The Ideology of the German Neukirchen Mission and Its Implication on Education in Tana River County, Kenya 1887-1986

Gitonga P. Kimani, James E. Otiende, Augustine M. Karugu


This paper examines the ideology of the German Neukirchen Mission and its implication on education in Tana River County, Kenya 1887 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. In Tana River, several missionary organizations ventured in the area notably the Methodist Missionary Society (MMS), the German Neukirchen Mission (GNM), the Holy Ghost Fathers (HGF) and the Swedish Mission. They all gave up in the area due to a multiplicity of hardships save for the GNM which hang on and continued with evangelization and education. Consequently, there is need to look at the ideology of the GNM that influenced its resolve to persist in an area shunned by its contemporaries. An understanding of GNM’s ideology would come in handy in helping to improve education standards in the area bearing in mind that the same problems that bedeviled the region have to a large extent remained to date The study had three objectives which were: to identify the educational institutions opened by the GNM in Tana River County 1887-1986; to establish the hardships experienced by the GNM in Tana River County in the period 1887-1986 and to examine the ideology which influenced GNM’s activities in Tana River County in the period 1887-1986.  The time frame was 1887 to 1986. This period covers the time the GNM arrived in Tana River 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. 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; all totaling 33. Collected data was analyzed through qualitative and quantitative methods while documents were analyzed through external and internal criticism. The study found out that the GNM established 31 primary schools 28 of which are still operational. The GNM missionaries experienced several challenges among them deportation during the two World Wars, frequent Somali attacks, floods, poor transport network, malaria infections and inadequate finances. The ideology was examined under five perspectives namely The Great Commission, Faith Mission, Reformed Theology, Social Darwinism and Socio-Political and Economic view point. The study recommends improvement of road and school infrastructure, investing more on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions, opening of a secondary school wing in every primary school, delocalization of teachers and establishment of  an institution of higher learning in the area.

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