July 13 – SCHOOL BOOKS FOR AFRICA
SCHOOL BOOKS FOR AFRICA
Br. Bernardin, hardly arrived at Bondo in 1933, began to work with Br. Stanislas Verschuren to start a training school, the first in the north of Belgian Congo (See 12 October). As the future teachers did not have any written documents, he had immediately the idea of providing them a series of works in French, which comprised all the disciplines: arithmetic, history, geography, physical education, carpentry, hygiene, practical life, pedagogy. He even wrote a novel, Mombai the sorcerer. He added to it, in Lingala, a syllabary, a grammar, a vocabulary book, some recitals and a biblical drama Yonata. Some 600,000 volumes were sold.
A little later Br. Macaire had exactly the same projects at Libreville (Gabon). When he arrived there in 1932, the teaching was done in French by means of books coming from the metropolis. With his confreres of the Montfort school, of which he was the Principal, he started by writing small bits of history, geography, natural science, hygiene and agriculture related to the country. Then he started the composition of African School Books, which were French and arithmetic books (these latter entrusted to Br. Paul Barre) for each class of the primary school. The first manuscripts were ready in 1939, but it was only after the war in 1947 that they brought out the books from the St Paul’s printing press at Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris. At the death of Br. Macaire in 1980, the African School Books numbered more than five and a half million published copies, They were distributed in West Africa by Br. Andre Charrier of Yaoundé (Cameroon).
Similarly, for the formation of teachers Br. Macaire worked with Br. Flavien and, taking information provided by Fr. Moureyre, Spiritan, he wrote the manuals of pedagogy, methodology and psychology: The educator in the schools of Africa and Madagascar, Pedagogy of the African teacher and Our beautiful job. This last book, often re published and improved, continued to be a best seller for a long time.
In 1958, a review, School in Africa, gave continuity to the African School Books. It continued to be printed at the St Paul Editions of Issy, of which the Director for the African section was, during fifteen years, Br. Maurice Ricolleau who was in charge also of the publication of a religious review, Pirogue, of large readership. From 1960 to 1976, School in Africa was directed by Br. Jean Sabin, former General Assistant and Secretary and author of some physical and natural science manuals.
In the 1990s, Br. Paul Barre, in collaboration with Senegalese teachers, published in Dakar grammar books and reading material for all primary classes, in the series Ami et Remi.
Senegal, Gabon, Congo, the D. R. of Congo and, starting with these countries, a great part of black Francophone Africa, were and still are marked by the school books and pedagogy of the Brothers of St Gabriel.