Education of Native African Women

This message appears in response to a request for an article on the strengthening of women's education in our mission work in Africa.

By Yolam Kamwendo, Teacher, Malamulo Training Institute

This message appears in response to a request for an article on the strengthening of women's education in our mission work in Africa. Up until a few years ago, in our eager effort to provide an indigenous leadership, our energies and finances were absorbed in the promotion of work for men only. Our efforts have begotten large results, but we have no doubt suffered both directly and indirectly by not giving

the attention which we might have to the training of women and girls. In the last twelve years definite steps have been taken in this direction, so that in most of our major training schools we are conducting work for women. This is particularly true of our Solusi and Malamulo Missions, where we have a large work under way. At the inception of this plan, the native peoples were most fearful that the train­ing of girls would result in heady, high-minded women. Experience has changed this attitude, and in many cases there have been applications from such large numbers to enroll in our girls' schools that it was beyond our ability to take care of them. We be­lieve that the message of this article will aid in understanding the conditions faced by our mission­aries in the field and the need of strengthening this phase of our work.

The need for educated women in Africa is very great. The seriousness of this need cannot be overestimated. And one need not go very far to see the truthfulness of this statement. Africa today is crying out for educated wives and mothers, teachers and nurses. The place of such women in this continent could never be filled by men, no matter how highly they might be educated.

The high mortality of infants is one thing that tells us how much we need educated moth­ers. If you should go into the heathen vil­lages, you would see heart-rending conditions. There you would see hundreds of children with flies swarming over their faces, the older ones playing in the dirt, putting bits of dirty rags or other filthy objects picked up from the ground into their mouths, and mothers stuffing newborn babies with corn-meal porridge. Surely there is no wonder that so many of these children are lost.

When a Christian teacher goes into a vil­lage, regardless of his youth, the people accept him as a father to them, and his wife as a mother, and they take their problems to them with full confidence of receiving help. But what help can his wife give when she is almost as ignorant as they? We cry out to our lead­ers, Give us educated wives! We need wives that can be helpmeets, wives that will stand by our side in the work of uplifting our peo­ple. Many a man, brilliant and proirsii7fing, has been lost to this work because of his uneducated wife. And many of those still in the work are very much handicapped because their life companions are ignorant. When a European couple are sent out as missionaries, there are two people, and not one, working for the Lord. While the man is preaching, the wife is teaching school or doing some valuable work for the women and girls. That is what we need among our native workers.

While visiting at one mission station, I heard of an experience which shows how needy our workers are. One of the heathen women was in trouble during the time of the birth of her child, and called for one of the teachers' wives to help her. But the wife refused to aid because she was afraid of the heathen tribal customs. A teacher's wife re­fusing to help the people she went to save! Why? Because she was uneducated and did not know how to cope with the situation.

It is a pity that in many places the number of girls at training centers is far too small when compared with that of the boys. For this reason many of our young men feel com­pelled to go back to their heathen villages to look for a wife. As a result, many of these alliances are not happy. There is discord in such families, much of which is not known to our leaders. If they could see and hear all that is going on in each family, they would perhaps better understand and sympathize with their native workers. I have seen more than one young worker become dissatisfied with his uneducated wife, and run away from the work of God. And many who might do a mighty work of God are accomplishing very little be­cause their life companions do not match them mentally and spiritually.

We believe that the time has come when our leaders should more seriously consider the question of educating the women of Africa. Our country is thirsting today for higher edu­cation. It would not be fair to give this education to the men and leave out the women. There is a great deal of truth in Doctor A g-grey's statement: "Educate a man, and you have educated an individual; but if you edu­cate a worn, you have educated a family." Women are the mothers of the world. Every great man who has ever lived has been molded in his early years by his mother. Truly, "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."

Someone has said that the greatness or suc­cess of any man is partially due to a woman, and that woman may be his mother or his wife. 0 for educated, converted mothers and wives in Africa!

We greatly appreciate what is being done in some places along this line, but the need is still very great. Our women have not begun to come up to the standard of the men. Too many of our workers are standing on one leg, as it were, and working with only one hand instead of two. How long must this condition continue ? The need is tremendous, and the time is very short. What is to be done must be done quickly, or it will forever be too late. We must help both women and girls. I do not believe, as some do, that it is useless to try to help the older women, that we should help only the girls in school. We lose a great deal when we neglect the training of the wives of our workers and students in training. It would be profitable, I believe, if there were both girls' and women's work going on at each mission station.

Native ministers must cooperate with Euro­pean leaders in the uplift of African woman­hood. We must help our women to see the necessity of being educated. We must encour­age in them the desire to improve their condi­tion mentally, physically, and spiritually. We must help them to realize that they have a very important place to fill in the home, in the church, and in the community.

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By Yolam Kamwendo, Teacher, Malamulo Training Institute

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