By Chukwudi Nweje The Nigerian Third Force Movement has rolled out its action plan for the 2019 general elections. Prominent members of the group include former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Charles Soludo, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba, Tafawa Balewa, and Prof. Pat Utomi….
• Deconstructing the CRK, IRK apprehension inside the controversial new school curriculum
• Why Oyo is not making the teaching of Arabic compulsory like Kwara did –Prof. Olowofela, Education Commissioner
• Merging CRK, IRK and Civics is totally unacceptable to us – CAN President
• No need to quarrel, document provides room for making amends where necessary – Prof. Junaidu, Exec. Sec. NERDC
From Fred Ezeh, Abuja, and Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
The mutual suspicion between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria assumed a new dimension recently when President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) drew attention to what he described as “time bomb” buried in the revised 9-year Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) new national curriculum released by the National Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC).
Frowning at the alleged ‘merging’ of Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK), Islamic Religious Knowledge (IRK) and Civics under a new subject grouping called Religion and National Values, Ayokunle, who is also the National President of Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC), warned that such merger is capable of setting the country on fire because of the fundamental differences that exist in the tenets of the two major religions.
He accused President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government of trying to islamize Nigeria through the “backdoor,” via the new curriculum.
The observation attracted nationwide criticisms from church leaders and other Nigerians. Soon it spread like wild fire across Nigeria, generating, in the process, an unprecedented traffic and discussion in both social and mainstream media.
CAN had queried why the NERDC should allow Arabic language which is the language of Islam to be a stand-alone subject while collapsing CRK into what the education authorities tagged Religion and National Values.
Officials and members argued that the move was deliberately orchestrated to impose Arabic language on Christian students particularly those in Muslim-dominated northern states, with the view of gradually converting them to Islam.
The umbrella body of Christians in Nigeria cited example with Kwara and some other Muslim-dominated states in the north which have begun to implement the guidelines released for the 2017 Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) which allegedly made Arabic language a compulsory subject for all students irrespective of their faith. CAN also alleged that provision was not made for CRK students in the ongoing 2017 BECE in Kwara which began on July 1 and will end on 13th July, 2017.
Area of contention
Despite several explanations by the government, CAN and some other Nigerians insist that the revised 9-year BEC document which came into effect in 2012 is a time-bomb that should be defused before it explodes and kills or maims many people.
“All the clauses in that curriculum, which is antagonistic to the tenets of another major religion should never appear in the national curriculum,” Ayokunle said while addressing pastors recently at the South West Regional Conference 2017 organised by the Fuel the Fire Ministers’ Network (Covenant Alliance). “It will not do us any good. This is what we are telling the government, that curriculum must be repealed….it is an ill-wind that blows no one any good.”
Speaking further in an interview with journalists, he added that, “if we are going to continue this pilgrimage together as a nation, there must be fair play, justice and mutual respect for one another. We therefore demand for justice from the government on this matter very quickly. We are resisting with everything within us the attempt to merge Christianity, Islamic studies, civil education and call it Religion and National Values.”
The man who spoke at length, called for “immediate return” to the former curriculum, arguing that “it was the students that came from a school system where morning devotion were abolished that are behind the insurgency and kidnappings that are currently denying peace in Nigeria now.”
He clarified his position: “Those of us who passed through the former system where we all did devotion in the morning and in the afternoon lived together peacefully irrespective of our religions. So we maintain our position that government must stop the implementation of this new curriculum because it did not come out of a forward-looking researchers but backward ones. A stitch in time saves nine. We also caution the Federal Government against the use of propaganda in addressing this sensitive issue because the unity of the country is at stake. We are not crying wolves where none exists.”
In his response to the heated debate, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, insisted that the allegation of alteration in the BEC to favour certain faith or interest was totally untrue. He said that the unnecessary distraction was the handiwork of some mischief-makers who were bent on fueling religious and ethnic crisis.
“There was no truth in the allegation at all,” he said. “It was just somebody’s imagination, perhaps to raise tension in the country after the Biafra issue and the quit order given by Arewa youths on people from certain parts of the country. So the person just took advantage of situation to fan the embers of religion. Disregard the information because there was no truth whatsoever in it. I repeat, no truth in it.”
Dissatisfied with the Minister’s explanation, Dr. Ayokunle issued a statement insisting that the implementation of the revised BEC document in which IRK and CRK would no longer be studied as separate and distinct subjects on their own but as themes in civic education is “totally unacceptable.” He expressed his belief that it would undermine the sound moral values that the two subjects had hitherto imparted in children and which has helped in enhancing religious and ethnic co-existence in the country.
The making of the new curriculum
To better understand the contending issues involved, our correspondent decided to visit the headquarters of NERDC in Sheda, Abuja.
NERDC, a parastatal under the Federal Ministry of Education has the mandate to develop school curricula for all levels of the education system in Nigeria. Federal Government adopted a 9-year UBE programme in 2006 and NERDC was mandated to develop the curriculum that would meet the ideals of the UBE programme.
The major aim of the curriculum is to ensure that learners, having successfully completed the six years of primary education and three years of junior secondary school should have acquired basic numeracy, literacy and life-long skills.
They are also expected to acquire basic skills in science, technology, information technology, rudiment of creative thinking and to develop the foundation for technical, vocational and entrepreneurship culture. In addition, they are expected to imbibe high moral values and positive ethical standards.
The new document also accommodated the fundamentals of both the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategies (NEEDS) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The implementation began in September 2008 with Primary 1 and JSS 1 classes.
But in the course of it, there were barrage of complaints that the curriculum was overloaded in terms of the number of subjects being taught in schools. There was also the issue of incorporating new changes that are relevant in the 21st century technology-driven world.
To this end, the Federal Government organized a Presidential Summit on education held in October 2010. The summit which had representatives from across Nigeria and other major stakeholders highlighted some observations to the federal government. Directives were given to the Federal Ministry of Education through NERDC to review the entire BEC document, in line with the Presidential Task Team report. They were also asked to take into cognizance international best practices and global competitiveness, without compromising the quality of the school curriculum.
The process of curriculum review, The Sun Education learnt, involved wider consultation with relevant stakeholders particularly curriculum experts, subject matter specialists, teachers, policy makers, employers of labour and parents helping with the preparation of the conceptual framework for the review of the BEC document.
The rigorous but transparent process culminated in the production of the revised 9-year Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) which was collectively endorsed by members of National Council on Education (NCE) which is the highest decision-making body for education sector in Nigeria.
The NCE is made up of education commissioners from the 36 states of Nigeria and the Executive Secretary of FCT Education Secretariat with the Minister of Education as chairman. They were the ones that unanimously reviewed and endorsed the document in 2012 for use in schools.
The then Ministers of Education, Ruqayyatu Rufa’i and Nyesom Wike, and then Executive Secretary of NERDC, Prof. Godswill Obioma also endorsed the use of the curricula beginning from September 2012.
Inside the new curriculum
The revised BEC document for Religion and National Values for primaries 1-3, 4-6 and JSS 1-3 which became issue of disagreement were, alongside the Teacher’s Guides, exclusively obtained by The Sun Education.
The teachers’ guide for the various subjects of the revised curriculum was a document developed by NERDC to assist and guide the teachers on how best to prepare their scheme of work and to also deliver same effectively to their students.
It also addresses subject specific issues that are pertinent to quality education delivery such as syllables development, lesson plans, teaching of difficult concepts, resources for teaching, classroom management and assessment of learning, amongst others.
A careful study of the curriculum document reveals that the subjects hitherto contained in the old BEC curriculum were carefully realigned and regrouped according to their similarities.
The NERDC Executive Secretary, Prof. Ismail Junaidu, who spoke to our correspondent in Abuja explained that the idea was to achieve a reduction in subject overloads on students with regard to the number of subjects being taught in primary and junior secondary schools.
Like Adamu did, he described as untrue the allegations made by CAN that the outcome of the review process was deliberately orchestrated to fulfill a so-called secret plot to islamize Nigeria through the “backdoor”.
While summarizing the adjustments made in the curriculum, Prof. Junaidu explained that related UBE subjects curricula like home economics, agriculture were merged to create a UBE umbrella subject called pre-vocational studies. Civic education which focuses on the inculcation of values (societal, moral, interpersonal) was collapsed to form Religion and National Values.
Primary 1-3 students are expected to take six compulsory subjects and one optional subject. The compulsory subjects are: English Language, one Nigerian language, Mathematics, Basic Science and Technology (which comprises Basic Science, Technology, Information Technology, and Physical and Health Education) Religion and National Values (which comprises CRK, IRK, Social Studies, Civics and Security Education), Cultural and Creative Art and Arabic (which is optional, contrary to CAN’s allegation and the rumour making the rounds).
The list of subjects are for Primary 4-6 classes but with the addition of pre-vocational studies (which comprises home economics and agriculture). French language and Arabic are also added but the curriculum documents highlighted that the Arabic language must be OPTIONAL for students.
Prof. Junaidu clarified that subjects like IRK, CRK, home economics that are placed under pre-vocational, religion and national values are still taught distinctly within their alloted periods, contrary to claims that they have been collapsed into one. But the essence of the adjustment is to reduce the burden on students.
“Come to think of it, how possible could it be to islamise the country using the documents,” Junaidu rhetorically asked. “Remember that the document was reviewed and unanimously endorsed by Commissioners of Education across Nigeria. And you don’t expect an Education Commissioner from Imo, Anambra, Enugu or such other states with his or her right senses to endorse such document, neither do you expect the then Minister of State for Education, Nyesom Wike and then President, Goodluck Jonathan, to endorse the document knowing fully well the implications. Nigeria is a secular and not an islamic state.”
Oyo State was part of the National Council on Education (NCE), that, in 2012, ratified the new curriculum, Prof. Adeniyi Olowofela, the Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, told our correspondent.
“Before the new curriculum, students in secondary school used to offer up to 14 subjects, whereas a student would only be allowed to register eight or nine subjects for the senior secondary school certification exams,” he said. “Now under the new curriculum, a student can only offer nine subjects and a maximum of 10. Under the Religion and National Values, CRK and IRK are taught separately, and each student will choose one of the two. Arabic is not a compulsory subject in the new curriculum. It is optional. It is grouped under language studies, the way we have French Language. Since Arabic and French were not made compulsory, none of the subjects hitherto taught in schools was removed from the curriculum. So Oyo State has been implementing what is in the curriculum.”
The NERDC Executive Secretary, Prof. Junaidu, added that while states have the exclusive right to introduce whatever subject they deem important, the BEC document is a dynamic and open document meant to undergo periodic review in accordance with changing needs, challenges and aspirations of the society.
consider relevant for the good and development of its people. But they must first teach the content of the NPE approved BEC curriculum.
“Arabic is the language of Islam,” he explained. “The Islamic Holy Books were written in Arabic. Teaching is mostly done in Arabic. So, whoever that must study and understand Islam must be conversant with Arabic. That was the reason Arabic was made optional, not compulsory, in the education curriculum. That might also be the reason some states chose to introduce it in their schools.
“There are lot of misinformation, sentiments, misinterpretation and suspicion out there. Mischief-makers have also hatched onto the situation to continue to deceive people and to raise unnecessary tension. But that shouldn’t be the case because the curriculum was well researched and endorsed by NPE.”