Contribution of the German Neukirchen Mission in the Establishment of Western Education in Tana River County, Kenya 1885 - 1986
Kimani, Gitonga Peter
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The study examined the contribution of the German Neukirchen Mission (GNM) in the establishment of Western education in Tana River County, Kenya 1885 to 1986.Western education and Christianity in Africa were introduced by Christian missionaries from Europe as early as the 16th century but took root in around the mid-nineteenth century. Later on, Colonial Governments further augmented the missionaries’ endeavours of offering formal education to Africans. A lot has been researched and written on missionary activities at the Coast, Central and Western regions of Kenya. Tana River County embraced Christianity and Western education through the works of the Methodist Missionary Society (MMS) and German Neukirchen Mission (GNM). The MMS and a few other missionary organizations like Holy Ghost Fathers (HGF) experienced hardships and shifted to the interior of Kenya where they registered great success. The GNM hang on and was doing well until World War I broke out and later World War II.These wars resulted in the repatriation of GNM missionaries who kept on struggling to come back and have maintained contacts to date. The reasons behind the success and resilience of the GNM in an area in which other mission groups failed deserve to be unveiled. Whereas extensive studies on the activities of other missionary groups like the Church Missionary Society (CMS), African Inland Mission (AIM), Holy Ghost Fathers (HGF), Universities Mission to Central Africa (UMCA) and Church of Scotland Mission (CSM) among others have been carried out, not much has been done on the GNM. The study had three objectives which were: To trace the origin and the ideology of the GNM; to examine the role of the GNM in the establishment and growth of Western education in Tana River County and to assess the impact of the establishment of Western education in Tana River County. The time frame was 1885 to 1986.This period covers the time Africa was partitioned and shared out among European powers – which influenced missionary work- to the year the first secondary school was established at Ngao i.e 1986. Ngao served as GNM’s mission base or station since the arrival of the missionaries in the region.The study was historical in nature and utilized a historical research design. Sources of data were both primary and secondary sources. Primary sources were mainly drawn from the Kenya National Archives (KNA) and schools and churches in Tana River. At the KNA for instance, vital primary information on GNM activities in Tana River and on educational commissions and reports that informed educational policy in Kenya in the study period were obtained.Document analysis was also utilized as a data collection method. The research instruments were interview schedules and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs). Respondents to these research instruments were retired educationists, civil servants and politicians, church leaders and village elders selected through purposive and snowball sampling techniques. Collected data was analyzed through qualitative and quantitative methods while documents were analyzed through external and internal criticism. The research findings acknowledged the contribution of the GNM in the advent of Western education in Kenya in general and in Tana River in particular and the impact of this education on the community, learning institutions and individuals eversince the missionaries’ arrival to present day and in future. This was achieved through identifying schools that were established by the GNM and still exist; the curriculum that was offered; the students who were products of these schools and how the latter impacted upon the Tana River community then and now. Recommendations were made on policy, infrastructure, archival materials and the possibility of reviving the GNM-Tana River relations. For instance, it was suggested that a tertiary level Educational Complex or Institution could be established in Tana River to propagate the educational initiatives of the GNM missionaries and educationists as well as meet the growing need of such an education in the region. Finally, areas related to the study topic that need further research were suggested.