Return of history
A recent directive by the Federal Government to reintroduce history as a teaching subject in schools is a welcome development. It was a misjudgment that the subject was removed from the school curriculum in the first place. Which is why concerns have been mounting that our children are being raised in the dark without knowledge of their history. Darkness fell over the important subject when the then military government launched a National Policy on Education and subsequent introduction of the 6-3-3-4 school system. That was how history was gradually phased out and replaced with the Social Studies, a concoction of geography, civics (current affairs) and a constellation of historical facts – that could not take the place of history.
Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, had while addressing delegates at the 61st meeting of the National Council on Education Ministerial Session called for the disarticulation of Social Studies in the current curriculum of basic schools and reintroduction of history as a subject.
The introduction of the convoluted Social Studies adversely affected teaching of history as a discipline in the universities and other tertiary institutions. By cutting supply of candidates, some universities were forced to discontinue history as a single honour’s discipline while others have it merged with International Relations.
The minister said the reintroduction of the subject would give the Nigerian child self-identity of who he really is. According to him, it is only the study of our own history that can explain and give meaning to our very humanity. It is curious why this lingered for such a long time despite widespread outcry by prominent historians and indeed members of the Historical Society of Nigeria.
The importance of history cannot be over-emphasised. Nigeria has a history and it is important to study that history, whatever may be the content. It is good that government has realised its mistake and has accordingly corrected it in public interest. And so, necessary machinery should be set in motion to implement the decision without further delay.
This policy thrust came about after many generations of young Nigerians have graduated from schools without being taught the critical subject. How to cover the lost ground for the millions who lost out should form part of the Education Ministry’s value reorientation agenda. There is need for general studies including history in tertiary institutions to make up for the lost grounds.
In other words, because of this grievous mistake about a critical subject, many of our future leaders have been denied vital pieces of information and knowledge of the foundation of their country; the founding fathers; how we were colonised and how we fought it. This is a national tragedy. We see the implications daily even in the social media pedestrian posts of young people who apparently lack depth when they discuss policies and politics and even social studies. Not surprisingly, most of the young people and pugilists in the social media don’t seem to show any affinity with the land of their birth. They feel alienated from anything Nigerian. The youngsters are the leaders of tomorrow. As a matter of fact, it is the country that has lost the most. The youngsters can hardly defend a country whose roots they don’t know. They don’t appreciate their attachment to a country they claim to be theirs. The next concern should be the teachers. Since history was removed from the curriculum for more than three decades, there may be no teachers to teach the subject. It is important that governments at all levels should recruit trained teachers and teach others who do not have teaching qualifications for the born-again subject.
History used to be one of the revered disciplines. With iconic historians like Saburi Biobaku, J.F. Ade Ajayi, Tamuno-Preye Agiobenebo, Kenneth Onwuka Dike, Patrick Dele Cole, and so many others, who have left a mark as historians, it was honourable to study history. All these were great men who served the country in various capacities and left indelible marks.
Everything has a history. As a people, we have a history that must be studied to give us an identity. Other nations have their history. Britain, France, Germany, America, China, Korea, Australia all cherish history that is taught to their younger ones from generation to generation.
History is transcendental and didactic and so its knowledge is transmitted from generation to generation. History makes the world a continuum. The West reproachfully tells us regularly that we have no history. They distort facts of the gospel they preach to us. To debunk it, we have to go back to our roots to show that indeed we have a very rich history. That gesture, for instance, will make us feel a sense of self-worth. No matter the background, having that knowledge will enhance our humanity and, of course, our brand equity. In the main, it is remarkable that they listened to the people and brought back our history.