An Open Letter to the minister of Education

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Dear Sir ,
I am writing you this letter hoping it will provoke
an urgent reaction from you thereby saving our
education system from further decay . A situation
brought about by poor policy decisions that have
lowered the quality of pedagogy and created chaos
and inconsistencies in the national curricula at all
levels . The purpose of my letter to you is to lament
the unceremonious manner history as a subject
was expunged from the school curriculum at all
levels . I am sure as the education minister you are
aware that the subject is no longer offered in our
schools today .
I read somewhere that you had also decried the
situation where young Nigerians were denied the
privilege of studying History especially in public
schools. In the report , you had promised to return
the subject to the public school curriculum . The
purpose of this letter therefore is to heighten the
need to strengthen our education system and
enrich the quality of learning by bringing back the
teaching and learning of history to our schools . My
hope is that your concern about how history was
unceremoniously expunged from the curriculum is
not just one of the lamentations of public officials
who will eventually renege on their
pronouncements. You stand at the threshold of
history to make this happen.
The return of history to the school curriculum is
one decision that requires your immediate action.
Before you wonder the pedigree of the person
writing you this letter, let me add that apart from
being a Nigerian concerned about the poor state of
public education in our country , I am also an
educator working in the country ’ s school system.
As an educator, I am daily confronted with the
consequences of the removal of history from the
school curriculum . Today, we have a generation of
students who have no idea about our
contemporary history . In our schools, we are
presently producing students who will leave school
without any knowledge of Nigeria ’ s history – both
past and present.
But we all know the importance of history in our
life as a people and why it must be a mandatory
course of study and subject in our schools. The
need to make the learning of history compulsory
has never been a more urgent need in our nation
than now. Recently , I engaged a group of students
in an informal discussion about the contemporary
history of Nigeria . I led the discussion with context
questions that probed their knowledge of our pre
and post – colonial history till date. It was indeed
shocking to discover the knowledge gap in the
responses of the students . For example, many of
the students who are currently in the third year of
junior secondary and senior secondary levels lack
any knowledge of our contemporary history as
nation.
They hardly know how and when Nigeria came
into being. Apart from the cosmetic knowledge of
when Nigeria gained independence on October 1 ,
1960, the students displayed ignorance of the
independence struggles and the events leading to
the Civil War . The answers they provided did not
reflect rigour that organised learning based on
structured curriculum had taken place. Generally,
the responses reflected the emptiness of our
curriculum which has replaced the teaching of
history to topics from civic education and social
studies. Yet , these two subjects which replaced
history at the primary and secondary levels cannot
be the substitutes for the subject . Most Nigerian
students also lack the knowledge of global
historical developments and the place of Nigeria in
the global narrative . With the removal of history ,
we are breeding a lost generation of children who
lack depth and the inquisitiveness to ask the right
questions. We are producing a generation of
Nigerians who have no idea of historical
developments and their place in the society . More
worrisome is the role of the older generation and
parents who seem not to care about the
preservation of our history and cultural heritage as
reflected in the teaching of history and languages . I
have encountered Nigerian parents who do not
want their child to learn Nigerian languages . In
many schools today , the teaching of Nigerian
languages is optional. The mother tongue is
derisively labelled as vernacular.
Dear Sir , these anomalies are as a result of an
educational system that lacks national goals and
vision. What educational goals can a country who
prohibits the teaching of its own history hope to
achieve? What national ethos and values are we
teaching the new generation when they lack basic
knowledge of local and international history ? How
can policymakers sit by and watch the school
system destroyed as it is in Nigeria today? Why are
there different rules for private and public
schools? Why does the same rule not apply?
In private schools, students are being taught
British History , American History and even Chinese
and Spanish History while in our public schools,
the study of Nigerian History is removed from the
curriculum . The reason for the removal of history
as a subject of study cannot stand up to scrutiny
when the subject still forms an integral part of
curriculum in other serious countries. The British,
American and other education systems all over the
world make the study of history an important
course of study . Yet , in our country , the subject
was wiped off of the school system. The three
arguments for removing history lack merit : the
dearth of history teachers , lack of job for history
graduates and students apathy to the subject are
no valid reasons for removing the subject .
As an educator , I know history is still a favourite
subject among students even up to the
postgraduate level. Beyond the relevance of the
subject to future careers of students , its
importance for nation – building is critical for our
peaceful co- existence in a nation of many fault
lines . The study of history will foster national
cohesion and preserve our heritage . It could be the
answer to resolving many conflicts in the country .
Proper teaching and learning of history will raise a
generation of young people who appreciate our
recent history at leadership level while resolving
not to make the mistakes of the past .
According to the University of California
Department of History mission statement on the
teaching of history entitled , Significance of History
for the Educated Citizen, the document states “ In a
democratic society , knowledge of history is the
precondition of political intelligence. Without
history , a society shares no common memory of
where it has been , what its core values are , or
what decisions of the past account for present
circumstances . Without history , we cannot
undertake any sensible inquiry into the political,
social, or moral issues in society . And without
historical knowledge and inquiry, we cannot
achieve the informed, discriminating citizenship
essential to effective participation in the
democratic processes of governance and the
fulfilment for all our citizens of the nation ’s
democratic ideals.


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