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The life and times of David Livingstone – the Sunday schoolboy

The life and times of David Livingstone – the Sunday schoolboy

The life and times of David Livingstone – the Sunday schoolboy

The idea of providing free schooling for working class children is attributed to Robert Raikes, editor of the Gloucester Journal, who saw it as a way of preventing working class children from turning to a life of crime.

In 18th Century industrial Britain, education was largely a privilege reserved for the children of the upper class. They would be taught by a private tutor at home and later sent to boarding school with other children which explains why these institutions became known, rather confusingly, as ‘public’ schools. The town-based middle class had the option of grammar school for their children, but children of factory workers were enrolled to work alongside their parents and most would get little or no formal education.

In 1781, Raikes was so moved by their plight that he started his first school for the children of the chimney sweeps who lived in Sooty Alley, teaching them to read and write using the Bible as his text book. He publicised this idea through the Gloucester Journal and the idea caught on. Within four years over 250,000 children were attending schools on Sunday throughout England, and by 1831 it was reported that attendance at ‘Sunday schools’ had grown to over 1.2 million working class children.

Raikes’ school is seen as the starting point of the modern education system in Britain and his egalitarian vision was embraced by the Scottish University system. This resulted in the education of a generation of thinkers that included the likes of David Livingstone but also some of the great innovators of history - James Watt (steam engine), Alexander Fleming (penicillin), John Dunlop (pneumatic tyre), Alexander Graham Bell (telephone). Perhaps the Scots really did invent the modern world!

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 10, Sept 2012)

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Livingstone

Read more on David Livingstone from the Zambezi Traveller:
The Life of David Livingstone - Part VI: David Livingstone – the final journey (ZT14, Sept 2013)
The Life of David Livingstone - Part V: Dr Livingstone, I presume? (ZT13, July 2013)
The Life of David Livingstone - Part IV: The dream to open up Africa (ZT12, March 2013)
Slavery – the scourge of Africa (ZT12, March 2013)
The Life of David Livingstone - Part III: David Livingstone’s early missionary years and first expedition (ZT11, Dec 2012)
The ‘discovery’ of Victoria Falls (ZT11, Dec 2012)
The Life of David Livingstone - Part II: David Livingstone – the training (ZT10, Sept 2012)
The life and times of David Livingstone – the Sunday schoolboy (ZT10, Sept 2012)
The Life of David Livingstone - Part I: The ‘Scramble for Africa’ (ZT09, July 2012)
The story of quinine (ZT09, July 2012)