It is not an overstatement to say that Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom in his description of the removal of history as a subject from secondary and primary school curriculum by the federal government as evil, has aptly and unmistakably hit the bullseye.
The governor described the removal of the subject as such while speaking on Friday, May 14, 2021, in Makurdi, the state capital, and assured that Benue State will legislate a solution for the teaching of history even if it is for internal consumption of knowledge about how the people of the state came to occupy what is today called Benue.
He said, “Removing history from our curriculum is an evil agenda. So, in our schools here even if we do it and it is not accepted for examinations to be conducted at the level of SSCE, let’s do Mock Exams, this will be within us. Because we must know our history, we must know how we came here.
He added, “We must know when we sojourned here and know people that came to join us. We must know what happened in 1800. All these are very important. If we don’t do it, we have failed as a generation and posterity will not forgive us,” and in the same vein instructed that vernacular should be taught in Benue schools beginning from next academic session – September 2021 along with History as core subjects.
He explained that the removal of history studies from primary and secondary schools curriculum became effective from the 2009/2010 academic session with the Federal Government launching a new curriculum known as the New Basic Education Curriculum for primary and junior secondary schools.
As gathered, Ortom’s call did not go down well with some spectrum of his critics who described the reasons given by the governor for the need to reintroduce the subject as mere excuses.
To those that are opposed to his view, one cannot blame them as their challenge with history cannot be farfetched. As commonly known, history is a subject that many find boring to study as it requires a lot of reading and cramming to pass in examination. Against the foregoing backdrop, it is not in any way a surprise that most people see the subject as a waste of time. But there is more to studying history than meets the eye.
It is not an exaggeration to say that there is no auspicious time for the subject to be reintroduced in secondary and primary school curriculums than now that some ethnic groups do not know their relationships with other tribes any longer. Some ethnic groups do not even know their boundaries with others any longer so much so that they now herd their cows into the farmlands of others; ignorantly or erroneously thinking that ethnic composition of Nigeria is identical.
History is important to study because it is essential for all of us in understanding ourselves and the world around us. There is a history of community across the country as no one fell from the sky. There is no denying the fact that to know and understand history is absolutely necessary, even though the results of historical study in some cases are interpreted from different perspectives by historians.
History gives us a very clear picture of how the various aspects of society, such as technology, governmental systems, and even society as a whole, worked in the past so we understand how it came to work the way it is now.
We all are no doubt living in the present and we plan for the future, but how do we understand where we are going and what progress looks like? To know exactly where we are going, there is an urgent need to understand where we have variously come from to congregate as Nigerians.
Through history, we can learn how past societies, systems, ideologies, governments, cultures and technologies were built, how they operated, and how they have changed. It is not an exaggeration to say that the rich history of Nigeria will help us to paint a detailed picture of where we stand today.
Developing knowledge of history means developing one’s knowledge of all different aspects of life even as children can learn about the pillars upon which different civilizations were built, including cultures and people different from their own. There is no denying the fact that all this knowledge will make them more rounded people who will be better prepared to learn in all their academic subjects.
In all modesty, permit me to sound personal at this juncture by recalling that throughout my secondary school days at Oghada Grammar School, and later Uhi Grammar School in the defunct Bendel State that I was taught topics in West African History that cut across Oyo Empire, Ghana Empire, Songhai Empire and Mali Empire among other notable empire in West Africa. Further study of the subject in secondary school exposed me to historiography and historical skills, trans-Saharan trade, including origins, organization and effects in the development of West Africa. Islam in West Africa was taught with emphasis on its introduction, spread and effects. Other topics were European contact with West Africa, trans-Atlantic slave trade, Christian missionary activities in West Africa and scramble for and partition of West Africa. In the same vein, topics such as colonial rule in West Africa, problems of Independent West African States, West Africa and International Organizations, women and authority in West African history and the environment in West African history were studied. The study of history back in the secondary school unarguably inspired some us that we resorted to bearing pseudonyms like “Mansa Musa”, “Marijata”, “Osei Tutu” among other names.
Without recourse to self-adulation in this context, it is expedient to share my experience that history as a subject helped me to become a better informed citizen that I am today. History has continued to show me who we are as a collective group of people that congregate in a geographical expanse of land called Nigeria, and being informed of this has been a key element to the development of my political worldview, and has in no small measure been of help to me in my job as a Journalist. The knowledge has no doubt been of help to me in taking active role in political forum through educated debates and by refining my core beliefs.
It is expedient to note at this juncture that the need to reintroduce history as a subject to the curriculum of both primary and secondary schools cannot be farfetched as through the knowledge that is inherent in it, most Nigerians can change their old belief systems, particularly about tribes or ethnic groups.
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