Inderscience Publishers

Colonialism, female literacy and the millennium development goals in Africa

Illiteracy levels remain higher among women than among men in Africa. This imbalance constitutes a leading source of the weaker position of women vis–à–vis men throughout the continent. However, the causes of the imbalance, and especially why it is higher in some African countries than others remains largely unknown. This study posited colonial influence as an important explanatory factor of this phenomenon. Countries that were colonised respectively by France and Britain, two colonial powers with contrasting colonial philosophies and policies, are compared. Based on the relevant literature, and previous empirical evidence in other areas of development, adult female literacy levels were hypothesised to be higher in erstwhile British colonies than in countries that experienced French colonialism. A difference of means test employing the t–statistic and a cross–tabulation analysis using the concomitant chi–square statistics were employed to test the hypothesised relationship. The results show former British colonies as outpacing their former French counterparts, thus confirming the central hypothesis.

Keywords: Africa, British colonialism, colonial education, French colonialism, literacy rates, women empowerment, female literacy, illiteracy, adult literacy, millennium development goals

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