After many years of suspending the teaching of history in both primary and secondary schools in the country, the federal government recently ordered the inclusion of the subject in the current curriculum of basic schools. The Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu, reportedly declared it in Abuja while addressing delegates of the 61st meeting of the National Council on Education Ministerial Session.
Appreciating the significance of the subject, Adamu said the reintroduction of history on its own in basic schools would give the Nigerian child a self identity on who they really are.
He added that Nigeria owed both the present and future generations the duty of removing all inhibitions or obstacles against opportunities of acquiring morals and ethics as taught in the religious traditions.
Hear him: “It is only the study of history, our own history that can explain and give meaning to our very humanity and that is why we must study it and teach our little ones. It is also not enough that they merely know who they are, we must teach them about their God.
“It is said that if you want to destroy any nation, it is either first the family is destroyed, then the education is destroyed and the third the social morals be destroyed and in Nigeria, we owe both the present and future generations the responsibility to remove all inhibitions against making our children acquire morals and ethics.”
Lending credence to the return of history to the curricula of both primary and secondary schools in the country, a university don and head, department of history and international studies, Imo State University, Owerri, Professor Martins Nwankwo, described the decision as a positive one
He said it was a serious mistake for previous governments to have removed history from schools’ curriculum and noted that social studies and civic education being taught in secondary schools were no alternatives to history. Hear him:
“Without history the country cannot progress. My idea on how to solve the nation’s problems is for us to refer to the past to enable us proffer solutions to our problems. We have to recover why after the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 till 1960 when the country got independence, the British administration recorded huge successes in running the country as its colony.
“We also need to find out the magic wand they used in building the railways, seaports and other institutions and how the colonial masters initiated good agricultural policies across the country.” According to the university don:
“In most developed countries, the subject is made compulsory in secondary education because if you do not know your past, you will not clearly understand your present to be able to project into your future.”
For him, the nation’s education system has recorded several hiccups because successive administrations abandoned history. “Now that the subject has been restored in the system, there is need for us to restructure the nation’s education policies “, Nwankwo concluded.
But a retired principal and educationist, Mr. Ignatius Jack, queried the rationale behind the suspension of teaching the subject in the school system. He said such decision was the worst education-related decision any government could ever take be it military or civilian. He failed to understand why a subject as important as history wouldn’t be taught in our schools for this long while we hope to make progress?
“I am a graduate of French language but I understand the importance of history and the humanities. As far as I know they are as important as the sciences. But the government got it wrong by thinking that to emphasize the study of the sciences meant doing that to the exclusion of the humanities which includes history. Knowledge is interwoven and every branch of it promotes development.
“Now by suspending the teaching of history, what message was the government at that time passing across? Were they saying that our children shouldn’t learn events that characterized this country? Were they, for instance, saying that our children should not learn about our independence and how we got it?
“Were they saying that future generations shouldn’t know anything about the civil war and what caused it and learn from the mistakes? I think rather than celebrate the return of the teaching of history in our schools, we should lament the long absence of the subject from our school system,” Jack said.
However, not everyone thinks history should be studied in our schools for its value. Some say the value of history as a subject is in its falsehood. They fail to recognize the contribution the subject makes to knowledge. For them, no special emphasis should be given to the subject. One of such persons is a physics teacher, Mr. Eze Tamadu.
“I don’t believe that history should be taught especially since we are in a digital and scientific age. Of what special contribution will that subject make to the advancement of science and technology? I believe that science is everything and whatever doesn’t advance it is useless. History should be read privately, not taught in schools because it is a hoax.”
A civil servant in Port Harcourt, Mrs. Pakaye Robinson, supported the reintroduction of history in our schools. She said the move would enable the students be abreast of not only Nigeria’s history but West Africa and perhaps Africa. It will also create job opportunities for history graduates.
“In my opinion, the return of history to the schools is a welcome development. It will enable them to understand Nigeria’s and West African’s history. Besides it will create jobs for history graduates who have remained unemployed as a result of the bad policy,” she said.
The utility of studying and reading history was acknowledged even by the ancient people when the great Tacitus said that after reading history “men should feel a dread of being considered infamous in the opinion of posterity”.
The legendary Tacitus said that “history serves as a guide, an example and a warning. Out of the pages of history we may gather practical wisdom by applying the lessons of the past to the problems of the presence”.
Similarly, an old English writer said, “History maketh a young man to be old without wrinkles or grey hairs”. This means that history confers on the young the wisdom of age. It is thus the most pleasant school for acquiring wisdom especially in practical affairs. According to the English writer, “If no use is made of the labours of past ages, the world must always remain in the infancy of knowledge”.
All in all, experts say that the reintroduction will enhance our insight and vision. According to them, the study of history should be regarded as imperative and indeed be a compulsory study for the future citizen.