History of Education  in Ebiraland

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History of Education  in Ebiraland

Education is defined as the systematic training and instruction, especially of the young the knowledge and abilities, development of character and mental powers resulting from such training. (Ref: Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary by A.S. Hornby).

Education is classified into two viz:

  1. Informal Education: defined as education acquired without ceremony or formality — acquired at home from parents without going through any regular schools, etc.
  2. Formal Education: defined as education acquired by young ones in school, college, etc.

In Ebiraland before the advent of the British, there were no regular schools and the education of the young Ebiras was of the informal type.

The coming of the British in the 1900s brought along western education into Ebiraland via the Native Authority System and the Christian Missionaries, notably the Roman Catholic Mission (R.C.M.) and the Church Missionary Society (C.M.S.). The advent of Islam in Ebiraland brought along Islamic education in the form of Quranic and Arabic studies too.


The pre-1900 period in Ebiraland could be regarded as the period when the only form of education was informal education as there were no, regular schools. The training of the young Ebiras was the sole responsibility of the parents and the only language of instruction was Ebira.

Hence the first concern of the parents for the child is to make sure that the child has a very good grasp of this language of instruction, the mother tongue. This is essentially the mother’s responsibility as she spends most of her time with the child. The subjects taught but spread out over the developmental period are as follows:-

Ebirah language: This being the mother tongue, its teaching, particularly at the elementary stage of life, is by the mother and other relatives. More and more knowledge of the language is acquired throughout the child’s lifetime. But for the purpose of instructions the fundamentals are taught to the child between the age of 6 months and 2 years.

Physical Training: (P.T.): For the fitness of the child the mother starts teaching the child the sitting mode from the age of 4 months. The child has mastered this of his volition and starts crawling; particularly when the child is tired of sitting for too long, Following this development, the child is then taught how to stand and walk; first by holding and supporting him/her.

Later the child is gradually allowed to walk by himself though initially, fears may not allow the child to walk well, he gradually masters it, and with time, of his volition, the child will incorporate running skills. And later by playing with other children, the child will indulge in sporting activities himself.

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These again have to be monitored to avert cases of injuries. By the age of 2 years, the child could be engaged in running domestic errands, etc.

General Hygiene: The child is first taught hygiene through the washing of the child’s face; first by the mother but later made to do it himself. The chewing of sticks for the cleaning of teeth and compound cleaning follows. While the female is taught to sweep, the male is taught the use of a hoe and cutlass for the wedding of the surrounding. Others include bathing yourself and cutting fingernails etc.

General Knowledge: This subject is taught in the form of folk tales; particularly during leisure hours in the evening most especially at moonlight times. Oral history features prominently and this is taught mainly in the form of parables.

Storytelling, which is normally led by the more senior ones among the children features with a view to testing the memory skills of the younger ones. At the beginning of the new day’s subject, the leader could call on any of the younger ones to narrate the story of the previous lesson; following which corrections are made and further questions asked to ascertain that the story has been properly mastered.

The moral lessons taught by such stories are equally explained too. The stories are usually intersected with songs to add glamour to it; particularly as children learn better through songs, their memory of the stories is thus improved.

Another subject that features prominently along with storytelling is in the form of Ebira proverbs. The senior ones even participate in this subject; particularly when the meaning of some difficult proverbs is sought reference is made to the elder’s solutions.

Arithmetic: As from the age of one and a half years, the child’s mother teaches the child to count numbers, and later the child is taught to count and differentiate coins of various denominations as well as currency notes of modern times. In the olden days, cowries were used as money and all arithmetical sums were done with the use of cowries.

Most of the ancient monetary terminologies are now outmoded. As soon as the child is capable of running errands, he is then frequently sent with the money to go and make petty purchases thereby broadening his knowledge of monetary values.

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Agriculture: As earlier indicated, farming. is the main occupation of the Ebirahs. Agriculture in the form of farming skills and methods is taught to the child right from childhood. From the age of 3 years, the child accompanies the father to the farm though does not physically participate in the farm work.

He only plays on the farm and observes the father and the other senior boys as they carry out the work. By and large, the child of his volition practices the use of the hoe; first, through weeding, he is gradually taught other aspects of farming.

Yam mold making being the climax of the Ebira farmers requires special skills and physique. This is therefore exclusively reserved for the older and stronger ones. With time, the child of his volition starts farming for himself; first with pilot farms purely for experimental purposes.

This skill he develops further until he is capable of owning his own farm side by side with his father’s or guardian’s farm where he is still expected to participate more actively. It is only in his leisure time that he is allowed to do his private farm work. And until he is of the age of marriage and up to the first marriage which is usually the father’s responsibility, he does not support himself.

When he is of age to carry on with his own family responsibilities, he is then allowed to live as an independent family man. Occasionally he is required to assist his father or guardian, particularly during the period of making yam molds, etc.

Spinning and Weaving: Just about the age of three (3) years, like the male child, the female child is groomed by the mother to acquire the skills of spinning and weaving what is today popularly known as “Okene” cloth, the world over. She is first taught the spinning skills, after having mastered the art of preparing the cotton separation of the seeds from the cotton using locally devised tools called ‘oporipo’ and ‘ovorivo’.

The cotton is then carefully spun into threads by the use of ‘oibene’. The weaving is first taught to the child on mock looms using calabash etc. later this skill is developed further by the child when she tries her hands on the mother’s loom. By and large, she grows to assist the mother fully.

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When she is of age the mother establishes for her a separate mock loom, all with a view to boosting the mother’s craft, the proceeds of which all go to the mother. At this stage, her clothing requirements, etc are borne by the parents.

Up till the age of marriage and even during the early period of her marriage she is still answerable to either the mother-in-law or the first wife until she becomes eventually independent whence she is regarded as ‘Onyi ita’. Following this development, she can then acquire her own loom and weave for herself.

Alongside spinning and weaving which are exclusively for females, the roles of women in agriculture are taught to the child right from childhood and she plays these roles too. Other crafts which are exclusively reserved for women are taught as well.

Traditional Wrestling: As earlier indicated, the Ebiras were very good warriors in the past; particularly in those days of inter-tribal wars. And as prospective hunters, like our ancestral father, every Ebira male, used to be given basic training regarding the handling of aggressive situations like how to combat the attack of wild animals, especially when one is left alone in the forest.

In this regard, wrestling referred to as ‘irevu obo’, is taught to the male child right from childhood. The children organized in form of age groups and traditional wrestling competitions are organized regularly amongst these groups to determine winners. by these methods, the male child is trained to face enemies which could even be in the form of humans, who after disarming may still be subdued through wrestling.

This is again found useful during communal clashes. And with this type of orientation, the Ebira male is trained to be fearless and when eventually he is brought face-to-face with enemies during either a fight at times of the traditional festivals or at the war front he is unconquerable; skills learned from wrestling fields are occasionally tested through plays which sometimes ended in quarrels.

In particular, amongst the Ihima groups, the Echori festival is characterized by ‘Ochi Oiku’, which is like the Fulani Shard. The case of the Ebira is different in that after the two contestants have completed the caning aspect they resort to ‘irevu obo’ to determine the final winner. This practice is again common with the Adavi groups, particularly during the ‘Ete’oisi’ period on the third day of their Echane festival.


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