When I was in primary school I could remember History was a subject of study in senior secondary school. I knew this because sometimes I go to the school where my mom worked and I see students receiving their History lessons. I didn’t know what the subject was called then but I never liked the fact that someone had to memorise dates and names. It was until my second year in secondary school that I understood what History stood for and why there is a need to learn names and dates alongside the stories. But I was happy that the subject is optional, even for arts students like me. By the time I was in SS 1, History no longer existed in my school. The reason for this is unknown to me as of date. But was I happy that I didn’t meet the subject? The answer is a capital YES.
Well, that happiness has turned sour because I have realised what I’d lost. The first time I missed not studying History was when I saw a book on Nigerian historical happenings (such as the Oyo Empire and their wars) during my pre-NYSC days. I devoured the contents of the book (even though I avoided names and dates) and kept looking for more. I became interested in knowing who I really am as a Nigerian and where I stood in the historical development of the country, and the world at large. Well, let’s just say that everything I could gather since then comes in bits and pieces, some of which I couldn’t vouch for because I don’t know how objective the contents are.
As mentioned earlier, no one can truly tell why History was scrapped off Nigerian school curriculum. We only hear of reasons such as that History adds no value to economic and technological developments or that those that scrapped it off have things to hide. But, as we will find out later, History is one subject that will ensure the growth and development of any society; so it is wrong if it was truly trashed for that reason.
While I was searching for articles that will explain why History was removed from the school curriculum, I came across a news article in Vanguard Newspaper dated March 27, 2018, which reports that History has been reintroduced into the school curriculum. This report states that History is “buried under Social Studies curriculum”. This is a welcomed idea even though the curriculum review is yet to be put into effect. Alternatively, it could be that the inclusion is too insignificant for it to be noticed. But then, why should History be “buried” under Social Studies when it can stand as a subject of its own or be placed as one of the subjects under Religious and National Value (RNV)?
The fact that History is being hidden in Social Studies shows that its importance isn’t known. To start with, the existence of that subject gives people the opportunity of learning from the mistakes of others. By so doing, certain mistakes will be avoided in the present and in the future. This is one way History helps nations and individuals to grow and develop. But as we can see, the absence of History is taking its toll on Nigerian’s economy.
History helps people to understand the cycle of life. For instance, a little peek into the past reveals that things, such as fashion, reappear after some times. Another good example here is the present pandemic. History shows that coronavirus and other plagues have been attacking the world. The most important thing that would have been learnt concerning these ailments is that lack of vaccine, modern medicines and health inventions (such as ventilators and medical diagnosis) led to the death of many in the past. But here we are, hearing different forms of conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19 and its vaccine all because we didn’t learn from the past.
History encourages patriotism. Sometimes what we know about our country are things we heard from unverifiable quarters. But then knowing the true history of Nigeria will make you want to protect the country. It will be hard for someone that knows what it took some Nigerian elites to secure Nigerian independence to do things that will jeopardise the country’s reputation or cause its disintegration. But we hear a lot of varying accounts from different quarters and we get more confused than we were supposed to. Believe me, if History is not reintroduced in full force in the nearest future, the present younger generation will grow up to hate this country.
As I implied earlier, History can help people to find their identity. Of course there are several myths and legends surrounding the origin of communities and tribes, but most of them are not recorded. However, the ones that were recorded are there to help with providing answers to certain questions concerning the origin of towns, villages and communities. A good example is the presence of two or more different communities or tribes that bear the same name and speak almost the same dialect or language, even though they are located in different parts of the country. The reason for this could be migration in the past, but most of these stories are lost because the people that knew them have died off or are dying off with their secrets.
We cannot continue mentioning the importance of History as a subject of study because they are too numerous to be recounted. The only thing that needs to be done right now is that the people concerned should reintroduce the subject into the system as soon as possible. If memorising dates and names will be the issue (as it is for people like me), I will suggest that the curriculum concentrate more on the stories and then give reasons why they happened and their effects. As for the classes that should be taught History, I will suggest that it starts from Primary 1 (that is Lower Basic 1). That way, people will know every important thing that has happened in the past before they finish secondary school.