Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State may have broken his silence on who will succeed him in office as he has vowed to throw his weight behind his son-in-law, Chief Uche Nwosu, if he (Nwosu) eventually declares his interest to contest the 2019 governorship election in the state. Governor Okorocha made the…
Nigeria appears to be troubled from all angles. The economy is in tatters. We are grappling with the incompetence of a bunch of power seekers who wanted power for its own sake. They are running a government that promised so much but is delivering so little. The government, certainly, is trying to learn. But it has not been humble enough to admit that it is amateur in every sense of the word. What we have, therefore, are ill-formulated economic plans that have continued to deepen our woes. Then, contrary to the oft-repeated assurances that Nigeria would soon get out of recession, the acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, has just told us that Nigeria would be out of recession in about 18 months from now. What this means, in strict terms, is that the country will remain in recession throughout the life of this administration. This is a crude advertisement of hopelessness.
The political terrain is equally as troubled. There are no political parties of note. The ruling party is weighed down by amateurism. Its key promoters, who were once opposition experts have been swallowed by the force of reality. They can no longer pontificate or split hairs over every issue on the surface of the earth, as they used to do. They have eaten their words. They are standing face to face with the cold, hard fact that it is easier said than done. Confronted with this harsh reality, the ruling party is running from pillar to post, in desperate search for the way forward. That explains why its offspring, the government of the day, is hopelessly scavenging in its own vomit.
Under the present order, national unity has come under serious threat. Separatist agitations have assumed a feverish dimension. Angry young men across the country have pulled the rug off the feet of pretentious elders. They want to put an end to the reign of deceit. They are repudiating the situation where Nigeria has been lying to itself. They are out to unearth Nigeria and present it in its stark reality, complete with all the dirty details. As they do this, those who have been telling us for some five decades that Nigeria is a potentially great country are squirming in discomfort. They are worried that the wall of myth they erected around Nigeria is about to be dismantled.
In the face of all this, the Nigeria Educational Research and Development Council (NERC) has decided to throw faggots into a blazing fire. In the bid to tinker with our educational curriculum, the council has stepped into a combustible terrain. It is stoking religious tempers with the introduction of the subject called Religion and National Values in our secondary school curriculum. This new subject, we are told, is an omnibus amalgam of Christian Religious Knowledge, Islamic Religious Knowledge, Civic Education, Social Studies and Security Education.
In a country where mutual suspicion is high, Christian leaders are suspicious of the intentions of government in this matter. The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is up in arms against this new curriculum. In a protest letter to NERC and to the National Assembly, the Christian body noted as follows: “The curriculum in all its ramifications as it concerns Christian Religious Studies is obnoxious, offensive and provocative” in that it combines five distinctive subjects and by so doing sacrifices depth and details, which are basic ingredients in learning on the altar of exigency of concision. But much more worrisome to CAN is the observed contents of the curriculum and its approved text books, which impudently denigrate the personality of the founder of the Christian faith. CAN notes that “the foundation truth of the Christian faith, such as death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is denied and denial is meant to be inculcated in the innocent minors. As if this obnoxious damage is not enough, the subject is made compulsory whereby a student must do either of the two religions, as component parts of the whole subject if he or she must pass the subject in national examination. We note that this compulsion is happening in a situation where states Ministries of Education are willy nilly not hiring teachers of a particular religion they are not favourably disposed to. The result is that the students are being forced to do the available contrary to their faith.”
The Christian body is also worried that Arabic Studies, which is the language of Islam, is made to stand alone as a subject while collapsing subjects that have, over the years, been separate fields of study. The fear in Christian circles is that this is a ploy to impose Arabic language on Christian students, particularly those in northern Nigeria where Islam is dominant with the ultimate aim of converting them to Islam. All these modifications in our educational curricula are contained in the revised nine-year Basic Education Certificate.
This is the crux of the matter. Why has the NERC under the leadership of Prof. Ismaila Junaidu chosen to swim in troubled waters? Why is it that certain entrenched interests are always intent on driving Nigeria through the path of damnation? The fears and concerns of CAN in this matter are noteworthy. They cannot be swept under the carpet in a secular country such as ours. Those who contemplated the merger of these subjects and went ahead to implement the policy are troublemakers. They are not sensitive to testy national issues that have always put Nigeria on edge. But since Prof. Junaidu, the Executive Secretary of NERC, has said that the document, detailing these changes provides for amendments where necessary, he should see the urgent need to return to the status quo in order for him and his council not to open another Pandora’s box. Nigeria is already fighting on a number of war fronts. NERC should not increase the tally by opening another one in the education sector.
Apart from the religious concerns, which CAN has expressed, we should also worry about the overzealousness of some of our policy makers. What can be said to be the merit of this so called nine-year Basic Education Certificate programme? I do not see any. Those who formulated it did so in order to give the impression that they were thinking. The research fellows at the NERC, it would seem, keep tinkering with our educational system so as to give us the impression that they are working. From time to time, they come up with changes that have not in any way improved teaching and learning in our schools.
Nigerians of my generation spent five years in secondary school. We passed our examinations and stepped up to higher realms to face our society. Then suddenly, they modified the system. Today, secondary education in Nigeria lasts for six years. And you ask: To what end? Is there anything, which the six-year programme is teaching that we did not learn in five years? Hardly. If anything, the present system is believed to be deficient giving the quality of people we churn out from our schools at these levels.
As for national values, I dare say that there is nothing about it that we were not taught in Civics, as it was then called. All the talk about national values, as a component of a new curriculum is merely cosmetic. It has nothing new to offer. In any case, who are those that want to tutor students on national values? What are these values? And to what extent have the authorities made them an article of faith so that the younger ones will come to appreciate them when they are taught in schools? You cannot build on nothing. There has to be a foundation on which this curriculum will stand.
I think that the researchers and educational planners at NERC should apply themselves more creatively. They should not be foisting unnecessary changes in the system in order to be seen to be working. Those who have nothing innovative to offer should leave our educational system the way they are.