• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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What lack of history in education curriculum costs Nigeria

What lack of history in education curriculum costs Nigeria

The way forward, as an African adage says, is to look to the past, because the past begets the present, and the present shapes the future.

Benjamin Cardozo, an American jurist cum philosopher once said, “History in illuminating the past, illuminates the present, and in illuminating the present illuminates the future.”

There is no doubt that a nexus exists between our lack of literacy, our lack of understanding of history and where we are as a country. Little wonder philosophers believe that no country grows beyond the education or the literacy of its people.

However, in spite of the fact that history as a subject increased cross-cultural awareness of Nigerians, it was removed from the timetable at basic schools in the 1970s and taught as part of social studies. And this did not go down well with many stakeholders, parents, and teachers as well, hence this ‘intellectual rape’ generated loud outcry.

History aids students in understanding the contemporary world and how to approach the future

In the 1980s and 1990s, history in Nigerian public basic schools was gathered into a generic social studies framework, a trend which had its origins back in the 1960s and 1970s. It was during these earlier decades that the social studies approach to teaching humanities began to dominate the primary school and lower secondary school curriculum in many jurisdictions.

Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian Nobel Prize winner and statesman during his interview on a television station said that history being removed from the school’s curriculum was deliberate and an attempt to dissuade people from learning about the country’s past.

“I would like to use every opportunity to ask who it was that actually terminated the teaching of history in schools. Now, those who removed weren’t fools. When I made inquiries, they said oh, there were not enough teachers; absolute balderdash! I mean it was an insulting kind of excuse.

“No, they just did not want history to be taught, especially contemporary history. They don’t want people to know and learn from our recent history, things that led up to the civil war, the conduct of the military during the civil war, and they’re just cutting their noses to spite their faces because there were also positive aspects.

“There were certain lessons learned here and there from that episode, no vanquished, no conquerors and no victors, we can learn from that and improve on that and build on that and maybe if we have done that, we wouldn’t have IPOB today, maybe we would never have had Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) if we learned from the things that happened before.

“The necessity is to not just teach history in schools but to make history part and parcel of civic consciousness all the time in numerous ways and I think even the cinema has a role to play in this through some remarkable teaching and yet entertaining films,” Soyinka said.

Corroborating Soyinka’s position on the importance of telling history as it happened, Dike Chukwumerije, a poet during his speech on No Culture is Older than Being Human at TedX Maitama said a national identity is a story, it is about how you tell your history, it is about the stories you choose to emphasise and the ones you choose to de-emphasise.

“If we have become more similar over time, why is our politics still as divisive as it was 50 years ago? One of the reasons is the bedtime stories we’ve all been told. For instance, you’ve been told that the Igbos killed the Sardauna but you’re not told that the Sardauna was killed by Major Kaduna Nzeogwu.

“You’re told that the Yoruba has betrayed the Igbos; you’re not told that Obafemi Awolowo was the commissioner of finance in Gowon’s government during the war and it was his responsibility to evolve a fiscal strategy for the Nigerian side in the Civil War.”

“You are not told that Murtala Mohammed led the army into Asaba during the Civil War and it was under his watch that the Asaba massacre occurred, no. What you’re told is that the Hausa/Fulani murdered the Igbos.

“Now what can we do about this? How can we facilitate integration in this country?

“As Nigerians, we need to invest in the stories of integration. The only stories we ever hear is how the Igbos killed the Sardauna, how the Hausa/Fulani killed the Igbos, how the Yorubas betrayed the Igbos. You will never hear how the Emir of Katsina went out of his way to save Igbos during the civil war. You never hear of the Nigerian soldiers that came in to Biafra and were giving water and food to the children they saw.

“You never hear of Umaru Altine, the Hausa/Fulani man who became the first mayor of Enugu State, you never hear of Igbos winning elections into state houses of assembly in Kano and Lagos.

“You don’t hear these stories because they don’t fit the mainstream narrative. Any government that is interested in the future of this country will be investing in pushing those stories,” he said.

For Elizabeth Ohaka, an early childhood educationist, teaching of history at the basic level is very essential to breeding a complete child.

“There is a saying that if you do not know where you come from, you don’t know where you are, if you don’t know where you are; you don’t know where you are going. And if you don’t know where you are going, you are probably going wrong.

So it is important the children know who their ancestry is, what they did and learn from their mistakes, and from their gains. History doesn’t repeat itself, people do,” she said.

Francis Awa, a historian, sees the removal of history from the basic education curriculum as a disaster that portrays bankruptcy of leadership ideas.

“Removing history from the curriculum depicts that our leaders lack ideas and bigotry, thinking that science studies make a better student and by extension, a better nation,” he said.

However, Adamu Adamu, the minister of education some time ago affirmed the re-introduction of history into the curriculum of basic education in Nigeria because of its importance in the realisation of social and behavioural change in addition to national clamour.

“The reintroduction of history into the school curricula has been a major concern to stakeholders in recent times,” Adamu stated.

History as a subject helps learners to understand change and how the society we live in came to be, as well as how historical thought works. History aids students in understanding the contemporary world and how to approach the future.

In the past, history was taught in basic schools as a standalone subject and pupils were said to have enjoyed and valued the subject because they felt a sense of personal connection to the topics studied. There were few people who could not make an effort to study it because it was connected to the past and had to do with memorising names and dates.

Read also: Surge in Nigerians pursuing foreign education as local schools rot

The minister said the ministerial strategic plan of 2016-2019 contained several initiatives and activities to be executed, including the reintroduction of the teaching of history in primary and Junior Secondary Schools (JSS). He said the initiative was approved by the National Council on Education during its 61st ministerial session held on September 27 – 30, 2016.

“Following this, the Nigerian Education Research and Development Council (NERDC) was directed to carry out the disarticulation of history from social studies curriculum,” the minister said.

History is the study and the documentation of the past. Events before the invention of writing systems are considered prehistory. “History” is an umbrella term comprising past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organisation, presentation, and interpretation of these events.

Not only does the country need to bring back the study of history in basic schools’ curriculum, the children need to be fed with balanced historical records.

Part of the reasons for a disjointed socio-political and ethnic oriented party system in the country can be traced to the kind of information people were fed with while growing up. For instance, some of the political office holders and/or contenders are assumed to own state they are not even an indigene.

Like late Lucky Dube, a South African musician would say, “Your mother did not tell you the truth, and my father did not tell me the truth; nobody knows what is right or wrong.”

Every political zone or state in Nigeria need to know the history of its people, what their past leaders did to get them where they are, and even what the current office seekers did before vying for the office.

For instance, history will teach the toddlers how Obafemi Awolowo picked Lateef Jakande, the then editor of Tribune and guided him to become the first civilian governor of Lagos State; and transformed the education, housing system of the state, and among others.

The schisms witnessed in every zone of the country are foundational to the lack of history or perversion of history to rip the people apart. Now is the time to right the wrong and save the future generations.