Past Development of Home Economics in Nigeria


Past Development of Home Economics in Nigeria

We have post the past development of Home Economics in the US – how one development stage had influenced the subsequent period. By the same token we shall be examining the processes and contents, in political chronological order, of Home Economics from the Nigerian past to the contemporary Nigeria. 

Hence in this article we shall be studying the contents of Home Economics in pre-colonial era, during the colonial era, and post-independent Nigeria.

Home Economics in Pre-Colonial Era

Home Economics education has existed informally among Nigerians long before the advent of western education as brought by Christian Missionaries. The nature of the training, devoid of planned curriculum, was by practical observation. Knowledge acquirement was very slow and shallow.

The aim was solely to train and prepare the female child (from childhood through adolescence) for handling effectively the chores expected in marriage and motherhood. The Nigerian female child received her early traditional lessons about the home from her mother and close relatives. This is so because in the traditional Nigerian society the mothers with the assistance of close relatives nurture the child physically and socially as well as educate her in the cultural norms of the society.

In most cases, home economics education was largely run through the apprenticeship system in which older female children were not trained as homemaker by their own mothers but by their close relatives or by experts in particular trades or skills (such as preparation of traditional food delicacies like akara, moinmoin, agidi etc, or skills like textile dyeing, cotton thread spinning, cloth weaving etc). 

The precolonial era girls were taught to become caring mothers and good housewives though training was through observation and imitation of their mothers or surrogates and their strict supervision. Girls were taught to take care of children, prepare acceptable family meals (without any formal recipes), wash clothes and household utensils, fetch water and keep their houses and surroundings clean.

These foster mothers ensure the discipline, perseverance, and informal training required to make their wards acquire the skills and the code of conduct they needed in preparation for their future roles as homemakers with wholesome personalities to enjoy happy human relationships in the society.


Home Economics in the Colonial Era

The nomenclature, Home Economics, was formerly referred to in the colonial era as Domestic Science. Domestic Science was introduced into Nigeria by Catholic Missionaries from France who arrived in Lagos in 1873. They started the St. Mary Convent School in Lagos, and Domestic Science was a major subject in their curriculum. They taught laundry, needle work, knitting, child care, cookery, housekeeping, etc.

The wives of pastors and clergymen were the first adults to receive this training in domestic science.

This formal education in domestic science aimed generally to impart knowledge in preparation for good homemaking or in setting up a career, or as was often the case, the combination of both.

Later other Christian denominations such as the Anglican (Church of England) arrived in Nigeria and in the course of evangelism Nigerian men were to be trained as clergymen in Britain.

Consequently, their wives were also caused to receive training in domestic science while there in Britain. An example of this phenomenon is the late Rev. Ransom – Kuti, and his late wife, Funmilayo (Burman 1999) In 1927, Queen’s College, Lagos (a Unisex Secondary School for Girls) was established and the first principal of the college, Miss Blackwel ensured that domestic science was included in the school curriculum.

Other contributors to the development of Home Economics included many expatriate women like Mrs. Johnson, the Deputy Chief Inspector of Education, who had written many books in the area of domestic science. Through the efforts of these European women in education frontiers in Nigeria, Domestic Science in 1931 gained Federal and regional governments’ recognition. 

Female European officers were appointed to look into domestic science in Ministries and to improve women education generally. Domestic Science centres dotted primary school premises nationwide.

By 1956 the curriculum of Secondary Modern School (an equivalent of Modern Junior Secondary School) of the old western region included needle work, domestic science and handcrafts.


Home Economics in Post-Independent Nigeria

Past Development of Home Economics in Nigeria

Nigeria gained independence on 1st October, 1960 from her colonial master, Britain although a good percentage of the senior work force was still made up of the British. 

By early 1960s domestic science was introduced to the curriculum of some secondary schools run by Christian Missions and by mid – 60s domestic science was incorporated in the WASC (West African School Certificate) syllabus as well as in the Grade II Teachers Training Colleges.

By 1962 in the then eastern region of Nigeria a review of the education system was undertaken to include a system of vocational training and guidance in primary and secondary schools. In response it was recommended that teaching of needle work and handcrafts (for boys), Cookery and Home Management be extended to all categories of primary schools (Mission or Government owned).

Since a large number of girls terminated their formal education at the primary schools level either for marriage or for jobs in the public or private service it was considered appropriate to prepare them generally to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills for successful homemaking.

Female European women continued to work as domestic science inspectors first in the Easter region and later in the other two regions – namely the North and Western Regions. 

In 1960 domestic science was replaced, in nomenclature, by Home Economics in line with happenings in the USA. Since then professionalism has been made of Home Economics.

The entry qualifications into Home Economics study in tertiary institutions have been reviewed to include the physical science, even as required for traditionally noble disciplines such as medicine. You will recall how in the previous units, the philosophy of Home Economics has been shown to have evolved to become the application of the knowledge from the Pure and Applied Sciences, Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities to develop not only women but men with fundamental competencies in proffering scientific solutions to problems in the use of resources to access and increase information on the facts of life and improve living in the family, the community, nation, and the world at large.

The University of Nigeria, Nsukka was the first to run Home Economics at degree level. The scope of Home Economics has continued to widen, creating avenues for numerous careers and professionalism in Home Economics as seen today.


Conclusion on Past Development of Home Economics in Nigeria

The history of Home Economics in Nigeria shows that Home Economics education has existed informally among Nigerians long before the advent of western education/ the aim was solely to train and prepare the female (from childhood through adolescence) for successful homemaking in later life.

Formal education, known as domestic science, was first received by wives of clergymen as taught by early Christian Missionaries from Europe.

The aim was to add value to them as homemakers and provide them with gainful engagement. The colonial era saw domestic science introduced into schools by British education offers serving in Nigerian public service.

Through their efforts which continued into the post-independent period, domestic science as a subject was incorporated into the curriculum of primary and post primary institutions, and later became a programme of study at degree level in the Universities, with wide scope for professionalism and career pursuits.

In this post the processes and contents of Home Economics have been examined in chronological order from the pre-colonial Nigeria, through the colonial era, to the post-independent period, the contemporary times.

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