The future of any country depends on the youths in that country. No meaningful development can take place without their active participation.
They are the young people, endowed with raw energy. They have high hopes, dreams, aspirations and ideas of what their tomorrow would be. They are anxious and dynamic, always bubbling in spirit. Their surplus energy when exploited is useful for the welfare of the country. Proper guidance and direction can bring them in the forefront of peaceful and national development.
Nigerian youths have contributed to the unity of the country through activities like football and other sporting activities. In the fields of information technology, business, agriculture, industry and many more, they have played critical roles.
However, the recent violent, criminal and other anti-social activities around the country perpetrated by the youth, indicate that more efforts have to be made towards channeling the power and natural endowment of the young ones into better use both for themselves and the nation.
One viable way of achieving this is through civic education which inculcates sound moral values in the youths. It is the education which aims to help people learn how to become active, informed and responsible citizens. Civic education remains an important means of teaching the populace about individual rights and what duties and responsibilities the leaders and the ledhave.
The British colonialists recognised that the noble values of honesty, obedience, hard work, tolerance and faith are germane to stabilising national life and upheld same for determining the development and progress of a nation. Such values regulate the life of a nation and project good image for the country.
They, therefore, introduced civic education to teach citizens the virtues of good citizenships, particularly, the values of obedience, humility and submission to constituted authority.
Analysts argue that the current insecurity challenges facing the country, ethnic and religious violence, terrorism, kidnapping, rape, political mugging and other social vices are results of the abandonment of civic education by successive governments.
They maintain that the lack of civic education and patriotic orientation had led to disorientation in schools and the larger society, leading to serious consequences.
The prevalence of corruption, indiscipline, disrespect for both elders and the rule of law, indifference to duty, embezzlement of public fund, they say, are clear manifestations of the absence of civic education. Civic values such as courtesy, respect, charity, tolerance, dialogue have migrated from their midst. There is an apparent entrenchment of militarism, especially among the youth.
Recognising the importance of civic education as a vital tool for peaceful development of Nigeria, the federal government in 2009, directed that the teaching of civic education should be re-introduction in schools. The subject which is to be taught in primary and secondary schools is expected to further deepen democratic culture and encourage qualitative participation of the average Nigerian in the government process.
The necessity of re-introducing civic education in Nigerian primary and secondary schools, some say, has become very obvious because of the dwindling national consciousness, social harmony and patriotic zeal.
Mrs. Ruth Osazuwa, Vice Principal (academics), Holy Rosary College, Port Harcourt, said civic education is a very viable tool for peace building, particularly in heterogeneous democratic society like Nigeria.
She said, “In civic education, part of the curriculum is knowing about values and different ethnic groups, their values and traditions. If somebody from the south knows the way people from the north behave, their values, he will appreciate them more.
“Civic education teaches how to appreciate other people, their religion, and culture. When you know how other people behave, you can easily relate with them”.
Similarly, Mrs. Onoh, vice principal (academics), Police Comprehensive Secondary School, Mini-Okoro, said civic education will help Nigerian youths know about their immediate environment and the culture of people they live with.
She emphasised that, “there is need for children of these days to know about their society. Many of them believe in Western culture and know nothing about the African culture. Civic education will help them know that African culture is rich and different from western culture”.
Mrs. Onoh maintained that the knowledge of culture and tradition of different parts of the country would ensure more tolerance among the youths thereby reducing youth restiveness, ethnic and religious crisis which are threats to a peaceful society.
In the views of Mr. Prosper Unaegbu, a civic education teacher at Police Comprehensive Secondary School, Mini-Okoro, a rancour, crisis-free Nigeria could only be possible when the young ones who would take over the mantle of leadership from the elders tomorrow, know what could lead to crisis and the best ways of avoiding and resolving crisis. These, he said are part of the curriculum of civic education.
He opined that, “if the youths are given adequate civic education, they will have sound mind and tomorrow Nigeria will be great, devoid of problems of embezzlement, corruption, cheating and others. They will be able to know what government wants so that there will be peace and tranquility in the country.”
It is a well known fact that no society, family or country can develop without peace. No community or nation carries out any developmental programme in the midst of war. No family can make any meaningful progress when disorder and quarrel remain the order of the day.
Similarly, a nation divided against itself cannot stand. Such a nation cannot develop or progress.
In view of this, Mrs. Christy Young, an insurance broker suggested that government agencies like National Orientation Agency (NOA), Ministry of Information should carry out massive enlightenment campaign to educate people on their civic rights. She alluded to earlier submission of some analysts that the prevalence of various social malaises in the country is due to lack of proper orientation of the youth and lack of exemplary leadership.
“Government should sponsor civic education programmes in television and radio stations, enlighten the masses daily on values and norms. Civic education should not be targeted at the educated alone. Traders, artisans, brick layers, boys in the creek and others who make up the larger number of youth should be educated on civics as well”, she advised.
Sharing similar a sentiment, Mr. Paulinus Edem, particularly blamed the sectarian violence witnessed in the country recently on lack of parental care and guidance on the youth.
Citing the terrorist activities of the Boko Haram sect which he described as “unfortunate”, as an example of failure of proper parental guidance, the clergy man noted that if parents start early to educate their children on proper morals and values, violence in the country would reduce.
“The crucial role of parents as the first level of contact with the children is on the verge of collapse. Many parents hardly spend time with the children to groom them spiritually, socially, morally and otherwise”.
He insisted that a well brought up child will certainly contribute towards the peacefully growth of the country.
Miss Nana Ijede, a youth corps member, nonetheless said, government was yet to give the youth their due role in the building of the nation.
“Let no one make the mistake about the importance of youth in this country. The various levels of government have no clear programme for the youth of this country. There is no employment. Millions of youth are roaming the street every day in search of non-available jobs. Meanwhile our leaders and politicians are busy embezzling billions of naira meant for the development of the country”.
She said government should only expect positive, patriotic attitude from the young ones when they were provided for and given a sense of belonging in the nation.
In the same vein, Mrs. Osazuwa advised that adequate provisions should be made for the well-being of the youth if positive attitudes should be expected from them.
She recommended that the teaching of civic education should not end in secondary schools but should be a compulsory course for all year one students in all higher institutions in the country. She added that teachers should also be trained specifically on civic education instead of picking teachers from any field to teach civic education.
The youth of a nation are its real strength. They are the pillars of the nation. But it is important these pillars are study and well-built. They should be well educated formally and informally to be able to foster peace, progress and development in the country. The much needed peace in the land is possible when the youth acquired adequate civil education.