Why Government Should Return History to School Curriculum
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 as subject was relegated to the background. It no longer stood alone as an independent subject. 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 former 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. He made the call while addressing delegates at the 61st Meeting of the National Council on Education Ministerial Session, saying 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 subject remains in oblivion. 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.
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.
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 collateral damage of expunging History from the curriculum can be appreciated from the prism of commentaries by youths on the various social media platforms.
My worry is 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 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 plan document was approved by the National Council of Education, NCE, at its 61st Ministerial Session of September 27 – 30, 2016. 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 introduced, while the study of history had also been jettisoned by the schools 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 the state government’s schools is 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 citizens. 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.
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 scholars and involve all stakeholders in reviving the study of history across schools in the country.
National Council on Education (NCE) should bring back the regional quiz competitions and debate on core Nigerian and African history.
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.
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 behavour 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 which further bastardize 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 behavioral 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 misdemeanor” from the doze of foreign contaminated culture they have consumed. These misdemeanors 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 colonized 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 reestablished 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.
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. The Punch