- Kudos to the Federal Government for restoring the study of our past
It is a good piece of news for the future. The reintroduction of history in the curricula of primary and secondary schools in the country is perhaps the best thing that has happened to literacy in Nigeria in over a decade.
The clamour for the rebirth of history studies started at the tail end of the Obasanjo administration when it was excised as a worthy body of knowledge. Minister of Education Malam Adamu Adamu hit the right note when he ordered its restoration at the launch of the history curriculum and guide in Abuja, acknowledging that “the desire to realise this and national clamour for it to be back informed our decision to reintroduce the teaching of history in Nigeria’s primary and junior secondary schools.”
He explained that the Federal Ministry of Education had developed its “strategic plan” that proffered a raft of initiatives, which highlighted the value of history scholarship. And it received the approval of the National Council on Education during its 61st ministerial session in September 2016. Consequently, the National Educational Research and Development Council was directed to disarticulate history from the social studies curriculum.
This page has been one of the consistent voices calling for history to retake its pride of place in Nigerian education. So, we commend the Federal Government and the education minister for reviving the study of Nigeria’s past.
Indeed a nation that does not understand where it is coming from is essentially moving in a “rudderless raft of time,” apologies to Collingwood, a history philosopher. So bad was it that famed history departments in some of major universities like Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, the University of Ibadan, the University of Lagos and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, had to come to terms with the rest of the country to vitiate the study of history and merge it with international studies and other subjects.
The consequence was that students who had not studied history were not likely to take it up as a course of studies. It created a gradual decline in a fervour for our past and the deletion of history studies as a subject of rigour.
Happily it is back, but we need to sound a note of caution. It is not enough to introduce it as a course of study. We need to make history mandatory to be studied in all schools up to at least junior secondary school three (JSS3). This will conform to the old practice when students studied history up till form three, after which they specialised in their areas of strength and interests.
There is a lot to study in history, but such curricula should not be restricted to the study of Nigeria. In a fast globalising world, students should know that history evolves in an interconnected world. It is also worthy of note that historical scholarship is dynamic and it demands continual curiosity and that means a thirst for new research materials.
The study of the Yoruba Wars does not end with the material already available. Research will yield more information that could update our perspectives of the past. Such excitement of studies, for instance, could lead new research into the Uthman Dan Fodio years and help us put in greater relief the rumblings of Boko Haram. Or more studies of the 1960’s elucidate the Biafran agitation.
We have had great historians of world repute like Dike, Ajayi, Ikime, Igbafen, Oloruntimehin, Akinjogbin, etc., we need to birth new world class ones who will build or even recast the output of these men.
It also means history departments will have to be turned into standalone units and degrees awarded accordingly.