By Ademola Orunbon•
In 2007, the federal government launched a new curriculum known as the New Basic Education Curriculum for primary and junior secondary schools. The existing curriculum was aimed at correcting the abnormalities of the former one, which was believed to be lacking in the areas of human capacity development; eradication of poverty; and the country’s quest for total emancipation as an independent entity.
Under the new system, the structure was divided into three levels of lower, middle and upper basic education curriculum. The lower level was for primary one to three, the middle level was for primary four to six, while the upper level was for Junior Secondary School, JSS one to three.
In each of the three levels, there were about 12 compulsory core subjects with one elective subject. English Studies, Mathematics, Social Studies, Health and Physical Education, Religious Studies as well as French were among the compulsory subjects. The new curriculum was effective from the 2009/2010 academic session. In its bid to correct the said abnormality in the past curriculum, History subject was relegated to the background.
The subject no longer stood alone as an independent subject as it was before. The reasons given for the decision, then was that students were shunning the subject and that the decision was necessitated by the fact that there were few jobs for History graduates, and there was dearth of teachers of the subject.
The decision was met with criticism with many describing the reasons as mere excuses. Following the criticisms, in 2016, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, ordered the reintroduction of the subject in basic schools across the country. The minister called for the disarticulation of Social Studies in the curriculum of basic schools and reintroduction of History as a subject.
The minister who made the call while addressing delegates at the 61st Meeting of the National Council on Education Ministerial Session had stated that the reintroduction of History as a subject on its own in basic schools will give the Nigerian child a self-identity of who they really were.
He had added that Nigeria owes both the present and future generations the responsibility of removing all inhibitions against opportunities of acquiring morals and ethics as taught in the religious traditions. But more than three years after the pronunciation, the subject was still left at the background where it had been thrown, that’s what prompted this writer to pick a pen, and written a powerful article on the study of History as a core subject in our school curriculum.
The writer titled it, “Why Government Should Return History to School Curriculum”, and indicated that the delisting of the subject in the curriculum has bred a new generation of youth who could not understand the socio-political and economic realities of the country within the context of historical evolution.
“Times were, when secondary school students could paint vivid pictures of Songhai Empire, Mali Empire, Old Oyo Empire, Bornu Empire, with words. This was made possible in the past when History was part of the subjects in the secondary school curriculum,” the paper reminisced. It added that the collateral damage of expunging History from the curriculum can be appreciated from the prism of commentaries by youths on the various social media platforms.
With this I really expressed worry that after more than three years, the minister ordered for the reintroduction of the subject, nothing has been put in place, given the urgent need to change the current narratives in the polity.
“The Federal Ministry of Education then developed its another plan on, Education for Change: A Ministerial Strategic Plan (2016-2019), which contains several initiatives and activities to be executed, including the disarticulation of Social Studies and the reintroduction of the teaching of History in primary and secondary schools.
The National Council of Education (NCE) at its 61st Ministerial Session of September 27 – 30, 2016, approved the plan document. Following this, the National Education Research and Development Council (NERDC), the agency that has the mandate to develop curriculum, especially at this level, was directed to start the process of disarticulating History from Social Studies. Ever since then no such course was introduce, while the schools had also jettisoned the study of history across the country.
Even for the Lagos State Government which took up the gauntlet using the State House of Assembly to ensure the return of History as a subject then, had never implemented the policy as none of state government’s school teaching the course as at today, the Federal Government has yet to come up with a decision on this. It had written. It had called on the Council and the NERDC to wake up from its slumber and bring back the subject as the roles of History in governance, conflict resolutions, diplomacy and international relations, science and medical studies, technological developments, nation-building and human relations are vital.
Indeed, to think that Nigeria, with our rich diversity of culture and tradition, wealth of heroes and heroines and their exploits in politics, military, commerce and sports, could attempt to end History, the way we tried to do, is preposterous, to say the least. In reality, History provides analytical insights into social formations, anthropological developments, inventions and innovations that shape what is called, “our shared humanity.”
In traditional African culture, our different societies looked up to history by tapping into the knowledge and the accumulated wisdom of their forebears, their sense of values, the morality and the norms which were the foundation of every society. History has traditionally occupied a unique position in African societies and was prominent as a subject in the preparation and training of the citizen. Clan or village heads, parents, grandparents and older siblings and others from the level of the nuclear family helped to transfer history from generation to generation.
Recalled, that on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, it seems that the wishes of many Nigerians will be fulfilled as the Minister of education that time, ordered the reintroduction of History as an independent subject into the basic and junior secondary schools in the country. The Minister, who gave the directive, at the launch of History curriculum and teacher’s guide in Abuja, said such would allow students know the history of the country, added that the importance of History to nation building, national identity, patriotism and overall human development could not be overemphasized. He had also stated that one of the cardinal principles of the present administration was social and behavioural change, and History was key to its realization.
The Minister added that following this development, the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) was directed to carry out the disarticulation of history from social studies curriculum. The new History curriculum, according to the Minister then, was designed to expose students to a body of knowledge that would enable them appreciate history as an instrument of national integration and nation building in the 21st century and beyond. Many stakeholders have met the news of the reintroduction of History as an independent subject in the curriculum of primary and junior secondary schools in the country with great joy.
Reacting to the reintroduction then, a Lecturer in the Faculty of Education, Department of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Abuja, Dr. Usman Manu, stated that it was welcome development and one that will help in the development of the country. “History is an important subject which should not be played with.
It helped to talk about the past and his we can move on to the future.” Manu however noted that the curriculum should also be upgraded, added that a school curriculum that does not solve the problem of a country, should be scrapped. Manu however noted that, the return of History to the school curriculum poses several problems; mainly the supply of teachers and lecturers.
“When History was removed, the number of people seeking admission to study it in the universities dropped significantly for obvious reasons: there was no point pursuing a course which would result inexorably in unemployment. In my school, they added Diplomatic studies, so that it will attract people, so it is History and Diplomatic Studies. It helped to bring in students to do that course,” he said.
Now, the recent discovery in the school curriculum across the Primary and Secondary Schools in Nigeria had showed that almost all our schools in the country have abandoned and not reintroduced the study of history after the directive from the former Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu.
Scholars and experts who know the importance of the study of history in the nation building have decried the current neglect and warned against nonchalant attitude of Federal Government and relevant stakeholders in denying Nigerian children the opportunity of understanding their past, present and the future.
The adverse effect of this development on the behaviour of younger generation in the country cannot be overemphasized. There is therefore the need for National Council on Education (NEC) to re-assess its decision and chart a new course at rejuvenating the neglected study of history by ensuring that the subject is re-introduced in the national curricular and ensure that more attention is placed at exposing the pupils to core aspect of their indigenous history and culture.
The rejuvenation of history in all the schools in the country will not as a matter of fact interfere with or affect the existence of other subjects like; social study, civic education, geography and government as they all have their relevance in promoting academic excellence. But more importantly it is very pathetic today that many of Nigerian pupils are oblivious of history of their dear fatherland, as some stakeholders have deliberately deleted it from the national curricular and far away from consciousness of the younger generation.
The attendant effect of the deliberate action of detesting history as subject of study has given free passage to incursion of Europeans, American and Asian history and culture that further bastardise our vision as a nation. The younger generation are thirsty of information and are curious at grasping any available means of gathering information about their past to enrich their knowledge. Unfortunately they have been starved and technologically driven far away from acceptable norms by foreign history and culture. And if government at all levels as well as stakeholders failed to see the study of history as salient to nation building and quickly salvage the situation and forestall Nigeria children from being swept away out rightly by the torrent of foreign culture, then it will totally have adverse effect on the incoming and unborn generations.
The behavioural pattern of Nigerian children in schools will tilt towards embracing all manner of untoward behaviours of foreign ways of life, which have dealt a blow on their psyche. Recently it was discovered that Nigeria children more than a decade ago have been suffering from trauma of what could be tagged as “psychological misdemeanour” from the doze of foreign contaminated culture they have consumed. These misdemeanours, which range from lack of respect for elders, cultism, poor and improper way of dressing, violent character, gangsterism among others are prevalent in the society.
How do we erase an epical administrative prowess of old Oyo empire under the control of Alafin who colonised and suppressed the Dahomey (the present day Republic of Benin) and subjected the people to annual tributes from 1743 up till when the central authority empire began to collapse in 1780 due to internal crisis that erupted between Alafin and Afonja the Kakanfo who secretly invited Hausa/Fulani Jihadists under the leadership of Alimi to depose the Alafin.
The internal crisis, which eventually led to the collapse of the old Oyo Empire, made Dahomey to assert its political independence around 1818. Or how on earth can someone detest the socio-economic and political teaching of Usman Danfodio, the jihadist who re-established the concept of Islam across the northern Nigeria even down to the West as well as peripheral of the Eastern Nigeria, redefining the political land scape of the affected regions with a political ideology tagged as caliphate.
More so the history of Agho Obaseki readily come to mind as it illustrated the ingenuity of Benin arts and rich culture of craft work as well as political and military prowess of the kingdom is quite resounding. Regrettably, the kingdom eventually fell in 1897 to the supremacy of the British Invaders. Thing fell apart as the European raiders sacked the rich cultural values of the kingdom and send Oba Ovonramwen N’ Ogbaisi on exile to Calabar.
There is no gain saying the fact that, the study of history is germane to nation rebuilding, as some people ignorantly may want to put it on a supremacy contest with other subjects and disciplines so as to discredit its importance. We should know that study of history is the core of academic template of all disciplines; it is the aggregate of all records and events.
In other words, the study of history translate to information and knowledge gathering, equivalent to research work, understanding leadership principles bothering on governance and government, culture and norms, investigations, discoveries in medicine, socio-economic planning, beefing up of security among others.
It must be emphasised that history of a people and culture are too important elements that must not be handled with levity, otherwise such people will lack direction and heritage, because the future of this country is bright but there are some steps that must be urgently taken to address some cultural misdemeanours by reverting back to teaching of pupils about the history and culture of our land.
It may surprise lots of people that our history that is not so much regarded as key to Nigeria socio-economic development has become core subject of study by some Europeans who have developed keen interest in learning African history and culture even right in Europe.
No nation or people can preserve its history and culture without deliberate plan of government by first restructuring the school curriculums to align with the new era of embracing African history. Government can also seek inputs from scholar and involve all stakeholders in reviving the study of history across schools in the country.
All school libraries should also be well equipped and furnished with books on African history. Non- Governmental Organizations that major in children affairs should also collaborate with government to achieve the set objective. Government can also set up “Cultural Club” to promote reading culture among pupils in schools; this is where the school authority as well as the concerned teachers is needed to sustain the dream. National Council on Education (NCE) should bring back the regional quiz competitions and debate on core Nigerian and African history.
Education gives knowledge, information and power; it is also the most basic insurance against poverty and ignorance. A nation without crop of educated citizenry is in perpetual darkness and nose-diving towards self-destruction.
- Orunbon, a journalist and public affairs analyst, wrote in from Abeokuta, Ogun state