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Uche Okonkwo: The Walking Blind

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It recently came to my attention that History has been taken off the curriculum for secondary schools in Nigeria. The reason: only very few students offer the subject, making it a waste of resources.
I did not ‘offer’ History in secondary school, even though I was an arts student and I could, maybe even should, have. But at least I had the option. Oddly enough, it seems that our government takes it upon itself to take away our options. Weeks ago the Nigerian government introduced a 62.5% tariff on imported printed books, breaking a 50-year UNESCO agreement and making life unbearable for Nigerian publishers and booksellers – like the business isn’t hard enough as it is.

So History has been taken off the Nigerian secondary school curriculum, and it barely even made news. (And how would it, when we have fuel scarcity, Boko Haram and a National Conference to occupy our minds?) I myself heard about it in passing.

Still, here’s what I think this means for us.
I think this means that in a country where so many of us, even the fairly well-educated, do not know our history or our heritage, where we came from and how we got to where we are, this ignorance will continue and thrive. We don’t preserve or document anything here, so in the next fifty or so years when our grandmothers and fathers have died with their knowledge, we will pass on our ignorance and empty spaces to our children. In two hundred years we will not know who we are – but that’s okay, Europe and America will tell us.

I think this means that when, as it has happened before and is still happening, the same people who have brought Nigeria to her knees come and tell us why they should lead us, we will lend them our ears. We will let them take what they want. Everyone knows we have a short memory; it’s the reason we’re the happiest nation on earth.

I think this means that certain industries, like arts and tourism, that thrive on a history well documented and exploited, will suffer more than they already are now. I recently returned from a trip to Badagry and Olumo Rock, and I kept thinking as I saw the sights and followed paths that had been walked centuries ago, this place could be so much better; we could do so much more with all this history. But how can we invite the world to come see us and learn about us when we do not even know ourselves?

I think this means that Nigerians are in danger of losing a real sense of ownership of this country, and one could say that we have already. Being rooted in who we are and where we came from could give us a collective responsibility that many Nigerians lack. But we are not invested or interested; we all just want to get ours. You could argue that it’s not our fault; that this is what Nigeria has made of us. You could, but what about the few who manage to be different; what did Nigeria make of them?

What’s the solution? If there is one I don’t know of it. Yesterday I might have said why not make History a compulsory subject, or invest in trying to get students to see its value. But, of course, that’s not the quick, cost-effective solution. I was having a conversation with someone on this and he said, ‘The history they were teaching us in school was rubbish anyway. How can they say Mungo Park discovered the same River Niger that my forefathers had been using for generations?’

And this is a stellar point.
The answer: don’t revise the History curriculum to favour truth; that’s too much work. Just take it off the curriculum, see if anyone even notices.

Photo Credit: libertyalliance.com
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Uche Okonkwo has a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. She is a freelance writer and editor with years of publishing experience who blogs at Truth & Fiction. She is also the winner, (Inaugural) of the 2013 Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize. Uche will work for Naira, Pounds or Dollars and can be reached at [email protected]

Uche Okonkwo has a Masters degree in Creative Writing from the University of Manchester. She is a freelance writer and editor with years of publishing experience who blogs at Truth & Fiction. She is also the winner, (Inaugural) of the 2013 Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize. Uche will work for Naira, Pounds or Dollars and can be reached at [email protected]

36 Comments

  1. lah

    April 9, 2014 at 8:15 am

    This is soo true and important. I personally think it’s a shame that it’s isn’t compulsory in secondary schools. Thanks for this piece

    • Eja Kekere

      April 9, 2014 at 7:34 pm

      There is actually a page on instagram that talks about hisory…[email protected] are beginning to understand the importance about history.

  2. Stacy

    April 9, 2014 at 8:47 am

    I tink Dis topic should be sent 2 a TV station lyk AIT so dey will Discus it

  3. As some1 who took both Government & History & ALWAYS got an A in history, including in WAEC, I have to point out how immensely stupid this decision is. Sure, both are related, but History will give u an in depth knowledge of EVERYTHING about Nigeria’s past, the kingdoms, the people, trade, culture, arts, decline of the empires & a whole lotta stuff. Government on the other hand ONLY focuses on our political history. We are LOST.

    • Ada Nnewi

      April 9, 2014 at 10:09 am

      I also always got A’s in History and Government and i think it’s absolutely shameful…This means that Nigeria as a Nation is doomed..The biafran war was strongly glossed over during history classes, this was my first indication that Nigeria and Nigerians as a whole were quite clueless and did not understand that if the past is not properly understood, history will always repeat itself…I will start a petition to make History a compulsory subject, the change we seek starts with us…Who’s with me? 🙂

    • Olivia by name

      April 9, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      I’m with you. You can start a petition through change.org. I’ll definitely sign.

    • D

      April 10, 2014 at 4:43 pm

      Did anyone start a petition on this? Please let me know.

  4. icomment

    April 9, 2014 at 9:01 am

    this is NOT okay! Naija no dey carry last…una don carry last with this one o. SMH

    please continue to shine some light on issues like this

  5. OMG

    April 9, 2014 at 9:25 am

    I live in uk and I only knew about Biafra war from my white friends..imagine the shock I felt…I asked if this was like 200 years ago and they said it barely 60years.. I did my secondary school in Nigeria and never did we do anthing on Biafra, yet it is such a historic war that millions of igbos died…Nigeria is messed up big time..i am glad I am out of that country..my advice to people..when you leave niaha NEVER COME BACK!!!! only come to visit and leave unless your guaranteed a very good job!!!

    • Bobby

      April 9, 2014 at 9:57 am

      Loool @ OMG! Unless you are guaranteed a very good job, dual citizenship and £1M is paid into your offshore account as insurance… just in case. Lol!

  6. Oma Henson white

    April 9, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Me they did not allow me do history because I was a Science student.17 years later, I still feel cheated.
    I had a friend who chose to study history in the Uni,Susan.The course is a wonderful course,She knows about religion, politics, geography,Why?Because history is very broad.There are graduates of history who could be Teachers.FG please intervene.

  7. FunkyW

    April 9, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Wow So True! I think the whole educational system needs to be revamped by experts. If they must take out History, what will replace it? I knew little or nothing about the Biafran war till I read ‘Half of a yellow sun’.

    On the 15th of January 2014 my uncle asked if I knew the significance of the day to Nigeria.
    “Hmmmmn No ”
    “That’s a shame, that was the day the first military coup in Nigeria began, it led to the civil war…. were you not taught at school?”
    “No …I don’t think so”

    • Duchess

      April 9, 2014 at 3:21 pm

      I also didn’t know much about the civil war until I read Chimamada Adiche’s Half of a Yellow Sun..Well maybe I knew a little from the stuff my mum told me. She was just a little girl when the war broke out and I doubt that she took History while in secondary school. Chimamada made it easier to understand. So sad that our government has decided to take history out of secondary school curriculum . Denying the younger generations the right to learn about their past and our history as a country is a no no.

    • Eja Kekere

      April 9, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      There is actually a page on instagram that talks about hisory…. @historicalnigeria ..people are beginning to understand the importance about history.

  8. Iyke

    April 9, 2014 at 9:56 am

    And that’s a country that wants to make Herbal Medicine compulsory in our universities, yet forgot that there by the grace…toil and generosity of those who dared to dream..aspire and achieve…are we today…HISTORY!
    Misplacing priorities! Our leaders are bunch of jokers. A country that looses her history has nothing to live for. Nothing less desired for the children of our children, should we dare to hope for and measure their lives to be, WITHOUT A STRONG FOUNDATION OF THEIR HISTORY.

  9. this topic

    April 9, 2014 at 10:24 am

    I suspect it was deliberately done

  10. Angel

    April 9, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Omg I fear for the future! those of u abroad ( myself included) if u like say this does not affect u, time will tell, cos one who has no identity is completely lost, if u like stay abroad 100 years, speak with foreign accent or get married to oyibo people, the fact remains that some day, ur children or grand children will like to where u came from, u may one day have reason to come back home. And based on what I ‘ve experienced living abroad for 8 years now, oyibo pple see us as the ‘other people’. Even with residence permit, they never fully accepts u as their own, heck even black Americans still complains of racism today, so even though I don’t have any intention of going back to Nigeria in the next 20 years, I still fear for my country and for what the future holds….

  11. Angel

    April 9, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Omg I fear for the future! And those of u abroad ( myself included) if u like say this does not affect u, time will tell. Cos one who hasn’t got an identity is completely lost, ur other achievements does not matter. If u like stay abroad 100 yrs, speak with foreign accent or marry oyibo, fact remains that one day ur kids or grand kids will want to know where u came from, u may one day have a reason to come back home. And based on my experience living abroad 8 yrs now, oyibo pple see us as the ‘other people’. Even with residence permit, they never fully accept u as their own, heck even black Americans still complains of racism today. Although I don’t have any intention of going back to Nigeria in the next 20 yrs, still I fear for my country and what the future holds….

  12. Dr. N

    April 9, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Don’t worry. The sleeping delegates will resolve it. Don’t get your heart troubled. They’re working on it as we speak. In fact a panel will be set up to review d matter. Remove History? Mba nu

    • Iris

      April 9, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      LOL at panel. Abi?

  13. Nat

    April 9, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    I kept shouting about this the very 1st day I heard about it, useless politicians gambling with our children’s futures after gambling with ours. The whole secondary school curriculum is just wrong. History as a subject I even supposed to be taught from Jss 1 or whatever they call that class now. I know people will say there is social studies and civic education in Junior secondary and Government in Senior secondary but those are different aspects of knowledge and nothing can replace history. So what if in a whole school only one student writes history in WAEC, does it justify them just scrapping the subject entirely? NO. I think politicians worldwide and not just in Nigeria need to understand that some policies are not decisions for politicians to make but for experts in such fields.
    What is the rationale behind scrapping history (which should be compulsory anyways) as a subject but introducing subjects like photography when I know in my heart of hearts that children will only be taught the theory aspect of the subject; because it is capital intensive to set up facilities as well as train teachers who will be qualified to do justice to the subject (private schools may afford to but what of the public schools where a majority of school leavers are churned out fro each year?), and I mean it is Nigeria we are talking about o.
    I am still very upset that as a science student (which I was forced to be by my very ignorant guidance counsellor), I was denied the options of doing subjects like history and accounting. I think education shouldn’t be so streamlined, give children choices. I did sciences against my will, had to rewrite WAEC in order to get the right combination of subjects to really do the course I wanted to do (just a total waste of time) .
    These are the kind of issues these sleeping/old and tired delegates are supposed t be discussing at the so called conference but No, most of them are just there for their personal gains. Now in the new curriculum, it is not even compulsory to study any of the science subjects (if I am not mistakenly), at least when I was in secondary school, all arts and commercial students were meant to study and sit at least one science subject in WAEC (which almost all of them went for Biology), for crying out loud, what kind of education are these people giving to children these days! I know the government is trying to promote entrepreneurship but not at the expense of the core foundation now. This issue is more serious than we think it is, it about time we all wake up and do something about this, our education is going/has gone to the dogs.
    Private schools are even making matters worse with whatever curriculum they are running, no checks and balances, no accountability whatsoever. it is quite sad and pathetic.

  14. SpecialKMama

    April 9, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    First Time I heard about Biafra was when I was 16 and I asked a sub teacher where he was from and he said Biafra – I was confused and thought I was mistaken because I assumed he was Nigerian. I assumed Biafra was some small African or Caribean Island and didnt ask any further. Even though the Man pronounced my name better than I did. Fast forward a few years when I read half of a yellow sun. Then I started wondering why do I not know about Biafra the way I know about Abacha’s wickedness, Babaginda the Political Maradona. I started looking and reading books like Airlift to Biafra because I felt so ashamed of myself for not knowing. Even though I didnt grow up in Nigeria – We need to talk about it and teach it – however we must be careful as to who teaches our kids our history – do they teach it in a way to further highlight pains and differences or do we teach to make our children understand that Nigeria is still standing and we owe it to those who fought to not be marginalised and those who fought to keep us together.

  15. Aryn

    April 9, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Nigeria! I fear for the future. I am afraid for those yet unborn. I was a student of history and i had an “A” in both my WAEC and GCE. It was by far my favourite subject. I got to know of the empires that formed part of our Nigeria people. I learnt about the slave trade and abolition. My mind was exposed. Because of the history i studied in secondary school it formed my travel paths. I decided to visit Badagry. I then later went to Ghana to see the castles and the door of no return. I went to South Africa, to Cape Town and to Robben Island. The Nigerian History i studied in school made me decide to school out of Lagos , hence i went to Edo state. I made friends from all parts of Nigeria.
    I appreciated our diversity because of what i had been taught in school. I went to Olumo Rock, ate amala with the natives. Against all odds i went to Bauchi for NYSC. I visited Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Jos, Nasarawa, i visited the Yankari Game Reserve times without number. I got to know that every northerner is hausa or fulani, they are diverse. I got to know that every Ibo isnt just Ibo, but Isoko, Ishan, Akoko-Edo, Igbira, Urhobo, etc.
    How would I have known if not for the things i heard at school during my formative years.
    NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT, i plead with you. You have denied the young generation of so many things, please dont take this away from them. We are a people united by our diversity. We are not Ibo, Yoruba or Hausa. We are a people who use the same green passport, who recite the same national anthem. Our dreams at night as kids are similar, to pass our exams and get ahead. To pass WAEC and enter University. To pass well and go for NYSC and get a job. How will we tell our grandchildren of the tales of moonlight, of the Argungu fishing festivals, of the Ojude Oba etc. Our history as a people must be preserved.
    Don’t take this away from us.

  16. nikky

    April 9, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    The sad truth is that the administrators in charge of our education in Nigeria have absolutely nothing to lose by royally screwing with our curriculum. All their children school abroad where the white men tell them how they were discovered and all that nonsense. Think about it, if they feel the burn of never ending strike, and the general shabby education they provide free of charge (at the primary and secondary level only) then they will do right by us. Until then they will deny us this very vital tool. History is not just a subject, it’s our identity who we are. It’s just sad.

  17. adycyndy.o.

    April 9, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Me too in my secoundary and primary school days i was deprived of this almighty subject called”History” and it was not funny at all i felt cheated when i heard from my elders and friends how they enjoyed history in their own school days , i felt betrayed i had to read different history books om my own and listen to story from different elders and even watch some documentaries and movies like things fall apart which gave me me a better view of what Nigeria was in the pre-colonial and colonial years. i always this joy when ever i have to discuss about Nigerian history imagine in my class of more than 300 student nobody could clearly explain who lord fredrick lugard and flora shaw was where they came from and how they managed to rule Nigeria. i was only able to say something small well thank God for google. This is not fair History, biology and account should be made compulsory for everyone regardless of your choice of class be it commercial,arts or science. Please Nigerians do something our country is fallen apart gradually, Do something oooo

  18. Tunmi

    April 9, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    I agree that history should be in the curriculum from primary 1 or at least 3, but should not the tariffs be helping local publishers?

  19. why

    April 9, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    How did God do it?

    You know the story; an evil spirit from the Lord came and began to trouble king Saul and the servant of king Saul went to him and said sir, an evil spirit is troubling you, you are mad!

    You need somebody who can play very well so that you will be refreshed. And somebody answered and said I know somebody, I know a young boy called David the son of Jesse, he is very good at playing the harp, the king said go and bring him.

    You know one day God sent me to one head of state in Africa several years ago. And I was trying to tell him how good God has been to him, that God used the British to give him scholarship to come to Britain to study.

    After they trained him, he came back and rose up against the British and took his country away from the British.

    God took this man into the palace of the man he was going to replace for training.

    I am prophesy into someone here today, even your enemy will become a blessings to you very soon.

    I can give you several examples, let me just tell you one; in my village, in my compound there was a woman; everybody knew her to be a witch and she didn’t hide it.

    As a matter of fact she had killed one or two of her own children and so everybody was kind of afraid of her.

    And in those days, am talking of 1950’s when we want to study at night, we eat Kola nut, how many of you know what am talking about?

    If you know what am talking about you must be old. Many of us didn’t even know there was anything called coffee and if there was coffee, there was no money for coffee but kola nut was plenty and we kept on eating kola nut.

    I love studying at night so I eat kola nut, and if you asked the elders they will tell you one f the eldest way to kill somebody is to give him a poison kola nut.

    One day I was in my village, enjoying my kola nut when this woman, a notable witch called me and said “Enoch, stop eating kola nut!” when I told my mother, my mother said oh God! That is the one who says stop eating kola nut! I said even myself I have made up my mind, never again!

    Even a witch can be a blessing!

    All your enemies from today onward will become a blessing to you in Jesus name.

    The Lord asked me to tell someone here tonight; He said because eagles fly alone; prepare to pay the price for your coming greatness.

    I hope whoever concerned will understand.

    So a single pronouncement of God bless you, can have tremendous implications.

    Many people don’t know the value of God bless you.

    I mean for example two nights ago, I was going around the camp praying and there was this young man and I could see that he was agitated; he probably had a lot of problems.

    He saw that I was praying instead of leaving me alone, no he wouldn’t. He and said daddy pray for me, so in order for me to be able to continue with my prayers, I said God bless you.

    I thought he will be so happy and go away rejoicing, he said amen, he said but I want you to pray for me.

    I want to say to somebody here tonight; God bless you!

    When God blesses you, you won’t lack anything again, because He owns all, the earth is the Lord and the fullness thereof.

    Silver belong to Him, gold belongs to Him, the cattle upon a thousand hills belongs to Him.

    The Bible says God has spoken ones twice have I heard that power belongs to God, so when God blesses you, you can live long.

    The Lord says there is someone here tonight; He said I will add more grease to your elbow.

    Psalm 91v16 God said with long life will I satisfy him, when you are blessed you live long.

    When you are blessed He can satisfy you with strength, He said they that wait upon thee shall renew their strength.

    When you are blessed, he can satisfy you with wisdom, Daniel 2 v 20 -21.

    When you are blessed, He can satisfy you with Joy, Psalm 16 v 11 says in His presence there is the fullness of joy.

    When you are blessed He can satisfy you with Promotion. Psalm 75 v 6 – 7 Promotions comes from the Lord.

    When you are blessed, He can satisfy you with victory without a fight, Deuteronomy 28 v 7.

    You know many at times when you are blessed, It is after when the battle is over that you will know that some people were even fighting against you because God will fight for you.

    I remembered our first convention on this camp ground; I was excited, we are holding convention on camp ground I didn’t know anything was happening but later on, I was to learn that there were four women, witches who held a meeting and decided that they will go and take over the camp before we arrived.

    How did we discover?

    We didn’t know anything, we just came, had a wonderful time and left, but within a week of the convention one of them came saying “we were four that came; we wanted to take over the convention.”

    Of the four, one went mad, one died, one developed a hunch back, I can’t remember what happed to the forth one.

    And I didn’t know anything!

    I am prophesying for someone when the enemy come against you, they will only come to say we tried and we failed.

    When you are blessed; it gives you wealth without sorrow because the Bible says the blessings of the Lord, it maketh rich and added no sorrows.

    When you are blessed, then your anointing can overflow; like in Psalm 23 v 5, thou anointed my head with oil, my cup runeth over.

    Now to me, one of the greatest wonders of divine blessing is that no man can tamper with God’s blessings upon your life.

    They may criticize you, they may envy you, and I think I heard one of the men who spoke before me this evening saying ‘it is better to be envied than to be pitted’. I think that is a beautiful one, I said I will write it down.

    Every one of you here tonight, very soon the world will envy you.

    They can talk about you, I have told you before, people will talk about you. If you are a failure they will talk about you; they will say everyday you are carrying the Bible up and down, everyday you are calling the name of Jesus, where is the result?

    If God prospers you mightily, they will talk about you; is he the only one serving God!

    Now which of the two, do you preferred? The second or the first? It is better to be envied than to be pitied.

    From tonight henceforth you will never be pited again.

    • Ms Catwalq

      April 10, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      Ladies and Gentlemen, the future of Nigeria! No substance to add to conversations. Use religion as a substitute for knowledge. Please tell me what this has to do with the demise of our country’s education system?
      Pele, Why, you will be fine. Go and lie down.

  20. cakesence

    April 10, 2014 at 1:15 am

    @Why, you need a brain check! You are the perfect example of why history is needed in our schools.

  21. UB40

    April 10, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    I only heard this morning that biology is no longer compulsory and now History has been taken off the curriculum, and we wonder why so many children are so dumb these days. How can government take off History. Where do they get these law-makers from for heavens sake?

  22. Helel

    April 10, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    @bellanaija, im a good writer and i wish to submit my prose, how do i go about it?

  23. Helen

    April 10, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    @bellanaija, how do i submit my prose? #givefreshwritersachance

  24. Lessons

    April 10, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    [email protected]!!!
    History should not be taken out of the curriculum as it has a valuable place in our education as Nigerians. Part of my secondary school days was in Italy at a British school. We were taught about Henry the eight, Battle of Hastings, Roman and Greek empire to name a few. It was so edifying and interesting, and I wondered why I wasn’t taught about the diverse histories of the various tribes in Nigeria. Like others have previously stated, as a science student, history wasn’t even an option. A little bit of social studies in primary school introduces the topic, but it’s not in-depth enough. Fast forward to Uni days and welcome to compulsory GAS 101. That should have been the platform to educate the college students too, however it fails to do just that as everyone knows its “not important”, lecturers come in a few times, give out handouts that you quickly “cram and pour”. Nobody takes it serious at all. It’s really important to know where you come from, identify with your history and know your place in today’s world. A lot of young Nigerians are denied of this and old tales from parents become lackluster as we strive to become more westernized. I hope the Nigerian government reconsiders.

  25. D

    April 10, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Has anyone started a petition on this? Please let me know. Thanks

  26. Joy

    April 12, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Such a shame. I studied and enjoyed studying History very much in school. Being married to a non Nigerian, I plan to really immerse my children in Nigerian history and culture. To learn more about Nigerian history, join Nigerian Nostalgia Project on FB. It is an eye opener!

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