Re-introduction of history and matters arising

For almost a decade, the federal government has stopped the teaching of history in primary and secondary schools. It is not known what the impact of such a step would have been. Thankfully, in 2019, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is having a rethink, writes Head, Education Desk, IYABO LAWAL

For almost a decade, the Federal Government stopped the teaching of history in primary and secondary schools in the country and the consequence is apparent. Since 2016, the government has said history will be re-introduced in the education curriculum.

In 2017, the Nigeria Education Research and Development Council (NERDC) even announced it was set to reintroduce history as a subject, beginning from the 2018/2019 academic session.

The NERDC Executive Secretary, Prof. Ismail Junaidu, had stated that the curriculum was ready and would be a standalone curriculum that would be taught from primary one to JSS III, after the National Council on Education (NCE) had approved the reintroduction of the subject.

In 2018, the Federal Government unveiled a new curriculum for the teaching and learning of the subject in basic schools across the country. The new curriculum was approved at the 63rd meeting of the NCE, which held in Kano in June 2017.

The executive secretary said the NERDC had forwarded a sample of the new curriculum for history to the states to give them ample time to plan ahead of its implementation.

“All states are expected to be sensitised and teachers trained on how to use the curriculum before the implementation can begin. We need to give the states ample time to put their houses in order before we start implementing the curriculum,” Junaidu had said.

Speaking further, he stated: “We have begun work on the curriculum because the NCE has given the directive, it will soon get to schools. The implementation will commence in the next academic session.’

A professor of Legal History at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Dr Akin Alao while reacting to the pronouncement had noted: “It is a welcome development, which should be applauded. A country without a sense of history is a soulless country. It could safely be said that many of the challenges facing state and nation-building efforts in Nigeria are as a result of the neglect of history.”

Alao added: “History of inter-group relations in Nigeria has confirmed the extent of interactions among Nigerian 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. It would also have meant that young impressionable Nigerians very early in life develop positive self-concept and awareness that would be the basis for the emergence of an identity that will be truly national and well-conceived.

“History has values in developing the mind and there is no discipline without its own history, including medicine. What is required is the acquisition of the techniques of history. For example, a lawyer has to know, understand and consider the two sides of a coin to make a good case. A medical doctor needs the history of the patient and the ailment before he can have a successful diagnosis. An architect must have a sense of history to know what designs will meet specific needs. An administrator must be very familiar with the history of the people before he can administer successfully.”

Little wonder, it was cheery news to many when the presidency said the Federal Government is taking steps to restore history as a subject in primary and secondary schools’ curriculum.

Nigeria, during the 2009/2010 academic session, removed the study of history from primary and secondary schools’ curriculum. Official reasons given for removing history as a subject were, students shun the subject, as well as only a few jobs available for history graduates, and that there is a dearth of history teachers. To date, Nigeria has no official account of 1967 to 1970 civil war.

Some seven years after, the government feels it had taken the wrong decision.

Adamu had explained, “Somebody, who doesn’t know his history is even worse than (being) dead. So, this government is going to bring back history. It would even be better if we study local history first. You have to know who you are before you can be anything in this world.

At a conference of the History of Education Society of Nigeria held in December, at the University of Ibadan (UI), Michael Omolewa, Emeritus Professor of History and former chairman of the committee of Deans of Education of Nigerian universities had noted that it is an irony of history that as Nigeria marked its first 100 years of being a country, History no longer exists as a core subject in schools at the basic and secondary levels.

Many education experts attest to the value of history for nation building or development of an individual, his society or larger community.

The appreciation of the status of history is shown in the observation by an elder statesman, Nwafor Orizu, who asserted in 1944, in his book, Without Bitterness that unless Nigerians know what they are and how they came about to be what they are, they will be unable to know where and how to go further.

Could it be that history no longer has a place in the country’s contemporary existence? Prof. Alice Jekayinfa, President of the History of Education Society of Nigeria, noted that teaching history is instrumental to the 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.”

In 1954, Sir Sidney Philipson, a British administrator and Chief Simeon Adebo, a seasoned Nigerian civil servant, said, “Every situation has its roots in the past and the past survives in the present; the present is indeed the past undergoing modification.”

Culled From TheGuardian Newspaper

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