Chapter 3: Anthropology and Education
David Mills Next up facing the students is the headmaster, flanked by the deputy and chaplain. Greeting them politely, and asking after their health, his approach is rather more subtle. ‘I’d like to welcome the new students’, he continues, ‘to the University of Kiboga, as everyone calls Kikomera Secondary School, being the oldest and best secondary school in the district’ . . . But this warm rosy feeling does not last long . . . ‘Now, about this late-coming. I’m seeing too many latecomers – it must stop’ comes as a sudden jolt. ‘You are all due here before 8am to work at cleaning the grounds. And the standard of dress is too bad – I have seen pupils coming to school without shoes, and this is not acceptable. We cannot have bare feet in the University of Kiboga.’ (Mills, 1999, p. 16) I start with a vignette of one of the many weekly assemblies I witnessed whilst doing doctoral research in a rural Ugandan secondary school. Taken from my own fieldnotes, it captures something of the powerful imagery that surrounds education in many African countries. Studying social anthropology as an undergraduate, I decided that the best way to get at such imagery was to conduct participant observation in a Ugandan secondary school, and the best way to do that was to become a teacher. My aim was to see how broader discourses about gender, modernity, progress and nationhood circulated within Kikomera Secondary. I was less interested in what was being learnt in the classroom than in everything...
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