History & Background
The Republic of Equatorial Guinea is a small West African country that consists of Rio Muni and the five small islands of Bioko, Corisco, Great Elobey, Little Elobey, and Annobon. Its total area is approximately 10,831 square miles (28,052 square kilometers). Equatorial Guinea is a very fragmented country that suffers from internal differences and an unstable economy, both of which are in part attributable to its geographic separation from the other countries of Africa.
The Portuguese first explored Equatorial Guinea some time between 1472 and 1475. Because of the Treaty of Tordesillas (June 7, 1494) the Portuguese maintained control over Equatorial Guinea until 1778, when Spain took control of the colony. Spanish control of Equatorial Guinea was intended to give Spain a direct source of slave labor to use as needed in Spanish America. No occupation of mainland Equatorial Guinea took place at this time, however, as the Spanish left the island of Bioko (then Fernando Po) after a widespread yellow fever epidemic.
From 1827 to 1843 the British leased spaces at Port Clarence (later Santa Isabel, now Malabo) on Fernando Po to use as a base to regulate the abolition of the slave trade. In 1839 the first known school was established in Clarence City with 120 children. Because there was no Spanish administration in the area, the British administered the island and made Spain several offers to buy the island from them. All of these offers were denied, and the British left Fernando Po in 1843 after selling their buildings to a Baptist mission. A second school was established on Santa Isabel by Baptist missionaries some time between 1840 and 1858 (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).
The Baptist missionaries were forced off of the island of Fernando Po in 1858, and a group of Jesuits established themselves there. The Jesuits also opened a school in Santa Isabel, but the revolution in Spain of 1858 put an end to these efforts. In 1870 Primitive Methodists also opened a school, and between 1876 to 1877 an additional school was established and later directed by a Cuban, following the Spanish decision of 1879 to use the island as a penal settlement for Cubans (Liniger-Goumaz 2000). This school, along with the school established by the Methodists, was suppressed following the arrival of many Claretians, members of the Congregation of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which was founded in Spain in 1849. In addition, the American Presbytery Missionary operated schools in Corisco and Rio Benito from the nineteenth century. At the beginning of the twentieth century a school was opened in Bata for 180 boys and girls by the French Fathers of the Holy Spirit (Liniger-Goumaz 2000).
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