The restoration of History as a distinct subject in the primary and secondary school curriculum is a welcome development. The decision, according to the Chief Executive Officer of the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Prof. Josiah Ajiboye, was taken at the National Council of Education (NCE) meeting in Kano.
History should never have been removed from the school curriculum. It is very important for people to know their history, who they are and where they are coming from as a people and a nation. Many young Nigerians have been denied this very important self knowledge, which is necessary for them to build confidence in themselves and their country. It was a huge disservice to Nigerian children and the country as a whole to have removed that subject from the curriculum in the first place.
One of the justifications for the earlier removal of the subject is the supposed increasing unpopularity of the subject amongst students and the declining enrolment for it at the secondary school examination level. The subject was also said to have become unpopular at the tertiary education level. The government, however, has a responsibility to determine our national priorities on education matters to ensure that they align with our overall national objectives. If government knows the importance of History to the understanding of our national goals and objectives, it would do everything to encourage its teaching at every level of our educational system.
Now that the NCE has realised its mistake and restored the subject to the curriculum, we call for a new approach to the teaching of the subject. There should be emphasis on Nigerian and African contemporary history. This does not mean that we discountenance the history of the rest of the world. We live in a global village, and it is necessary for our students to have a good understanding of the world around them. We do not want to raise bigots and semi-illiterates who are not well exposed to happenings in other parts of the world.
If one does not know the history and political trajectory of one’s country, how can one expect to effectively govern it? History would afford us opportunity to learn from the mistakes and pitfalls of the past in order to avoid them in the present and future development of our country. It has the power to imbue our young citizens with a sense of patriotism and national pride as a people. The absence of this is what we see writ large in our national life, these days. We have public and political office holders who have no sense of nationhood and national pride. They are in government apparently for the money they can make for themselves. They do not care what happens to the country, and end up causing many avoidable problems for themselves and the nation.
This is the kind of quagmire we must avoid as a people and a nation. We cannot continue these unending shenanigans that have stymied our national development. Our schoolchildren need to be taught where their country is coming from and where it should be headed. Nigeria ought to be headed in the right direction and the teaching of our national History is one of the vehicles that would aid us in this direction and take us there eventually. In this sense, we ought to see history as a vehicle for national understanding, cohesion and development.
That is why we ask that NCE goes a step further to make History a compulsory subject at the primary and junior secondary school levels, at least. The time has come for our political and educational authorities to reappraise our overall national objective and the place of the teaching of some subjects in it. When this is done, we will immediately realise that in addition to pushing for the teaching of Science subjects, History and Literature in English should also be widely taught because they serve the important role of advancing national awareness and boosting economic and socio-cultural development.
In the meantime, we salute the NCE for acceding to the overwhelming calls for the restoration of History to the school curriculum. It should not allow the lapses which led to its earlier removal to recur.