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Religion and curriculum hoopla


Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu

Pity this poor, pathetic country. This is what Nigeria requires today –   a show of love and care nurtured by patriotic zeal. But every day its citizens make it look like Nigeria is the most inhabitable place on earth.

As minister of information, Dora Akunyili, the late madam NAFDAC of blessed memory, coined the slogan about us – good people, great nation. Apparently that is no more. Good people? Doubtful. Great nation? Perhaps. And that is if its citizens allow it to survive to be great indeed.

I can explain my misgivings. Any stranger landing in this country today would be forgiven if he thought that Nigeria was preparing for war. Evidence:  abundant display of intolerance  with both loud and muffled  hate songs accompanied by  drums of war in the media climaxed by the  landing last week in the Federal Capital Abuja of famous war generals and other assorted  veterans brimming with anger as if waiting on cue to spit fire and brimstone.

There is, in addition, a regular daily diet of ethnic chauvinism and religious bigotry served   by twisted logic, half-truths and outright lies, all aimed at igniting the infernal flame – as if to set the country up  for an Armageddon greater than the consequences of the infantile threat of Kanu’s IPOB and the  equally infantile reaction of the irreverent Arewa youths.

The way we are going, the Boko Haram menace and the cattle herdsmen invasion would soon pale into insignificance and become  a mere footnote to be cited as evidence of the perennial bogey of the Hausa Fulani domination of Nigeria and ultimately the Islamisation of the country.  That this threat has remained an illusion from the time of the amalgamation is lost on those whose minds have been made up over the years through cluttered thought processes.

It is getting messier by the day. Even those respected elders whose voice should be the voice of hope and reason, now appear so disillusioned that some of them today seem to regret fighting to keep this country together as one indivisible country.

Even if the existence of Nigeria happened by mistake, a mistake of both the head and the heart, even if Nigeria, in 2017, still remains a mere geographical expression – with apology to Awo, the immortal sage of Ikenne – considering the fact that we Nigerians are supposed to be greatly religious people who demonstrate the fear of God in all our daily activities, shouldn’t we now accept this mistake as ordained by the Almighty God for whose sake we have sworn to kill and maim one another?

Not quite. The clarion call for rearrangement – majority of us call it restructuring, return to regionalism, some even call it outright separateness – suggests a dissatisfaction with what is. But it does not, in my view, suggest we know exactly what we want. We had regional governments in a federal structure until 1966 when Ironsi’s military government abolished the federal arrangement and replaced it with the infamous unitary system of government.

Cry of domination by various minority ethnic groups within the various regions led to the creation of states in 1967 by the Yakubu Gowon military administration. The North, hitherto monolithic in appearance, if not in fact, was split into six states. The minority ethnic groups that clamoured for autonomy from the Hausa Fulani domination in the Northern regional arrangement now had states of their own in Benue, Plateau and Kwara. In the South, minorities in the former Eastern Region were given their own states in Rivers and Cross Rivers and were freed from perceived Igbo domination in the regional arrangement. The Mid Western region, created in 1963 from the Western Region, was renamed Bendel State and remained free of Yoruba domination.

I don’t have any quarrel with a return to the regional arrangement but it has to be an arrangement that is truly geopolitical and economic in nature, not one that is founded on a narrow parochial base that seeks to promote ethnic chauvinism and religious bigotry. In the North, for example, the Middle Belt, like Biafra was a mere aspiration. It did not come to be. Today the area has been subsumed in the unrecognised North Central Zone comprising Kwara, Benue, Kogi, Nassarawa, Plateau and Niger states. The current grouping is not coterminous with J.S Tarka’s middle belt region and it would therefore be a misnomer to refer to this place as middle belt region.

As if the agitation for restructuring is not hanging enough fire, religion and the bogey of Islamisation have been dragged into the fray. For more than one week now rabid bigots have succeeded in widening the more inflammable fault line – Islam and Christianity dichotomy – using the curriculum of secondary school education as the new weapon. The story as told by the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, is that this new administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu has, in furtherance of a clear agenda to Islamise the country, dropped the teaching of the Christian Religious Knowledge from the school curriculum while retaining the Islamic Religious Knowledge as well as Arabic Studies.

If this were true, it would indeed have amounted to abomination and a disregard for Christianity. But the details that came out from the government to clarify the issue do not seem to have borne them out.  The whole curriculum hoopla started not with the Buhari regime but with the Goodluck Jonathan administration. The government organised a national education summit in 2010 and the summit came to the conclusion that the country’s basic education curriculum was unwieldy. About 20 subjects were being taught at the time. The summit recommended a reduction in the number of subjects. Two years later, the government approved a curriculum reform that sought to rationalise the subjects taught in public schools in line with global practices and standards. The Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, NERDC, headed by Professor Godswill Obioma, was directed to effect changes accordingly. In 2014, says the authorities, the NERDC came up with a nine- year curriculum with subjects arranged in groups with a maximum of 12 subjects at the lower basic ( primary 1-3), nine subjects at middle basic ( primary 4-6) and 10 subjects at the upper basic (JS 1-3).

In the grouping, 17 subjects were respectively listed under various subject groupings. Religion and National Values was one of the groups and it comprises the following subjects: Christian Religious Studies, Civic Education, Islamic Studies, Security Education and Social Studies. The two religious studies were to be offered alternatively. No student is allowed to study the two.

It is difficult for any rational mind to deduce from the foregoing that the Christian Religious Study has been removed or reduced in status in comparison with Islamic Studies. If anything the two are being treated equally. The teaching of Arabic language is like the teaching of French and even Russian in our schools. These are languages and there is no intrinsic link between Arabic and Islam, except that this is the language of the Prophet and the language in which the Qur’an, the holy book of the Muslims is written, and now translated into numerous other languages worldwide. It is in the same Arabic language that the Bible of Christians in Arab countries like Syria, Tunisia and Egypt is written and it does not make these Christians speaking Arabic Muslims. Equally the reading of the Bible in English by interested Muslims does not make them Christians.

A lot of Nigerian Muslims studied in missionary schools in the early stages of their education and they were required to learn Christian Religious Knowledge.  Today it has made them better Muslims because they have a better understanding of the two religions. It will indeed promote peace and understanding if the two religions are made compulsory subjects in the school curriculum. From the formative years of their lives, perhaps these innocent children now equipped with the teachings of the two great religions, would come to appreciate the cant and hypocrisy of the elders who wear the toga of holiness as conferred by religion but who still commit havoc in God’s name.

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