By Véronique Hélénon (auth.)

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Extra info for French Caribbeans in Africa: Diasporic Connections and Colonial Administration, 1880–1939

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75 FROM THE SUGAR PLANTATION TO THE COLONIAL ADMINISTRATION 33 Although Monnerville himself never entered the colonial administration, he became a key figure of the French machinery of state, and his outpourings about serving the Republic expressed the anticipations of many of his contemporaries. In fact for generations to come, the administration came to represent a certain way of life and professional ideal and in increasing numbers French Caribbeans developed strategies to enter it. Entering the Colonial Administration Law School and Other Trainings A degree from the primary school cycle gave access to the administration at its lowest levels, whereas graduates of law schools or of the Ecole Coloniale took precedence and were guaranteed the best positions.

It had to remain under strict supervision and was not to challenge the economic organization. But it was also obvious that blacks and browns had no intention of abiding by these restrictions. To them the educational system was there to ensure that their children could improve their condition, and this goal was at variance with agriculture. Precious years spent in the classroom could not be wasted in perpetuating the old scheme. It was with this goal in mind that education was invested, first at the primary level, which remained the most accessible but also at its secondary level, where selection was stronger.

Their education was either general or vocational, depending on the needs of the colony. Thus, in January 1888, three young Cambodians considered to be “the most advanced” of their group, took geography classes at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales. Similarly, during the academic year 1894, six students took classes at the Ecole Lavoisier, one of Paris’s primary superior schools. Since the aim of the Ecole Coloniale was essentially the formation of youth and mentality in a western mold through direct contact with the French population, students were also invited to visit museums, stores, Parisian monuments, theaters, concerts, and even the ball.

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