Noxious rumours that pointedly altered the educational system in favour of a religion have for some time held the country hostage leading to accusations, counter-accusations and rebuttals from various quarters. The buzz as impishly created by unnamed folks broadcasted on various medias that Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) which teaches Christian faith and morals was removed from primary school education curriculum by the present administration as a plot towards ‘Islamizing’ the country.
Ditto on History which elites viewed as misadventures putting into account the unceasing aggressions and hate speeches from virtually all the ethnic groups in the country in recent times. Each group with its styled rabble-rousing, incendiaries and threats. From southeast; cessation for Biafra. From Arewa; quit notice to the Igbos. From Niger-Delta; resource control, and from Southwest; Igbo’s absolute compliance or the lagoon option. Incidentally, almost all the arrowheads are the post-civil war populations. Few witnessed the war and its effects, thus fictional commandos. History as widely believed gives a clue of the past including the good and the bad, but lacking. Sadly, the neophytes never knew that people guzzled raw cassava, raw meat and anything closely for survival as a result of war. They owlishly misconstrue wars as Nollywood-Bollywood orchestrated fights; probably their only horror encounters.
Some leaders from Christendom, on account of the perceived quagmire on Christian Religious Knowledge have unremittingly raised alarms, especially the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) calling on the Federal Ministry of Education to reverse to hitherto position or be ready to meet at the court. The stories, indicated the alleged act was to forcefully make all children in primary and secondary school become Muslims against their wishes and that of their parents. The allegation implied that since only Islamic Religious Studies remains as a religious subject, all children have been tactfully programmed to become Muslims against their wishes.
Evidently, the 9-year Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) which grouped the five subjects including Christian Religious Studies and Islamic Religious Studies under the umbrella of Religion and National Values (RNV) BEC was introduced into the nation’s education system by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration in 2008 and commenced implementation afterwards. Its prominent characteristics include providing remedy to the UBE Act, 2004 for universal access and continuous basic education in Nigeria; attain the lofty values of social and economic development and reconstruction enshrined in the MDGs, NEEDS, SDGs and other global and domestic initiatives.
However, owing to massive outcry over immoderation of subjects, the scheme was judiciously rearranged by Goodluck Jonathan’s administration in 2012 by the then Minister of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i and Minister of State for Education, Barr. Nyesom Wike, now Rivers state governor, alongside Professor Godswill Obioma as the then Executive Secretary, Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC). In 2014, the successive minister, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau with the Minister of State, Professor (Mrs.) Viola Adaku Onwuliri retained it as evident in the National Policy on Education, 6th edition (2014) for basic education (primary 1 to junior secondary 3) at page 10 – 13.
From records, the present administration adopted the scheme in continuity with a mere proposal by the present Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu in 2016 which merely disarticulated History from Social Studies to stand distinctively as two subjects. The necessity to separate History from Social Studies by the Minister was to engage children separately in Social Studies and History rather than the shallow knowledge that merely recites names of Nigeria’s presidents, public officeholders as strategic panacea over current hurly-burlies.
The essence of grouping is to compressively and neatly arrange the subjects. What is paramount is that the learners are expected to do well in all. Christian Religious Studies is sacrosanct for Christian pupils, and to Muslims; Islamic Religious Studies. It is bizarre playing politics with children and religion. Nobody has done it, and nobody ever conceived doing it.
The French alleged to be elective with the ‘Islamic Arabic studies’; alien to the curriculum, is a compulsory subject from Primary 4 as provided in Section 2 (23) 7 at page 13 of the National Policy on Education. Besides, Arabic remains optional since 2008, and exclusively for those willing to have knowledge of the language.
As a secured policy, the 9-year BEC emphatically provides, “no child should be coerced or compelled to learn or taught any religious studies curriculum in school but one out of the two that restrictively relates to the belief system professed by the child and his/her parents”. As it stands, no child is however, under any compulsion to offer a religious studies against the parents’ religion in public schools. Of course, if in private schools, the proprietors may call the shot on religious studies in line with ‘volenti non fit injuria’ (to a willing person, no harm is done), and then Parents-Teachers Association (PTA). Nonetheless, government cannot force a privately-owned missionary school to teach the doctrines of other religion.
Overall, who are the gainers and losers? Of course, the children and the society and no losers at all. The children will face more subjects compressed under the grouping. By assembling four subjects under a group, the alarm ought to emanate from pupils and not adults except where the workload is glaringly affecting the children. Under the arrangement, to pass all RNV subjects, a pupil will have to perform well in four subjects under it. On the economy, the scheme opened-up opportunity for the kick-start deployment of 250,000 graduate-teachers in phases. None bothered to figure out where these new teachers will be posted knowing that no new public schools is built anywhere in the country. Federal government perspicaciously utilized the BEC to create jobs and at the same time impacting positively on the children. Thus, the brouhaha or hullaballoo is uncalled for. Criticisms can only be constructive and resourceful after critical investigations. Let’s eschew politics with religion.
Umegboro is a public affairs analyst and social crusader.
CARL UMEGBORO, ESQ., LL.B (Hons), ACIArb
Public Affairs Analyst/Publisher