In Defence Of History

By Julius Oweh
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The development and growth of a nation is anchored on well articulated policies and programmes that can stand the test of time. Such policies are brought out not to satisfy the immediate or narrow gains of those who temporally hold the reins of power. It is rather unfortunate that Nigeria is littered with many half baked programmes and policies somersaults that have beggared the progress and development of the nation.

On area which that is noticeable is the education curriculum of the country. Time was when the secondary school years were five but some smart guys in the education ministry came up with six years of secondary education. The belief then was that first three years of secondary education could be devoted to vocational education and the graduates learn some skills and those who are more gifted could proceed to the university. But like all bad policies in Nigeria, the system failure is evident because the equipment is not there to train the students.

It was the same policy somersault that made the government in the past to abolish the teaching of history in secondary schools and merged it with social studies. The education officials believed that the best way to impact technology and science in our youths was to abolish the teaching of history. It was a great mistake and the earlier, it is corrected, the better for the nation and future Nigerians.

And this message was brought home recently at Abuja at the public presentation of a book `The Nigerian Century` edited by a foremost journalist, Dare Babarinsa. Speaking at the occasion, President Muhammadu Buhari harped on the importance of history and the need for our youths to know their history and country. Former president Olusegun Obasanjo charged Nigerian youths to love their country by developing interest in her history and culture. This is the advice of Obasanjo to the youths: `Don’t give up hope on Nigeria. We should renew our efforts to love Nigeria, to heal Nigeria and fix Nigeria. It can be done`. Though the advice of the former president is in order, it bears repeating how the youths can love and heal Nigeria when they are hardly told about her past and future aspirations which history as a course of study critically plays.

Senator Bola Tinubu was more blunt and down to earth about the non teaching of history in our secondary schools and the danger it portends for the future. He condemned the teaching of histories of foreign countries in Nigeria by schools owned by foreigners like British, Turkish and American schools while Nigerian schools fail to teach Nigerian history. Tinubu thundered thus: `Why then, should we have Nigerian schools in Nigeria that will not teach our own history? How can our children be Nigerian if they don`t know their history? `. He therefore made a passionate appeal to the state and federal government to return history into the school curriculum. The position of Tinubu could not be better amplified and the duty is that of the Minister of Education working in collaborating with the various state commissioners to restore it into the secondary school curriculum starting from junior secondary. In the case of the various primary schools, Nigerian history should also be taught at that level. There is no empirical evidence to show that the teaching of history is a hindrance to the teaching of science and technology.

It is not a question of lamentations; the real thing should be done in the interest of the nation and nurturing future Nigerians who have a deep sense of history of their roots and cultures. Those who believe that history is just the records of past events are making a grave error of judgment. History as a discipline sharpens the mind and makes the student to be a strategic thinker. Great thinkers, philosophers, diplomats, journalists, lawyers et al are products of history. It is even funny that at the university level, history is being merged with other courses. That is why some of our universities are running courses like history and international studies, history and anthropology, history and conflict studies, history and strategic studies. It would do our universities a world of good for history to be studied as a distinct and a major course and should not be padded with allied courses.

Now that the president had seen the need for history to be reintroduced into the secondary school curriculum, all efforts should be put in place to encourage the training of history teachers so that they can impact the much needed knowledge and skills that a practiced historian should get. The point argued by Tinubu that some international schools are teaching foreign histories to the detriment of Nigerian history should be looked into. Any international school in Nigeria teaching Nigerian pupils should as a matter of priority should be impressed upon to teach Nigerian history in addition to foreign history. The era of western concept that Africa has no history is gone for good. Our history should be taught to our kids and how the Nigerian nation evolved over time.

If our children are not taught Nigerian history in Nigeria, then we are unwittingly making them to be without roots and even stateless. History gives a sense of fulfillment, belongingness and wholeness to the individual. That is why American presidents make it an article of faith to trace their races. Presidents Kennedy and Reagan were very proud of their Irish roots.

Today, Obama is very proud of his African roots. Those who say that history will make us not to progress technologically should emulate the Japanese examples. Despite their technological advancement, the Japanese are very close to their roots and that showcase in their love for using sticks to eat. In fact, history should not only be restored to the secondary school curriculum, Nigerian history should be made a compulsory course in the primary and secondary school. The Buhari administration has the singular distinction and the historical burden to correct the mistakes of the past administrations.

Julius Oweh, a journalist, Asaba, Delta State. 08037768392

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