000) (Paris, 2004); Chafer, T., The End of Empire in French West Africa: France's Successful Decolonization? (Oxford, 2002).

6 This is not to undercut the role Catholic Africans studying in France played in advocating for decolonization. See Foster, E., ‘“Entirely Christian and entirely African”: Catholic African students in France in the era of independence’, The Journal of African History, 56:6 (2015), 239–59.

7 Bryant, K. D., Education as Politics: Colonial Schooling and Political Debate in Senegal, 1850s–1914 (Madison, WI, 2015); Gamble, H., Contesting French West Africa: Battles over Schools and the Colonial Order, 1900–1950 (Lincoln, NE, 2017); Barthélémy, P., Africaines et diplomées à l’époque coloniale (1918–1957) (Rennes, 2010).

8 Foster and Chamedes (eds.), ‘Introduction’.

9 Archives Nationales d'Outre-Mer (ANOM), Aix-en-Provence, France, FM/1AFFPOL/3349/6, ‘Note pour Monsieur le Directeur des Affaires Economiques et du Plan (Sous-Direction du Plan). Objet: Demandes de subventions à la section générale du FIDES présentées en 1955 par les Etablissements d'Enseignement et sanitaires privés d'A.O.F. et d'A.E.F’, 24 May 1955, 1. Of the numerous missionary societies active in the region, some of the most prominent were the Spiritains in Senegal and the White Fathers in Benin.

10 In interviews, many of the former students stated that their parents were illiterate in French. Interviews were conducted in French. All interview translations are my own. When possible, an exact or approximate year of graduation from high school is indicated in parentheses in, for example, this form: (‘69), following the interviewee's name in the main text. In cases of approximation, the earliest possible date is provided, whereas students often experienced interruptions in schooling and may have graduated a few years later.

11 Morgenthau, R. S., Political Parties in French-Speaking West Africa (Oxford, 1964), 10ff.

12 Capelle, J., L’éducation en Afrique noire à la veille de les Indépendences (Paris, 1990), 307–08.

13 CADN, Dakar Amb 370, ‘Bref aperçu de la situation de l'enseignement du 1er degré au 1.1.1962’.

14 SMA Paris Eglise de Cotonou, No. 19, 1967, 93. Similar, though not identical, statistics are cited in Archéveché Cotonou, ‘Enseignement Prive Catholique 1966’, 30 Mar. 1966.

15 The 1937 and 1948 statistics are from Table 11 in Thompson, Virginia and Adloff, Richard, French West Africa (New York, 1969), 535.

16 See Balard, M., Dahomey 1930: Mission Catholique et Culte Vodoun: l'oeuvre de Francis Aupiais (1877–1945), missionaire et ethnographe (Paris 1999); Gérémy, L. O. A., Les religions dans l'espace public au Bénin: Vodoun, Christianisme, Islam (Paris, 2008); and de Benoist, J.-R., Histoire de l’Église catholique au Sénégal: du milieu du XVe siècle à l'aube du troisième millénaire (Dakar, 2008).

17 Capelle, L’Éducation en Afrique noire, 18–20.

18 See Kantrowitz, R., ‘Triangulating between the Church, State, and postcolony: coopérants in independent West Africa’, Cahiers d’Études africaines, LVI (1–2) (2016), 219–41.

19 Interview with Irene D'Oliveira, Dakar, 29 Jan. 2013; interview with Thérèse Faye (of no relation to Hamade Faye), Dakar, 21 Jan. 2013.

20 Archevêché Cotonou, ‘Enseignement Privé Direction Diocesaine Cotonou’, 9 May 1958.

21 Archevêché Cotonou, ‘Note circulaire a tous les enseignants des écoles catholiques du Bénin’, 30 Oct. 1968.

22 Direction Nationale de l'Enseignment Catholique (DNEC) Dakar 7D1, Commission Episcopale de l'Enseignement, Bouake, Dakar, Senegal, 5 Feb. 1967, 18. Very similar language appears in DNEC Dakar 12G4, ‘La specificité de l'enseignement privé catholique’, Colloque National DNEC, 25 April 1976, 3.

23 Archevêché Cotonou, Benin, Bref Rapport de l'aumonerie du Collège Père Aupiais, 28 Aug. 1973.

24 Interview with Thérèse Faye.

25 Interview with Irene D'Oliveira.

26 Interview with Issa Kpara, Cotonou, 6 Nov. 2012.

27 Interview with André Kochoni, Parakou, 14 Nov. 2012.

28 The use of citizen here is deliberate, as after 1946, with the creation of the French Union, all French subjects became French citizens, albeit their citizenship (with the exception of those from the Four Communes) not equivalent to metropolitan citizenship. For more on citizenship debates, see Cooper, F., Citizenship Between Empire and Nation: Remaking France and French Africa, 1945–1960 (Princeton, 2016).

29 DNEC Dakar 9T67 (2), ‘Education and National Development’, in ‘Participation de l'ecole au développement’, Conclusions des travaux de carrefour de la 8e Assemblée Générale, Kinshasa, 6–12 Aug. 1971, 29. This idea is attributed to the Papal encyclical Popularum progressio, 1967.

30 DNEC Dakar 7D1, ‘Compte-rendu de la reunion de la commission de l'enseignement catholique’, 5 Feb. 1967, 17.

31 See, for example, Society of African Missions (hereafter SMA), Des Filaos, 5 Apr. 1974.

32 Archives, Saint-Michel, Kamara, C. D., ‘La responsable de la classe de 6è B’, Standard, 6:2 (1971–2), 16.

33 Ibid. 17–18.

34 Interview with Thérèse Faye.

35 Interview with Coura Sarr, Dakar, 1 Feb. 2013.

36 Archives, Saint-Michel, ‘Discours du nouveaux président du collège St-Michel, François Dieng’, addressed to the director, teachers, and students, Standard, 2:3 (1968–9), n.p.

37 Interview with Marie-Paule Guidibi, Cotonou, 7 Dec. 2012.

38 Interview with Claire Ndiaye Mendy, Felicite Diatta Basse, and Marcelle Adams Dieng, Dakar, 31 Jan. 2013.

39 Interview with Issa Kpara.

40 Interview with Paul Diadhiou, Dakar, 6 Feb. 2013.

41 Interview with Peveina Marie Madeleine Seck, Dakar, 1 Feb. 2013.

42 Ibid.

43 Interview with Mr Cabral, Dakar, 4 Feb. 2018 [full name not collected at time of interview].

44 Archevêché Cotonou, ‘Règlement pour le College Notre-Dame de Lourdes, Porto-Novo’, n.d.

45 Archevêché Cotonou, Liaison, La Revue Mensuelle Des Ecoles Catholiques Dahomeennes, 13 Jan. to Feb. 1966.

46 Many students, including Kpara, spoke of how the uniformity of the material resources given to each student equalized the learning experience. Interview with Issa Kpara.

47 Archives, Saint-Michel, quoted by Jean-Pierre N'Dong CE 1 in ‘Le journaliste de la classe du CE 1’, Standard, 6:2 (1971–2), 25.

48 Interview with Marie-Paule Guidibi.

49 Interview with Ernest Pelebe, Parakou, 15 and 18 Nov. 2012.

50 Interview with Marie-Paule Guidibi.

51 Interview with Alphonse Diatta, Dakar, 8 Feb. 2013.

52 DNEC Dakar F1, untitled (1971), 8.

53 Interview with Irene D'Oliveira.

54 Interview with Orou Yérima Korogone, Parakou, 16 Nov. 2012.

55 Saint-Michel Archives, Koda Diaw, Standard, 6:3 (1971–2), 14.

56 Interview with Adama Sarr, Dakar, 21 Jan. 2013.

57 Interview with Issa Kpara.

58 Interview with Bienvenu Antonio, Abomey-Calavi, 26 Oct. 2012.

59 Interview with Claire Ndiaye Mendy, Felicite Diatta Basse, and Marcelle Adams Dieng.

60 Ibid.

61 Interview with Adama Sarr.

62 Interview with Gisèle Acakpo, Parakou, 19 Nov. 2012.

63 On these themes, see Barthélémy, Africaines et diplômées and Healy-Clancy, M., A World of Their Own: A History of South African Women's Education (Charlottesville, 2014).

64 Archevêché Cotonou, Benin, ‘Informations Utiles concernant l'Enseignement Catholique’, 28 Dec. 1965.

65 Diplomatic Archives of Nantes (CADN), Nantes, France, Dakar Ambassade 370, ‘Bref apercu de la situation de l'enseignement du 1er degré au 1.1.1962’. This statistic is for all private schools, of which Catholic schools would have been the majority.

66 Interview with Thérèse Laure Vinakpon, Dakar, 28 Jan. 2013.

67 This was, for instance, the case at Immaculate Conception School in Dakar, Senegal. Interview with Claire Ndiaye Mendy, Felicite Diatta Basse, and Marcelle Adams Dieng.

68 Interview with Houguette Degboe, Dakar, 15 Jan. 2013.

69 Interview with Coura Sarr.

70 Interview with Marie-Paule Guidibi.

71 SMA, Paris, France, L’éducation’, Eglise d'Abomey, Bulletin d'information du diocèse d'Abomey, 2 (1969), 16.

72 Interview with Thérèse Faye. Estimated high school graduation year not available.

73 Interview with Issa Kpara.

74 Interview with Olga Irène Aitchedi, Cotonou, 6 Nov. 2012.

75 Interview with Marie Thérèse Basse, Dakar, 23 Jan. 2013.

76 Interview with Emily Louise Adjobo, Parakou, 15 Nov. 2012.

77 Interview with Claire Ndiaye Mendy, Felicite Diatta Basse, and Marcelle Adams Dieng.

78 ‘Joan of Arc School Song’ (‘Hymne de Jeanne d'Arc’). This song was given to me in print and sung to me from memory by Marie-Paul Guidibi. Guidibi said a nun who had worked at the school wrote the song and that students still sing the same song today. The only lyric that has changed is that Dahomey was changed to Benin once Mathieu Kérékou came to power.

79 Interview with Issa Kpara. Collège Aupiais may have been remarkable for its array of student-run groups. However, many other Catholic schools had student clubs, albeit fewer.

80 Interview with Hamade Faye, Dakar, 22 Jan. 2013.

81 Interview with Ernest Pelebe.

82 Interview with Thérèse Tohouegnon, Valerie Coffi, and Marie Olga Gbaguidi, Cotonou, 7 Dec. 2012.

Support for this research was provided by the Jeanne Marandon Fellowship for Dissertation Research and New York University. I am grateful to the Senegalese and Beninois alumni who generously allowed me to interview them, as well as to those who granted me access to archival documents in schools and Catholic repositories. Thanks are also due to the Hay Writing Group as well as Tracy Steffes, Jennifer Johnson, and Kelly Duke Bryant. I would also like to thank the seminar participants at the Cogut Institute for the Humanities at Brown University. Lastly, thanks to the editors and anonymous reviewers of this journal. Author's email:

Keywords

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS AS ‘A NATION IN MINIATURE’: CATHOLIC CIVISM IN SENEGAL AND BENIN, 1960–1970s

  • RACHEL A. KANTROWITZ (a1)

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