The culture of mass education has become an enduring tradition in Western Nigeria. The root of this culture is traceable to the mid-nineteenth century when the Christian missionary bodies began a process of systematic evangelization, using Western education as a medium and an indispensable tool. Early converts were taught how to read the Bible in vernacular – a measure that helped produce the first widespread literate class in Western Nigeria. Thereafter, mass education was promoted through the opening of primary and secondary schools as well as teacher training colleges and trade schools. The pioneering missionary efforts, complemented in later years by the colonial government, received an accelerated boost, reaching a peak in the mid-1950s during the era of internal self-rule when the Western Nigerian government introduced the Free Education Programme in the region. In spite of the termination of the government that introduced the Free Education Scheme following the military take-over in 1966, the rising trend of popular education continued unabated. Military and civilian governments alike have, ever since, remained committed to mass education such that popular Education remains to this day, the greatest industry in Western Nigeria. The contention in this Paper is that the culture of mass education in Western Nigeria, even to this day, and in spite of occasional modifications, is a logical conclusion to an established culture of mass education, the root of which is traceable to the Christian missionary era. The paper concludes with an analysis of the impact, which the various phases of the evolutionary process have made on the history of education in Western Nigeria in particular, and the country as a whole.
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