Re-introduction of history: Much talk, no motion from government
For over a decade, the Federal Government has stopped the teaching of history in primary and secondary schools and the consequence is apparent. Official reasons given for removing history as a subject are that students are shunning it, as there were few jobs for history graduates, and that there is dearth of history teachers.
To date, Nigeria has no official account of the 1967 to 1970 civil war. The removal has serious bearing on the process of nation building and has continued to widen the gap between the young and the old. Many students are also largely ignorant about Nigeria’s past, its glory, achievements, heroes and villains.
A professor of Legal History at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Dr Akin Alao, summed it up when he said, “A country without a sense of history is a soulless one. It could safely be said that many of the challenges facing state and nation-building efforts in Nigeria are a result of the neglect of history. History of inter-group relations in the country has confirmed the extent of interactions among the various ethnic groups or nationalities long before the imposition of colonial rule.
“It would have been the duty of History as a subject in schools to bring these truths to young Nigerians to influence their understanding of life and what roles they could play in cementing the relationship among groups.”
Perhaps, realising its mistakes, the Federal Government, through the Nigeria Education Research and Development Council (NERDC) in 2017, said it would reintroduce the subject during the 2018/2019 academic session.
NERDC Executive Secretary, Prof. Ismail Junaidu, had assured that the curriculum was ready and would be taught as stand-alone subject from primary one to Junior Secondary School 3, after the National Council on Education (NCE) had approved reintroduction of the subject.
The following year, the Federal Government unveiled a new curriculum for teaching and learning of the subject in basic schools across the country. The new curriculum was approved at the 63rd meeting of NCE, which held in Kano in June 2017.
Junaidu disclosed that the Council had forwarded a sample of the new curriculum to states to give them ample time to plan ahead of implementation.
But since the announcement, the Federal Government has continued to drag its feet. But three years down the line, only Oyo, Ekiti, Lagos and Anambra States have implemented the policy out of the 36 States.
Ekiti and Oyo State government, had in May, this year, directed the reintroduction of history as an independent subject in public primary schools in their states.
Chairman of State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) in Ekiti State, Prof. Femi Akinwunmi, said primary schools have been directed to utilise at least one of the three periods allocated weekly for Social Studies to teach History. He said the move was to promote core principles of hard work, patriotism, honesty and other national values.
Similarly, Oyo State government directed primary schools in the state to implement the teaching of history as an independent subject, starting from the third term of the 2021/2022 academic session. Anambra State has also re-introduced history in the school’s curriculum with effect from this new academic session.
The state Commissioner for Education, Prof. Ngozi Chuma-Udeh, said the history of Igbo man from pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial era has been included in the scheme.
Another state that has made attempt to reintroduce the subject is Abia. In March 2021, the state House of Assembly mandated the Ministry of Education to reintroduce history as a school subject, but its implementation is still pending.
Last month, the Lagos State government announced the reintroduction of history and directed private school operators to commence teaching of the subject.
In a memo by Mrs. Esther Pelumi, Director of Research at the Office of Education Quality Assurance and addressed to private school owners, the state government said history has been made compulsory at both primary and secondary school levels.
At a conference of History of Education Society of Nigeria at the University of Ibadan (UI), Michael Omolewa, Emeritus Professor of History and former chairman of committee of Deans of Education of Nigerian universities, had noted that it is an irony of history that when Nigeria marked its first 100 years of being a country, History no longer existed as core subject in schools at the basic and secondary levels.
In the same vein, Prof. Alice Jekayinfa, erstwhile President of the History of Education Society of Nigeria, noted that teaching history is instrumental to personal and national development of any country. “History, as a discipline, has been relegated in Nigeria, whereas the discipline is the bedrock of any nation.”
Speaking on the development, Lagos lawyer, Tony Odiadi, said there is a need to commence implementation of the policy in the interest of the nation’s youths. He said: “We are raising a generation that has no idea or knowledge of its own past, ancestry or previous civilisation. The generation, therefore, has no knowledge of empires of West Africa and Nigeria – Benin, Oyo, Kanem Borno, Sokoto, Mali, Ghana, Songhai and the republican confederacies of Igboland and their coastal neighbours. The generation will also not know about slavery and slave trade of millions of black people to Americans.
“More importantly, the lack of the study of history creates huge gaps in our understanding of ourselves. The Chinese drill their kids on Confucius narratives – history, values and standards, which they hold right through their adulthood. Americans makes history compulsory in high schools, same thing in Europe. How can people exist without wishing to know their past? This is because we have a national system that is refusing to be fully interrogated with the knowledge of the past.
According to him, things would be better in the country if history is taught in schools.
“The knowledge that Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Ernest Ikoli, among others, all fought for the nation’s independence would bring home the sacrifices made by those very young men in their time. That is the knowledge about nationalism, fight for freedom and equality. The labours of people like Michael Imoudu, Ojike Mbonu, Adegoke Adelabu, Nwafor Orizu and Adeniran Ogunsanya, would be known to the younger generation.
Odiadi noted that once Nigeria restarts the teaching of history, things would be better. He said the curriculum will be richer and wider with students exposed to information that teaches them about their past.
“History knowledge helps every society plot the trajectory of its own development. Western societies moved from epoch to epoch evidencing their history of economic development and history of the evolution of science and technology. History helps mold a complete personality with confidence in his social ancestry. By not teaching History, Nigeria is dangerously denying her own past. The consequences based on the reasons already mentioned can be very dire.”
He said to kick-start the subject; the government should announce a take-off date, work out content of the curriculum and employ history graduates and teachers across board.
A professor of Transport, Lagos State University (LASU), Prof. Samuel Odewumi, said reintroducing history goes beyond mere pronouncement.
Odewumi said it would involve a whole curriculum review because there is no empty time space in the timetable and the new subject will have to displace another one currently on it.
“However, there are some options that could be explored. The one I will suggest is embedding it in Civic Education, while we await major curriculum review. At the tertiary level, history should be embedded more intensely into general courses. The modern digital approach is to place it online and make it compulsory for students to go through it and pass it online, and the results are treated as required.
He said: “This is an important intangible knowledge that the acquisition cannot be measured in quantitative terms, at least in short-term. This is in the realm of the effective domain of education that deals with attitude. Even in the long run, it is not easy to measure. However, I am of the view that it is highly desirable. It is immensely useful to learn and build on the errors of the past to navigate further in nation building.”
According to Odewumi, beyond the challenge of curriculum, priority attention must be placed on value reorientation.
“Values that assist in nation building have been eroded so badly that it is diminishing the very essence of human civilisation in Nigeria and progress has become impossible except in the negative direction.
“There is also the problem of ethnic hegemony agenda that is the greatest threat to the survival of the country today,” he said.
Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools of Nigeria (ASUS), Lagos State chapter, Kazeem Labaika, expressed concern over the development, saying lack of history would deprive youths and generations unborn the opportunity to know where they are coming from.
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