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 were 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 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 one year after the pronunciation, the subject was still left at the background where it had been thrown prompting the LEADERSHIP Newspaper to pen, a powerful Editorial on the subject. The paper in its Editorial titled, “Return of History to School Curriculum”, stated 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.
The paper expressed worry that after more than a year, 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 recently developed its 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.
“ Save 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, the Federal Government has yet to come up with a decision on this,” It had wrote. 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.
“ 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.” “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.
“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,” it had written.
On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, it seems that the wishes of many Nigerians will be fulfilled as the minister of education this 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 adding that the importance of History to nation building, national identity, patriotism and overall human development could not be overemphasized.
He had also stated that one of the cardinal principles of the present administration was social and behavioural change, and History was key to its realisation.
The minister added that following this development, the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) was directed to carry out the disarticulation of history from social studies curriculum.
The new History curriculum, the minister had said, was designed to expose students to a body of knowledge that would enable them appreciate history as an instrument of national integration and nation building in the 21st century and beyond.
Many stakeholders have met the news of the reintroduction of History as an independent subject in the curriculum of primary and junior secondary schools in the country with great joy.
Reacting to the reintroduction, a lecturer in the Faculty of Education, Department of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Abuja, Dr. Usman Manu, stated that it was welcome development and one that will help in the development of the country.
“History is an important subject which should not be played with. It helped to talk about the past and his we can move on to the future,” he said
Manu however noted that the curriculum should also be upgraded adding that a school curriculum that does not solve the problem of a country, should be scrapped. Manu however noted that, the return of History to the school curriculum poses several problems; mainly the supply of teachers and lecturers.
“When History was removed, the number of people seeking admission to study it in the universities dropped significantly for obvious reasons: there was no point pursuing a course which would result inexorably in unemployment. In my school, they added Diplomatic studies, so that it will attract people, so it is History and Diplomatic Studies. It helped to bring in students to do that course,” he said.
He also spoke of the need for more teachers to be employed to teach the subject as few graduates of History are available to teach at secondary schools, and fewer still can be found at the universities.
Also speaking, a civil servant and a parent of three, David Igor expressed happiness over the reintroduction of the subject in the curriculum adding that it had shown that the government still believes in the oneness of the country.
Igor who said he was angry when History was relegated at the background, stated that the teaching will bring back the youth to the basis, as he was scared some of them have been carried away by western ways and customs.
“Imagine, I was asking my ten year old son who Nnamdi Azikiwe was and he told me he didn’t know. I wasn’t happy about it. I am really happy the ministry is going to bring it back. It is a welcome development,” he said.
For History teacher Gabriel Ido, the reintroduction was a huge relief as it will place him back in teaching the subject he had studied and loved, lamenting that when History was relegated at the background, he was asked to teach Social Studies.
“I wasn’t happy at all. I read History in school and all of a sudden it was removed. History helps to build our today and prepare us for tomorrow. It is an important subject,” he said.
He therefore urged the federal government to include more content in the subject that will further redirect the youth of the country into becoming better and future leaders of tomorrow and making it fun to study as most students have complained about it being a boring subject.
Boring subject or not, ’’ a historian Ezekiel Ndaguba, explained that the fact remains that History is important as it is the study of change and development in society over time. The study of History
enables one to understand how past human action affects the present and influences one’s future.
He added that the study of History also allows students to understand their culture and the reasons for certain festivals or habits more deeply, and thus be more rooted and knowledgeable concerning their own culture.
“History allows us to not make mistakes again. It allows us to make good decisions concerning today’s society by comparing it to societies or times in the past when a similar situation arose.
History helps us learn to think from different perspectives of different countries. It helps us learn about the interests and fundamental beliefs of different countries or races, so in the future, when students become the leaders of the world, they must have learnt how to relate with those from other countries and hopefully coexist in harmony,” he said.
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