The news of the federal government reintroducing history as a stand-alone subject in the basic education curriculum in Nigeria 13 years after its abolition is a good development.
Adamu Adamu, minister of education, announced this in Abuja at the reintroduction ceremony/training of history teachers at the basic education level. The minister who was represented by the state minister of education, Goodluck Opiah expressed worry about the threat posed to national cohesion owing largely to lack of knowledge of Nigeria’s evolution following the removal of history from the basic education curriculum. The minister said a total of 3,700 history teachers have been shortlisted on pro-rata basis for the first round of training to enhance teaching of the subject.
History was removed from the Nigerian school curriculum in 2009 – supposedly because students avoided the subject, graduates did not have job prospects and teachers were scarce. But Nigerians were not happy with the decision. The 13 years without the subject being taught have created big vacuum. Students who finished their secondary schools have missed a golden opportunity to know more about their country. Interestingly, government has now reversed the decision. History can be defined as the subject of a balanced interpretation and reconstruction of the past, based on evidence with focus on causation, context and course of events. Ignorance of history creates a vacuum that misinformation or outright falsehood can exploit.
A sound knowledge of the past is the basis for nationalism or patriotism, the driving force in modern nation-building. History creates or reinforces national identity and self-definition. The United States, United Kingdom and Japan are striking examples of the teaching of history as a central plank of the curriculum. Knowledge of history has driven the patriotism exhibited by citizens of those countries. History can give people a proper appreciation of the place of their nation among others. To make the subject more attractive among the students there is the need to develop texts that pass the tests of content and pedagogy. Texts should present history in easily readable and accessible language. They should also explain concepts and avoid excessive use of dates. Books must divide the subject into manageable modules to suit the age and learning ability of the targeted students. Maps, cartoons, films, quizzes and so on can enliven the subject. Also, training of teachers will contribute significantly for teaching of the subject. Teachers are the most critical human elements in the teaching or study of history. Their training and motivation should receive government attention.
Nigerians, more than ever before, need the knowledge of history to know the past, present and avoid repeating of past mistakes in the future.
Ibrahim Mustapha, Pambegua, Kaduna State