Women and Education in the African Novel

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

Women's struggle for education is dramatized from multiple perspectives in the African novel. In Chinua Achebe's No Longer at Ease, Obi Okonkwo meets his future fiancee, Clara Okeke, because, while they are from the same part of Nigeria, they are pursuing degrees in London. Achebe lets us know that they will be designated as "been-to's" when they return home. In Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Purple Hibiscus, Ifeoma, a university lecturer, reveals one method by which men control women in the modern day is enabling their educations: “Six girls in my first-year seminar class are married, their husbands visit in Mercedes and Lexus cars every weekend, their husbands buy them stereos and textbooks and refrigerators, and when they graduate, the husbands own them and their degrees. Cameroonian Neni Jonga, in Imbolo Mbue’s novel Behold the Dreamers, studies in New York to become a pharmacist, but when she becomes pregnant, her husband, Jende “decide[s]” that he wants her to stay at home," against Neni's wishes. These situations suggest the importance and tensions associated with women's education. This panel will explore those tensions as well as motivating factors and consequences of traveling abroad for higher education.