2 minute read

Guinea

History & Background

The Republic of Guinea lies on the western coast of Africa. With an area of 94,900 square miles, it is bordered by Senegal and Mali on the north, Côte d'Ivoire on the east, and Liberia and Sierra Leone on the south. The population of 7,600,000 people (January 2001 estimate) is composed of four major tribal groups: 35 percent Peuls (Fulani), 30 percent Malinke, 20 percent Susu, and 14 percent Kissi. French is the official language, but several tribal languages and dialects are also in use. Guinea is 85 percent Muslim, 8 percent Christian, and 7 percent Animist. With a per capita Gross Domestic Product of $1,180 (in 2000), it is one of the poorest nations of Western Africa.

For more than 100 years, Guinea was part of the former French Colonial Empire. It became a protectorate in 1849, a colony in 1898, and a constituent territory of French West Africa in 1904. When France granted independence to its former African colonies in 1958, it also offered a continuing economic, political, and educational relationship with the newly created Communauté, the French equivalent of the British Commonwealth. Guinea was the only former colony that refused such a partnership. After a nationwide referendum, it severed all ties with France and proclaimed its independence as the republic of Guinea on 2 October 1958. Its first president-for-life, Achmed Sékou-Touré, established a single party state, where neither political diversity nor any form of opposition were tolerated. To disengage the country from its former colonial past, Sékou-Touré adopted a radical africanization program that rejected Western values. Guinea soon became an isolated, struggling nation that turned to the former Soviet Union for technical aid. In a sense, the history of the educational system of Guinea is closely tied to its political history and efforts to separate itself from its former colonial occupant. But even after 1960, France still loomed large over the economy and cultural life of its former West African colonies. Efforts to abolish French as the official language of instruction to the benefit of local dialects proved to be a failure, as French remained throughout West Africa the language of diplomacy, commerce, and education. Severing ties with Western Europe also had a catastrophic impact on Guinea's economy, and the promotion of a brutally repressive regime controlled by Sékou-Touré did little to foster a climate in which new educational policies and reforms could flourish. Sékou-Touré died in 1984 after 26 years of unopposed dictatorship, having finally restored closer ties with France in 1975. Colonel (later general) Lansana Conté then seized power and has been Guinea's unopposed leader for the past 17 years. The political climate has improved since diplomatic and economic ties were restored with France and Western Europe. Opposition parties were permitted, and free elections were held in the early 1990s. A 114-member National Assembly was democratically installed in June 1995, representing 21 political parties. Though the nation is still poor, Guinea's economy has shown dramatic improvement after French corporations undertook the rehabilitation of the country's infrastructure, and the Paris Club of Creditor Nations agreed to significant debt relief in the late 1990s.


Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceGuinea - History Background, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education, Higher Education - CONSTITUTIONAL LEGAL FOUNDATIONS, NONFORMAL EDUCATION