1 July 2012

Nigeria: Restore Teaching of History in Schools


One of the greatest mistakes ever made by our education planners is the removal of history as a subject from the secondary education curriculum. Today, our children grow up without understanding the various components of their country and how those components evolved.

They are unable to appreciate the various cultures in their country because they have been denied formal access to information about their past. Even in those "uncivilised" days of oral tradition, our forefathers ensured that their children were taught family history because it was believed that a child had to know who he was be able to fit into the society.

Our so-called modern civilisation has made us redefine our world view to reflect where we are going rather than where we are coming from. It is as if our society suddenly dropped into Planet Earth - no past, no trajectory, just a bolt from out of the blue.

Without a sound understanding of the past, we would find it difficult to fathom how the present challenges evolved and how we might be able to devise solutions to them. History is also a conveyor of a society's mores and values. How are our children supposed to internalise the values of integrity, tolerance and hard work which are celebrated in the history of our various peoples but which are totally lacking in our public service today?

Some may argue that the past is fixed and that nobody can change what has gone before. While that is true, it is also correct to say that the knowledge of what went before can inform decisions on how to conduct our affairs today in order not to make the same mistakes that had been made in times past. Those who fail to learn from history are bound to repeat its errors.

Ask any primary or secondary school child today about the Kanem Borno Empire, the Oyo Empire, Nupe Kingdom, Oba Ovonramwen, King Jaja, the Hausa states or the republican Igbo societies and he or she is likely to go blank.

The only stories that get embedded in the psyche of our children these days are stories of graft, terrorism, armed robbery and treachery in high places. Because we have done away with history, our children have been denied the benefit of making contact with the authentic heroes of our culture. They now have to look abroad for inspiration.

Mercifully it is not too late to make amends. The strident voice of our past is still ringing in the ears of those who care to listen.

We must restore the teaching of history in our school curriculum. Our children must understand where they are coming from so that they can know where they are going.

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