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Lanre Olagunju: Teaching History in Schools as Part of our National Development

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Evil, they say, prevails when good men fail to act; but there seem to be a kind of evil that doesn’t readily come to mind when we flaunt this saying. It is the evil caused by good men who lack basic knowledge about the past. From the way Nigeria falls repeatedly into cycle of errors, it is obvious that Nigerians collectively are yet to learn anything substantial from history. If we have, we haven’t acted upon the lessons that history provides.

The entire nation seems to be united at this point for true change, but this change certainly is a long term one that’d require a clean understanding of our history. So we know where we are as a nation, where we are heading, what to do, and how to do it better.

It is difficult to understand how as a nation we think we can come close to sustainable change without the knowledge of history – forgetting that time past is part of time present, and time present is part of time future. If we must discover sustainable ideas and solutions to our national issues, educated Nigerians who analyse discuss and proffer solutions need to be engage more with the past.

Sadly, our educational system has been seriously lagging behind in this regard. If this generation is ever going to break out of this cycle of failure, ethnicity, scarcity mentality and mediocrity, we must first understand the forces that birthed these problems. Else, the change clamoured for would remain a wild goose chase.

The time to revisit this long abandoned human-centered recipe which is fundamentally needed for growth and development is now. That Nigeria has undyingly remained a giant by mere name-calling is a sign that we lack a perfect sense of our potentials as a nation, which perhaps might be reawakened by a sense of national consciousness. It would always remain a daunting task to attempt searching for what is not known. Young Nigerians with the zeal to sincerely see the nation experience true transformation are daily increasing in number; in fact many are on the path to re-writing the nation’s history. But I am afraid we will suffer from collective amnesia as we blindly grope into the future without a guide post of precedence to shape our different course in the respective area of influence we have chosen. How well can one re-write history that is not known?

The social media which has successfully played a key role in social-economic awareness among many Nigerians will not essentially cover up for the lack of history or the knowledge that it provides. No it won’t! As a matter of fact it will only amplify it, given that social media is a platform which amplifies knowledge or ignorance.

Studying Nigerian history in schools as a compulsory and fundamental academic requirement and discipline is very vital for the country’s development at this crucial point – if the country is serious about genuine development. At all levels, our schools seriously need to re-introduce the Nigerian History into curriculums. History is consciously used to inspire nation building in many developed nations, and this places a huge gap between the advanced nations and under-developed ones.

It’s a common slogan that the Nigerian educational system doesn’t breed young people for national transformation. Well, the problem might not be with the school. The real problem might be that, many people in the schools – both the students and teachers – are not aware of the country’s real problems. Hence, the whole essence of the school falls as a waste in the long run.

Motivational speakers and revolutionaries inspiring change amongst the upwardly mobile Nigerians need to know that mere motivation focused on awakening the can-do spirit in is not enough. Young Nigerians need knowledge of the past. The past is not a dead past, basically because that past is still living and taunting us as a nation, sadly that past is still in our present.

When we pay more attention to our history, maybe we would clearly see that Nigeria in the real sense of it is yet to be a nation even after 100 years of amalgamation. Maybe with full knowledge of hindsight, we would now realize that we can’t keep seeing this country from the prism of tribalism and religion just as every generation including the present one has mostly done. Perhaps with knowledge, we would clean our hot tears carefully and then move beyond the lamentation that Nigeria was founded based on a business and selfish interest of the British, until we move beyond that, setting out to calve out a dream we can call the Nigerian dream might remain difficult.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Racorn

Lanre Olagunju is an hydrologist turn writer cum journalist. He’s fond of giving his heart to every brilliant discussion ‘cos he believes it’s a nice way to gather the good and the not –so-good opinions. He also sees engaging discussions as a way to get people interviewed on topical issues without any formal or serious booking.To Lanre, reading and writing is fun and practically he has written quite a number of articles on several issues.He writes a weekly column tittled #INSIGHTWITHLARIGOLD which runs every Saturday on www.omojuwa.com.When he’s reading, he uncontrollably finds himself writing and at other times, screaming hard. At such point, only a sound psychiatrist can convince anyone of his sanity.He tweets @Lanre_Olagunju on Twitter.

10 Comments

  1. Humphrey

    May 30, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    You have written a wonderful article that captures the essence of Nigeria state. I wish those in authority could read this, maybe half our problem is solved.

    • Ada Nnewi

      May 31, 2015 at 9:43 am

      This is the 3rd time bella is bringing up an article on the importance of history in the Nigerian curriculum and it gladdens my heart. I was alarmed when I heard history was going to be excluded from the Nigerian curriculum as a Nation that is not aware of her past will keep repeating the same mistakes and will not move forward. The reason why Nigeria is where it is today is because most people don’t know their history and even some of those that think they know have been fed mostly half truths or pure lies…GEJ’s campaign brought this to light as the documentaries aired were swallowed hook, line and sinker by those who did not know their history…As a nation we need to make history a compulsory subject hiding no part of our history, the biafran war should no longer be glossed over as the events leading to the war contain vital events that we need to learn from, present events need to be documented. Documentation and preservation are key!

  2. tunmi

    May 30, 2015 at 7:49 pm

    Yes!!!! We need to infuse history into the curriculum starting from primary school

  3. Theresa

    May 30, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Indeed no person or a diverse nation like Nigeria can make any sustainable progress without understanding that the past, esp with its unresolved/misunderstood issues needs to be addressed. Perhaps the new govt. or even youth groups can start programs for young school leavers where history, ethics, psychology, problem-solving skills, etc can be taught so that we have a generation of innovators instead of consumers.

    Thanks Lanre!

    • Nala

      May 30, 2015 at 10:58 pm

      Good idea Theresa. Perhaps you can be part of the youth leaders if that’s in line with your discipline or passion 😉 or just to the youth around you. We need to be the change we want to see.

  4. deni

    May 30, 2015 at 8:10 pm

    Lanre, thoughtful write-up. I totally concur. I think though that the reason our history is not being taught as a compulsory part of our primary and secondary school curriculum is because most of the people/”leaders” who have brought the nation to the ruin it is at right now are still very much alive and won’t allow their deeds to be scrutinised and exposed in such a manner…Independent Nigeria is still young and struggling… I guess some people would prefer for it to find its bearing before dissecting its past

  5. Nala

    May 30, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    Great idea! In recent times I’ve learned things about Nigerian and Black history and it amazes me how much we don’t knw about who we are. Once you know who you are, your behaviour/attitude changes. Once you know the greatness you are coming from, like you mentioned, there’s a sense of pride it brings. Looking forward to articles about Nigerian history from you, pending till the gov’t reintroduces history into the educational curriculum.

  6. Nakoms

    May 30, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    God bless Nigeria

  7. Lea

    May 31, 2015 at 9:07 am

    I did not even read the article to agree. Nigerian history and world history should be enforced. In all schools.

  8. Chiomaken

    May 31, 2015 at 11:41 am

    hmm…well written. I am a teacher first in Nigeria and then in the UK, who left banking for my passion which is teaching. I deeply share your thoughts on the need for history as part of the curriculum. Here I marvel at how much history the kids know and explore by also delving into the reasons why characters in their history may have acted as they did and the consequences then and now. I am even sadder as my daughters reel out facts and their opinions about king Henry VIII but know nothing about Herbert Macauly, Nnamid Azikiwe etc…. Needless to say that when Mandela died and was being celebrated in their class I was quick to seize the opportunity to enrich her with knowledge, understanding and pride for some black history…though not specifically Nigerian at least it’s a start.

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