Teaching History in Schools as Part of our National Development By Lanre Olagunju
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 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 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.
Lanre Olagunju is an hydrologist turned freelance journalist and blogger, he is an alumnus of the American College of Journalism. He is @Lanre_Olagunju on Twitter.