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Caution over integration of human trafficking into curricula of schools

By Ujunwa Atueyi
05 December 2019   |   3:37 am
The Federal Government is mooting the idea of adding studies in Trafficking in Persons (TIP) into schools’ curricula at all levels of ‘education.

The Federal Government is mooting the idea of adding studies in Trafficking in Persons (TIP) into schools’ curricula at all levels of ‘education. But education experts, while lauding the concept, cautioned that it should not be made a stand-alone subject, as the curriculum is currently overloaded with content. UJUNWA ATUEYI writes.

Recent concerns by the Federal Government to tackle some of the societal ills using education has been commended by academics. However, due process and consultations are needed to avoid the project hitting the brick wall.
The menace of Trafficking in Persons (TIP) across the country has raised genuine concerns as the Federal Government and other stakeholders are seeking ways to curb the ill act.

One of the ways, they are considering is mainstreaming issues of TIP into the school curriculum to ensure that young ones are equipped with adequate knowledge and information that will guide and protect them from the lures of human traffickers.
TIP is the trade of humans, most commonly for forced labour, recruitment into armed groups, sexual slavery, or commercial sexual exploitation by traffickers or other persons.
Worried about this horrendous act, the Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, had during the train-the-trainers workshop on TIP in Enugu State, recently, said issues of TIP will be mainstreamed in schools’ curricula to help address the challenges posed by human trafficking.

The minister believed that the project if properly implemented will promote greater awareness among students and teachers of human trafficking.
Apart from higher institutions, the minister said that primary and secondary school pupils across the country also need to be properly guided on issues of human trafficking, adding that deepening their knowledge on such topic would enable them make informed decisions as they grow. 

“It is good that our children have started knowing about human trafficking and the important thing is to know when you are being trafficked. It is, therefore, necessary to start mainstreaming studies in TIP at all levels of education,” the minister had said.  As laudable as this idea is, experts in the industry said studies in TIP should be infused in the existing curriculum, as making it a separate course could be cumbersome for the intended leaners.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time government will be announcing plans to bring in TIP in school syllabus, as between 2016 and 2017, the international centre for migration policy development (ICMPD) collaborated with the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP) and the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, (NERDC) to infuse TIP issues into the curricula for basic and secondary schools in the country. Even last year, the announcement was also. 

While it is believed that the government and the key stakeholders are working for hand in glove to perfect the idea, academics said while the subject should be integrated into existing courses, there must be sufficient training for teachers and productive meetings with authors on how to provide needed text books and other learning materials.
However, The Guardian found that in Jamaica, for instance, where a similar project was implemented, the subject was integrated into lessons in social studies, religious education, information and communications technology, physical education and sports, and history.

Teachers were also trained to help them understand the focus of the subject and the methodology they are supposed to use to incorporate it based on their context.
Recall that a study carried out by the Nigeria Educational Research Development Council (NERDC) some years ago, revealed that the then curriculum was over-loaded in terms of subjects being offered at both the primary and junior secondary school levels.
The curriculum was thereafter compressed from 20 subjects to nine, which was tagged the new basic education curriculum. Under the revised nine-year basic education curriculum, the curriculum has seven to nine subject combinations – English, Mathematics, pre-vocational studies, religion and national values, IT and basic science and technology.
Speaking to The Guardian on the issue, a professor of Counselling and Psychology, University of Ibadan, Ayo Hammed, said: “Human trafficking is not only an affront to human rights and dignity, but it is also a criminal and security concern. On the basis of that, we have some courses within the middle and upper basic education curriculum that should accommodate issues on TIP. It should not be a standalone subject, it should be an infusion.
“For example, in middle basic education curriculum, we have religion and national values education that incorporate social studies, civic education, security education and religious studies, issues in TIP should be incorporated and infused into all those areas. What the national council on education should do is to encourage all those writers/authors that will write the books on those content to incorporate issues of that in their books.”

Expressing displeasure over the menace of TIP and it’s under reportage across the globe, Hammed said: “In 2016 alone, the United Nations dictated that over 20000 to 29000 victims of human trafficking are under-reported. And 40 per cent of them were girls and women. Globally, an estimated 40.3m people in 2015 were entrapped in modern slavery. As I speak with you, Saudi Arabia has opened up a door for people to be trafficked over there on the guise of looking for jobs. By the time they get there, a lot of them die, a lot trapped and crucified, with so many tragic things happening to them.

“And so what I’m saying is that they should incorporate issues of TIP in civic education, under upper basic education curriculum. We can also teach it in English language, by asking students to write an essay on issues associated with human trafficking after they must have to be lectured on it. Definitely, a lot of them will be able to know more about it and they will be enlightened.”
Regretting that the country’s legal system has not helped matters either, the university teacher stressed, “Let me also say that in our environment over here, a conviction for trafficking offences are very rear. We have not been able to get a lot of people to be convicted because it is a network. It is better for us now to do the prevention and protection of our people, because these are under source. In fact, researches have shown that human trafficking is detached from broader conflict prevention, security and counter-terrorism initiatives. 
“So it’s a good innovation, let the government and those concerned with security and development of this country infuse issues of TIP into conflict management or prevention issue. This is because human trafficking is a gross violation of human rights and it affects a lot of population in our country because it is underreported. We have to say no to this terrific act. Issues of forced labour, organ removal, forceful recruitment into an armed group or military service, these are some of the concerns. We can do prevention because it is easier and cheaper and more informative and educative.”
Corroborating Hammed’s view, a professor of Mathematics Education, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Ademola Adeleke, expressed joy that government is beginning to realise the role education can perform in getting Nigeria out of its numerous problems.

“As a matter of fact, education is the core of the solution to our problems. And so bringing training or teaching of TIP in our schools is a laudable idea. It is a very good one. Our current approach to the solution of Nigeria by waiting till the problems escalate and then we begin to look for a solution cannot take us anywhere. So, if we can take the teaching of our pupils on TIP issues to forestall the dreaded act, it will help a lot and keep our children informed. 
“But the other aspect of it is the government trying to bring this up as a separate curriculum in the school system. That is something we need to look at. Already, our curricula are heavily loaded, and bringing up another subject or course as an additional curriculum may not really help. It is a good thing to begin to introduce it to pupils from their youthful age. It is good to let them know that TIP is a bad thing, that these are components of corruption in our country.
However, he continued, “As good as it is, bringing it up as a separate curriculum might not really help, because already our curriculum is heavily loaded. You can imagine a pupil of primary school having to study as many as 11 or 12 subjects. Even though at a time, the curriculum was reduced and number of subjects has come down. It is just the number that came down, the contents of what they are doing before are still loaded in the nine or ten subjects. So bringing up a new curriculum now, might not really help.”
On how best the idea could be implemented, Adeleke, who is also the dean, faculty of education, said: “What we can do is to find a way of bringing it into the existing curricula that we have. For instance, if you are teaching English Language as a subject, a teacher can bring up some lessons, some illustrations that will focus on the idea that trafficking in person is a bad thing. If I’m teaching agriculture, again, as an agricultural teacher, how can I bring up some evidence of TIP to discourage my students and make them see the damaging effect on the victims and also on the image of the country? That is what I will advocate.”

Also commending the Federal Government, Proprietress of Brains Premier School, Lagos, Mrs Ezinne Onoh, said the decision of the government to integrate TIP in schools curricula is a creditable as it will help young ones to understand the happenings in their society.

“I think it is a very good step. Our children need to have the knowledge; they need exposure and enlightenment to know what is going on in their environment. Let them know that there is even something called human trafficking, the pros and cons of human trafficking and how to how to stay safe.

“It doesn’t matter how many things they do in school, their safety and wellbeing should be more important than many other things they do in the school. So, if that is the era we are in, where human beings are being traded like goods, we need to let the children know. They should be aware of the problems that exist in our country and know how they will avoid being a victim of such circumstances, Onoh said.

Affirming that as a school owner, she is prepared to train teachers to take up the new role, she urged other education managers to prioritise pupils’ welfare.

Now, that stakeholders have admitted the efficacy of TIP lessons for young ones, it is expected that education providers at all levels will comply effectively.