In 2007, the Federal Government launched a new curriculum known as the New Basic Education Curriculum for primary and junior secondary schools. The existing curriculum was aimed at correcting the abnormalities of the former one, which was believed to be lacking in the areas of human capacity development; eradication of poverty; and the country’s quest for total emancipation as an independent entity. Under the new system, the structure was divided into three levels of lower, middle and upper basic education curriculum. The lower level was for primary one to three, the middle level was for primary four to six, while the upper level was for Junior Secondary School, JSS one to three.
In each of the three levels, there were about 12 compulsory core subjects with one elective subject. English Studies, Mathematics, Social Studies, Health and Physical Education, Religious Studies as well as French were among the compulsory subjects. The new curriculum was effective from the 2009/2010 academic session. In its bid to correct the said abnormality in the past curriculum, History subject was relegated to the background. The subject no longer stood alone as an independent subject as it was before. The reasons given for the decision, then was that students were shunning the subject and that the decision was necessitated by the fact that there were few jobs for History graduates, and there was dearth of teachers of the subject.
The decision was met with criticism with many describing the reasons as mere excuses. Following the criticisms, in 2016, the former minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, ordered the reintroduction of the subject in basic schools across the country. The minister called for the disarticulation of Social Studies in the curriculum of basic schools and reintroduction of History as a subject. The minister who made the call while addressing delegates at the 61st Meeting of the National Council on Education Ministerial Session had stated that the reintroduction of History as a subject on its own in basic schools will give the Nigerian child a self-identity of who they really were.
He had added that Nigeria owes both the present and future generations the responsibility of removing all inhibitions against opportunities of acquiring morals and ethics as taught in the religious traditions. But more than three years after the pronunciation, the subject was still left at the background where it had been thrown, that’s what prompted this writer to pick a pen, and written a powerful article on the study of History as a core subject in our school curriculum. The writer titled it, “Why Government Should Return History to School Curriculum”, and indicated that the delisting of the subject in the curriculum has bred a new generation of youth who could not understand the socio-political and economic realities of the country within the context of historical evolution.
“Times were, when secondary school students could paint vivid pictures of Songhai Empire, Mali Empire, Old Oyo Empire, Bornu Empire, with words. This was made possible in the past when History was part of the subjects in the secondary school curriculum,” the paper reminisced. It added that the collateral damage of expunging History from the curriculum can be appreciated from the prism of commentaries by youths on the various social media platforms.
With this I really expressed worry that after more than three years, the minister ordered for the reintroduction of the subject, nothing has been put in place, given the urgent need to change the current narratives in the polity. “The Federal Ministry of Education then developed its another plan on, Education for Change: A Ministerial Strategic Plan (2016-2019), which contains several initiatives and activities to be executed, including the disarticulation of Social Studies and the reintroduction of the teaching of History in primary and secondary schools. The plan document was approved by the National Council of Education (NCE) at its 61st Ministerial Session of September 27 – 30, 2016. Following this, the National Education Research and Development Council (NERDC), the agency that has the mandate to develop curriculum, especially at this level, was directed to start the process of disarticulating History from Social Studies. Ever since then no such course was introduce, while the study of history had also been jettisoned by the schools across the country.
Even for the Lagos State Government which took up the gauntlet using the State House of Assembly to ensure the return of History as a subject then, had never implemented the policy as none of state government’s school teaching the course as at today, the Federal Government has yet to come up with a decision on this. It had written. It had called on the Council and the NERDC to wake up from its slumber and bring back the subject as the roles of History in governance, conflict resolutions, diplomacy and international relations, science and medical studies, technological developments, nation-building and human relations are vital.
Indeed, to think that Nigeria, with our rich diversity of culture and tradition, wealth of heroes and heroines and their exploits in politics, military, commerce and sports, could attempt to end History, the way we tried to do, is preposterous, to say the least. In reality, History provides analytical insights into social formations, anthropological developments, inventions and innovations that shape what is called, “our shared humanity.” In traditional African culture, our different societies looked up to history by tapping into the knowledge and the accumulated wisdom of their forebears, their sense of values, the morality and the norms which were the foundation of every society. History has traditionally occupied a unique position in African societies and was prominent as a subject in the preparation and training of the citizen. Clan or village heads, parents, grandparents and older siblings and others from the level of the nuclear family helped to transfer history from generation to generation.
Recalled, that on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, it seems that the wishes of many Nigerians will be fulfilled as the Minister of education that time, ordered the reintroduction of History as an independent subject into the basic and junior secondary schools in the country. The Minister, who gave the directive, at the launch of History curriculum and teacher’s guide in Abuja, said such would allow students know the history of the country.
Orunbon writes from Abeokuta, Ogun state