Street talk would analyze Project Nigeria as pooling resources towards baking the national cake. In other words, it presupposes citizen engagement in taking ownership and in turn becoming advocates of shared values and common goals. It is a veritable exercise in realizing the ever haunting lines of the now discarded National anthem which chimed “Though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand”. Shifting focus to the next generation as a value orientation and reorientation strategy as a platform for the affirmation of a collective Nigerianness is worth soft mentoring through schools excursions.
The Nigerian narrative can be stimulated through the notion of schools excursion in the realization that travel is the greatest expander of human perception. Travel, in this sense is not to be limited to the bourgeois pretentions of going “abroad” but as a liberation mindset that begins with a coasting through one’s own immediate town/city/Local Government of residence. Excursions are therefore an exercise in buying into and owning not only the space and environment, but, indeed, the mental energy that drives the immediate community so that it works for all.
School excursions are, ideally, part of the planned curriculum that aim at maximizing students learning experiences. Usually organized with the approval of the school authority and implied consent of parents, excursions involve students leaving the school premises to engage in educational activities beyond the immediate school environment. Apart from the immediate gain of mainstreaming educational theories to reality, these required absence from school for field frontiers enhance self-dependence, engender warm memories of shared moments and help foster leadership acquisition opportunities.
Schools excursions afford participants exposure to places that they ordinarily would not go. As their young minds experience new environments, interact with new social and cultural frontiers, new personal narratives are woven in the tapestry of Project Nigeria especially as stereotypes are most readily exploded by personal encounters while new perspectives are gained. As local dictum has it, the traveler’s eyes tell the best truth of the heart. In a country striving hard at building bonds of unity, a major ingredient remains friendships across ethnic and geopolitical divides especially when such friendships are formed at the impressionable stage of life and grown through the challenges of adulthood.
School excursions, being exploratory in nature, enable students understand the labyrinth and layout of their immediate community as they travel kilometer to key into the reality of their communities. This is especially true of excursions that are undertaken within the municipality of the host community of the particular school. Such activities enable students internalize the flora and fauna associated with the community folklore, conservation possibilities, contemporary adaptability challenges which they, as adults excelling in various walks of life, would have to grapple and mainstream into lifestyle and governance. In other words, school excursion exposure ingrains social awareness of realities beginning for generational interventions and discourse. Importantly too, this category of school excursion which allows students to map out the physical layout of their physical environment enables them to be aware shortest route from Point A to Point B as well as escape routes and hideaways within their communities. Security consciousness and environmental awareness should be mainstreamed into the curriculum in these days of random kidnapping.
By their very nature, school excursions often involve overnight stay at a host community thereby presenting itself as a veritable instrument for social engineering in the hands of astute managers. Consequently, community historians and folklorists can be woven into the entertainment package for the visiting students. As tales of ancient valour are re-enacted and woven into contemporary significance of these communities, their celebrated skills, art, economic contribution to national identity are concretely driven home through visits to sites that resonate with the tale. As integrated learning, new perspectives are gained on how communities, individuals and State aspirations are interwoven. Clearly, well managed school excursions could help us press through prejudice and indifference as participants are encouraged to yield their potentials to the nation; overcoming hate and hurt.
Furthermore, while experiencing and sampling a culture and community different from theirs aids better understanding of what makes that community special. It also enhances an openness to appreciating the differences in others. The more exposure students have to different cultures, the more intolerance is weaned away and disdain for ethnic differences is reduced.
Perhaps nothing bonds people faster and sweeter than shared meals from one another’s culinary comfort zones. In a way, to democratize the taste buds and eat the meals associated with people of different cultural dispositions from us is to make us converts of sorts, to the ways of life of that group. For practical purposes, the rampaging dominance of Chinese/ Asian cuisines is an example worthy of greater analysis sometime else. Relating this to the theme at hand, however, is to resound the expectation that all communities playing host to school children from outside of their culinary munch zone would proudly cook and serve the delicacies of their land as the highpoint of such interactions. Indeed, the organizers and the hosts must connect on this as platform to sustain new experiences and vistas opened up by such projects. Finally, Project Nigeria must embrace the simple persuasion to “Eat Naija and Make Nigeria Sweet for Us All” if we would secure a future devoid of foreign food importation and indigenous food insufficiency.
Participants in schools excursions are not only better disposed to active citizenship but are indeed, primed as proactive ambassadors of the values that connect communities in-spite of their seeming disparity. By virtue of a regular dose of field exposure, they in turn become knowledgeable advocates of the driving ideologies of their times, connecting individual dreams to total national aspirations.
Equally remarkable, they exhibit high level buy-in to communal ethos seeing that they took early possession of these ideals. They are most likely to espouse the true spirit of internal developmental strides driven by ideas shared across different network platforms and social interactions. Invariably, these make for committed and patriotic crop of citizens whose commitment to national ideals have been honed by their early partaking in the downstream of political decisions as the effects are confronted on their many interface with reality. That a generation raised on early interrogation of social reality is least likely to be a gullible electorate can safely be taken to the bank.
Finally, schools excursions widen students’ interest in new professions beyond traditional, established nexus of lawyer, engineer, and doctor. Such professions include tour director, tour guides, communication expert and community historian. A guide well versed in the history, social nuances and associated cultural practices that tie sites to the living culture of a community is as much a tangible treasure as the cultural manifestation the visitor is served. As History returns to Nigerian school’s curriculum, it must be married to excursions to make it a progressive learning port. Undoubtedly, realizing this project requires more than bureaucratic mapping as it must be driven by Public/Private Partnership wherein significant elements in each community and across State lines willing to invest in the education sector are made co-owners of this project beyond school proprietorship.