• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Looking back to see ahead

Looking back to see ahead

With the absence of a vital subject like History from our nation’s school curriculum for so long, our youth cannot be held entirely to blame for the ignorance they sometimes display and neither should we be surprised with their sometimes, alarming choices of role models. History goes a long way to establish a template of good character; suggest a benchmark for personalities worthy of emulation; national heroes.

Our children will discover and learn from the escapades of people of exceptional moral character and even people without; discovering why some names will always be written in gold while others will never be, no matter how much power or wealth they managed to accumulate in their lifetime.

Reading, filled with much national pride about great achievers, those of selfless disposition who refused to sacrifice conscience or country, but always put their nation first. In a nutshell, patriots. Model citizens. Great men and women.

They will also be given the opportunity to become more acquainted with the gruesomeness of war, unimaginable losses people suffer, resultant starvation from severely limited food supplies and heart rendering stories about the separation of families. All teach important life lessons.

Many of our disillusioned youth who see nothing good in their country may have turned out very differently had they been privileged to immerse themselves, through study, in the acts of valour and patriotism of heroes past

The re-introduction of History into the curriculum will no doubt help the Nigerian child to understand who he is and where he’s coming from. The level of self-assurance that comes from knowing and accepting one’s identity cannot be overemphasized. In the absence of self-identity, there’s a tendency for one to devalue oneself. There’s a likelihood that one’s standards of acceptable moral behaviour may be more fluid and not entirely set in stone.

The African saying of, “Remember whose child you are” is not just referring to the biological parents who bore you, but your lineage, your stock, and the socially acceptable behaviour of the community your ancestors hailed from. It implies an expectation for one to represent in an honourable manner, the customary behaviour of one’s people; and even what it has come to mean, over the years, to be a Nigerian.

There is no getting away from the fact that one’s ethnic group still plays a significant part in dictating one’s ethos and outlook to life and there’s absolutely nothing wrong or necessarily retrogressive about this. As someone who spent the better part of his formative years in the southern part of the United Kingdom, I can tell you categorically that northern Brits are quite different to those from the south.

Perhaps toughened up by the perennial inclement and thoroughly unforgiving weather of the north, cruelly accompanied by the indisputably harsher economic climate, the northerners fairly or unfairly, see the southerners as softies; those who apportion too much time to fanciful matters and supposedly civil behaviour, because they already have it so easy. In like manner, the southerners have a tendency to view the northerners as generally less refined and less accustomed to what they regard as couth behaviour.

Southerners have always regarded themselves as more genteel and pride themselves in their pursuit of a more cultured lifestyle. Amongst some other things they all have in common, no matter which part of the country they come from, there’s one I’ve always loved about the Brits; something I believe in many ways, sets them apart from other nationalities, and it’s this; the Brits are always the first to make fun of themselves as they don’t believe in taking themselves too seriously.

But make no mistake; you just speak one disparaging word about their country, as a foreigner, and you’ll discover very quickly that they still regard themselves as one. They’re wise enough to realize that they have fought too many wars, too many battles and stood together to overcome too many challenges as one, not to. They are Brits first, and they’re very proud of it.

Learning from both our disparate and common history as a people, Nigerians would, I believe, become more aware of their heritage; acknowledging and understanding the things that make us different while becoming increasingly conversant with the things which forge us together; coming to the realization that though there are things which make us different from each other, they should not set us apart, as we have become one people.

Many of our disillusioned youth who see nothing good in their country may have turned out very differently had they been privileged to immerse themselves, through study, in the acts of valour and patriotism of heroes past. Admittedly, it always sounds like a cliché when people say this but it’s true; how can you possibly make a well informed decision regarding where you want to go when you don’t have a clue where you’re coming from?

The chances of you repeating the same mistakes your forefathers made, are that much higher, as you haven’t been fortunate enough to discover, by studying the past, to know what they did. Our compass to the promised land we all yearn for must take it’s bearings from both the past and the present to direct us correctly to the desired future.

Just in case some take offence, I hope they’ll find a way to forgive me for saying this, but the African American has always felt out of sorts in a country dominated by the white man, and many, in a desperate bid to have a better understanding of who they are, have tried to trace their lineage back to the motherland. It’s an understandable search for a fuller sense of identity.

Read also: What lack of history in education curriculum costs Nigeria

They want to know their stock and the culture which they were so cruelly deprived of, when their ancestors were herded off to a foreign land as slaves. This has created a big hole in many, which they continually seek to fill by knowing their history, prior to the dislocation of the slave trade. What part did their lost culture play to form their character, their seemingly inexplicable likes and dislikes, their philosophies, strengths, as well as weaknesses.

Without the benefit of history as a form of anchor to our psyche, we have witnessed an alarming distortion in societal values and it’s not looking like this will abate anytime soon; unless we do something about it.

The tired argument that History had become a less attractive subject because not many are looking to become Historians lacks merit. The importance of history goes beyond the superficial which looks only at career courses, as it helps us to know who we are, and that to me, is priceless.

Before fixing your sights on a given ambition, no matter how noble it might appear to be, it would do both you and your society a world of good to first know who you are. Besides, despite their inglorious involvement in the Second World War, did the Germans consider it wise to hastily discard of History in their school curriculum? No.

Instead, they embraced their past, both the good and the bad and learned from it. The offer of History as a University Degree program has not in anyway adversely affected their technological advancement, for which they continue to be renowned on the global stage. History is sacrosanct, if we’re to get better bearings of ourselves, where we want to get to and how best to get there.

Changing the nation…one mind at a time.