Christianity and vocational education in Africa

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


If vocational education is defined as any education aimed at the importing of manual and technical skills and the intellectual knowledge associated with those skills, then it can be said that starting with the European missions that began to arrive on the western coast of Africa at the end of the eighteenth century, Christianity was propagated on the African continent through the use of vocational education. Imparting vocational knowledge was never the primary or exclusive focus of Christian evangelism, which was always the communication of the basic tenets of Christian belief, but vocation training was always seen as complementary form of cultural transfer that had the potential to give Africans who converted to Christianity a way to make a living. The history of vocational education, as taught by European missionaries, can be argued to have developed from church practices in Europe that went back to the European Middle Ages. In Africa, after its initial introduction by missionaries at the start of the nineteenth century, vocational education went through three different periods of evolution. The first period, 1800-1880, was characterized by missions operating in situations where European states had no formal political, but some real economic presence. Missions in these situations offered training in skills that fit the needs of seaport economies that connected to the global markets. The second period, from 1880 to 1920, involved competing groups of Christians, European and African, attempting to utilize industrial education to advance their evangelical agendas. This competition took place against a backdrop of European conquest and colonization. The last period, from 1920 to 1960, featured European missions working in tandem with colonial governments to provide skills that fit colonial government development ambitions. The success of the two European groups in the latter effort had the unintended consequence of creating new African corps of social welfare workers who took the fore in introducing other Africans to European civilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Palgrave Handbook of African Education and Indigenous Knowledge
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9783030382773
ISBN (Print)9783030382766
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • Africa history of education
  • Africa vocational education
  • Christian education
  • Colonial education
  • Cultural transfer
  • European gender education
  • Industrial education
  • Mission education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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