Educational Exchanges in Nigeria-U.S. Cultural Relations 1938-1988

Ogbeidi, M.M (1999)


The role of educational exchanges in the promotion and consolidation of Nigeria-U.S. cultural relations in the focus of this study. The year 1938 marked the formal beginning of cultural relations with other countries by the United States Government as well as the formal opening of the Ogbomoso People’s Institute (OPI) in Nigeria. This was the first school in Nigeria that was patterned after the Tuskegee, and Hampton models in the United States. The study terminates mid-stream into the regime of former President Ibrahim Babangida during which the rudiments of American free market economy and semblance of some American socio-political institutions were introduced into the Nigerian Polity. Nigeria’s colonial experience made it extremely difficult for the Americans to have a firm grip over Nigeria. However, immediately after 1960 when the country achieved political independent, Nigeria became a contested cultural terrain because the Americans were desirous of winning Nigeria. Educational exchanges became the only effective tool available to the Americans in their attempt to win the minds of Nigerians who have just been liberated from British subjucation. Thus, the Americans penetrated Nigeria through schools and the introduction of U.S. official educational exchange programmes which led to the enhancement and consolidation of Nigeria-U.S. educational relations. American Baptist Missionary presence in Nigeria particularly in the South-West could be said to be the first point of culture-contact between Nigerians and the Americans. Like the European Christian Mission, the main objective of all missionary education programme was religious instruction. However, the American Baptist Mission in Nigeria did little to encourage some of their converts to travel to the United States to seek higher education. Another important feature of educational exchanges in Nigeria-U.S. cultural relations is the effort made by some Nigerians to travel to the United States for further studies without any form of financial assistance from the colonial government. Most of these Nigerians were beneficiaries of community sponsored programmes while others had to work and study to make ends meet while they were in school in the United States. Majority of these Nigerians later returned home to be at the vanguard of agitation for the introduction of semblance of American system of education in Nigeria. The period between 1945 and 1960 witnessed an intense campaign by Non-Governmental Organisations in Nigeria and the United States to promote educational and cultural exchanges between Nigeria and the United States. The period also witnessed the realization of the dream of former President Nnamdi Azikiwe who had himself studied in the United States, and in 1960 established the University of Nigeria, Nsukka and understandably patterned it after an American mould. Perhaps, this could be said to be the hallmark of the various educational exchanges that took place between Nigeria and the United States before independence was achieved by the former. This invariably became a take-off point in 1980 when a semblance of the American systems of education was officially introduced in Nigeria.