Lalage Bown

Lalage Bown

Hall of Fame Class of 2009

Lalage Bown is person who stands for the development and founding of higher education, implementation of adult education into universities, and extramural studies in a worldwide perspective. Through her expertise in adult education, Bown has brought Africa closer to Europe and other areas of the world, and has partners outside prepared to better understand Africa. Besides her practical work she proved her scholarly competence in many articles and books. 

Born 1927 in Croydon, Surrey in the United Kingdom, Bown earned a bachelor’s degree from Oxford University 1948, a Master of Arts degree in modern history in 1952, also from Oxford University, and attended postgraduate courses in adult education and economic development. After finishing her academic training she moved immediately to Africa where, from 1949 to 1992, she built or expanded university adult education programs in six newly–founded African universities in four countries: the University College of the Gold Coast, Ghana; Makerere University College, Uganda; University of Ibadan, Nigeria; University of Zambia; Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria; and the University of Lagos.

Her list of publications is rich in titles and fascinating by the brilliant rhetoric, originality of ideas and visions, and the preciseness of academic textual composition. She influenced the development of international comparison in adult education. Together with Roby Kidd and George Bereday she chaired the first International Study Circle on Comparative Adult Education in Nordborg, Denmark.

Bown was, for almost four decades, regarded as being the representative of British Adult and Continuing Education. Outstanding in her African life were the achievements in adult education inside and outside the West African universities. She initiated and strengthened programs not only for academic reasons but also to enhance the concept of a nation-building and popular education, based on the fundamentals of the individual tradition, the traditional culture and religion. She encouraged students to preserve their tradition and to open themselves to the outside world. 

Positions of leadership from 1960 on led also to political engagement. Innovations she was responsible for in Africa were the first folk high school on the continent (Ghana), use of the museum to help build a sense of cultural identity (Uganda), and a University of the Air (Zambia and Northern Nigeria). In addition she continuously made adult education visible by addressing needs and solutions for manifold problems in 36 consultancies undertaken in 12 countries. In 2009 she gave the UNESCO International Literacy Day Lecture and used the occasion to appeal for more support by the member nations. She is still active in different community service actions and foundations, such as African Families Foundation. 

Her contributions to the visibility and stature of adult education have been acknowledged since 1975 by five honorary degrees, an honorary doctorate from Open University “for services to the education of the underprivileged,” and the William Pearson Tolley Award from Syracuse University, the first woman to receive this award.  

Adult education in her understanding is extending to and integrating with economics, ecology, health education, literacy, religious and linguistic traditions. She has shown on many occasions her capacity in planning and participating in the decision-making process, whereby she succeeded in giving adult and continuing education a recognized profile as a major field of education policy in Europe and Africa. Bown wasn’t just a university person, but an engaged, warm-hearted, full of passion person with empathy for the participants and partners in the working field of adult education.