The situation with history subject in the Nigerian school curriculum reminds me of the ‘light bulb’ anecdote. It goes like this: How many people would it take to change a light bulb in Nigeria? The answer to that question points to how the government complicates the most mundane of tasks.
We know a single person can change a light bulb all things being equal. For the government though, changing that light bulb won’t be that straightforward. First, there needs to be a committee to determine the immediate and remote cause (s) why that light bulb had to be changed.
After the committee has completed its mandate several weeks later with millions of naira spend, a set of recommendations are handed over to the government to implement. Nigerians are used to how that ends. A simple task is never simple in government.
President Buhari is in England at the moment. And he is doing what he normally does when he goes abroad: he talks to the press about things he should have while in Nigeria.
The latest was his statement to the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, monitored by Nigeria News via agency reports. He told her it was an error to drop history as a subject from the Nigerian school curriculum. He promised the government would re-introduce the subject to schools in Nigeria.
It is safe to say Theresa May had no clue history wasn’t part of the Nigerian school curriculum. These are not the sort of things her aides would prep her about before the meeting with President Buhari.
There are more important issues like the Boko Haram insurgency, killer herdsmen, effect of Brexit on Nigeria, trade issues, and so on.
And it is very likely she must have been very surprised to learn from the President school kids in Nigeria don’t have the benefit of learning their history. Which serious country drops history from the school curriculum she must have asked her herself.
Here is the light bulb situation about this issue. This is not the first time the government had promised to restore the history as a subject. Two years ago in September 2016, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, told a National Council on Education (NCE) Congress that history would be re-introduced as a subject
Subsequently, after that NCE Congress, the body tasked with the responsibility of developing school curriculum in Nigeria, the National Education Research and Development Council (NERDC), was asked to get on with it.
This is two years later, and Nigerians are still waiting for the government to do what needs to be done.
History was officially removed from the Nigerian school curriculum in the 2009/2010 academic session. Before that though, many schools had already stopped teaching the subject.
Even as far back as the early years of the 1990s, foremost educationist and former Minister of Education, Professor Babs Fafunwa had called for the scrapping of history as a subject. According to him, Nigeria should focus more on science and technology.
When it was finally dropped, the government reasoned that history had no place in a developing country like Nigeria because employers were no longer interested in giving jobs to people who studied history. And borrowing a leaf from Prof Fafunwa’s template, the government claimed its resources were better utilized promoting the sciences.
With due respects to the memory of Prof Fafunwa and the government officials who finally canceled history, they were completely wrong.
This is how a nation gets shafted into following the wrong path when unqualified people are allowed to make decisions for the rest of us.
History basically, is a study of past political and social events that made an impact at the time it happened. A nation ignorant of its history is easily taken advantage of by others.
A perfect example is how the white colonial masters almost successfully expunged our history and replaced it with one they preferred.
The result was a people who felt they were inferior to their colonial masters. Even though a new generation of people is getting to grips with the correct version of historical facts, many people are still suffering from what is popularly called ‘colonial mentality’: this is the belief that we are second class humans compared to the whites.
It is sad.
The cancellation of history in the Nigerian school curriculum years ago was a big setback to re-orientating the young ones. It is from learning the feats and achievements of our forebears that we get to be very proud of who we are as a people.
Knowledge of your history ensures that nobody would stand before you and claim superiority over you because of their race.
And for God’s sake, saying that nobody employs history graduates shows the low mental acumen of our policymakers. Education is never primarily about getting a job.
Being educated is one of the greatest gifts that can be given to anybody. As for getting jobs, even illiterates and the uneducated get jobs all over the place.
So how long would it take Nigeria to re-introduce history as a subject in the Nigerian school curriculum? If President Buhari is serious about what he said, then he has to give the education ministry a kick up the butt to get them to do it immediately.
If not, we are going to wait a long time for it to happen. That is, if it actually happens.