The Federal Government’s plan to re-introduce the teaching of History as a distinct subject in basic schools in Nigeria must be applauded. The exercise, which is coming 13 years after the subject was abolished, should be seamlessly implemented. Hitherto, the subject was lumped with others and taught as Social Studies.
It is commendable that the government has deemed it fit to allow History to be taught alone. Not less than 3,700 teachers had been shortlisted from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital territory (FCT), Abuja, for the first phase of training for enhanced teaching of the subject. The teachers will be provided with the requisite skills needed to teach the subject. These include the necessary technique and methodology to make the subject interesting to the school children.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, who was represented by the Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Opiah, stated this during the flag-off ceremony of the teaching of History and training of History teachers at basic education level in Abuja. As Adamu admitted, the removal of History from the school curriculum at the basic education level was a monumental mistake.
Unfortunately, the country is still grappling with its negative consequences. The minister lamented: “History used to be one of the foundational subjects taught in classrooms but for some inexplicable reasons, some things happened, and as a result, History was subsequently expunged from the list of subject combination in our schools.” The neglect of the teaching of History at the basic level of education and even secondary school level has led to the erosion of moral and civic values and palpable ignorance of our past and the connectedness among the diverse ethnic groups that make up the country.
The significance of teaching History at the basic education level and others cannot be overemphasised. Apart from enabling the school children to understand and appreciate the history of the country, it will help them to understand the country’s journey to nationhood, including the good and bad aspects of our attempts to live as one united country despite experiencing bloody military coups and surviving a brutal civil war that lasted for 30 months from 1967-1970.
Therefore, it is imperative that Nigerian school children should be taught the history of the Nigerian civil war, otherwise known as the Biafran war. The causes and effects of the war must be taught as well as the reconciliation moves of the then federal government. The school children must have knowledge of the history of military coups and military rule in Nigeria and their palatable and unpalatable consequences. They must also learn about the history of the inter-ethnic wars among some ethnic groups in Nigeria, the trans-Atlantic slave trade and British colonialism and the struggle for independence.
Those who abolished the teaching of History in primary and secondary schools did a great disservice to the country and its future. They did not love the country at all. That can explain the various crises of our nationhood. No nation worth its name can run away from its past. Without doubt, the knowledge of our past will enable us to adequately moderate the present and envision our future. The school children should know the diverse cultures of Nigerian people and understand their similarities and differences. Instead of dividing us, our diversity should be a source of strength and unity.
Beyond the return of History to the basic education classroom, the government must equally address those factors that have contributed to our disunity and created tensions among the various ethnic groups in the country. While our differences are quite obvious, especially in terms of tongue and creed, we should stop highlighting them. We should rather exploit our similarities to forge a united, virile and egalitarian nation of our dream.
With our enormous human and material resources, Nigeria’s potential to become a powerful nation in Africa and the world is not in doubt. What is required now to propel us to the envisioned greatness is to have responsive and purposeful leadership. We need charismatic and exemplary leaders. For Nigeria to achieve the lofty dream of our founding fathers, all Nigerian citizens must be equal before the laws of the land.
Therefore, the present emphasis on state of origin instead of state of residence of Nigerian citizens, which diminishes our unity, must be done away with. Above all, we must all resolve to build a nation based on equity, fairness and justice. That is perhaps the best way we can reinforce our unity and strength.