Nigerian Students Are Losing Sense Of History

Obafemi AwolowoIF only the late nationalist, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his contemporaries could see from their graves what Nigerian educationists and curriculum designers have done to their historical achievements in Nigeria, they would weep.

To say the least, educationists have bastardised their historical worth. The result? Nigerian students and some graduates are now having a poor sense of history of the men who literarily ‘sacrificed’ their lives for Nigeria’s independence. To say it in a lay man’s language, secondary school students, know matter what class they belong in academic ranking, do not know Awolowo (Awo), Ahmadu Bello, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe (Zik), Herbert Macaulay, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Samuel Ladoke Akintola, Dennis Osadebay among other heroes of the nation.

For example, when a number of primary school pupils, secondary school students and graduates spoke with The Guardian on their knowledge of the late sage, Awolowo, they inadvertently revealed that Nigeria is in a great danger of historical deprivation.
If you think that such loss is confined to students in public schools alone, you will be shocked to know that even students in private schools are also suffering from such historical ignorance.

The Guardian learnt that history is no longer taught in schools as it has been systematically removed from, or suppressed in the nation’s curricula. As a result, students are ignorant of who their progenitors are.

Although they have heard of Awolowo, the students failed to hazard a guess on his historical significance.
Awolowo, a nationalist and statesman who played a key role in Nigeria’s independence, was the first Premier of the defunct Western Region. Awolowo, who transformed the Western Region, was also a Federal Commissioner for Finance and Vice President of the Federal Executive Council during Nigeria’s Civil War. He was a major contender for Nigeria’s highest office and founder of Action Group (AG), a strong opposition political party at Nigeria’s independence.

Balewa, Nigeria’s Prime Minister at independence, was Minister of Works in 1952 and later Minister of Transport. He was a prominent leader of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), Nigeria’s formidable political party at independence.

Azikiwe, the founder of the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC), which became increasingly identified with the Igbo people after 1951, was the first president of independent Nigeria.

A Senior Secondary School (SSS) I student of Surulere Girls’ Secondary School, Lagos and who gave her name as Miss Timothy Angela told The Guardian that she did not know the place of Awolowo in Nigeria’s history. “I do not know Awolowo. Our teachers have not taught us who he is. But I have heard people calling ‘Awo’. I don’t offer history,” she told The Guardian.

Another senior secondary school student of Isolo High School, Lagos who gave his name as Anthony Anjorin, at best could only pronounce the name Awolowo. “Obafemi Awolowo?” he asked as if he had never heard of the name. When prompted to continue the conversation, he dashed the hope, which his teenage face once radiated. “I don’t know him,” he said, and quickly added “but the name is familiar.”

When asked to describe the context where he knew the name, Anjorin goofed when he explained that Awolowo was “one time Nigerian Prime Minister.” He went on to justify his ignorance and declared, “I know Zik. Although we were not taught about him in school, I have read about him.” Before you go on jubilating, hear his description of the man some Nigerians adore. “Nnamdi Azikwe was the first Nigerian Prime Minister,” Anjorin declared.

Even Toyosi Ajenifuja, a Junior Secondary School (JSS) 2 student of Command Day Secondary School (private school) did not outshine his peers.“Although our teachers do not teach us history, I have heard of the name Awolowo. Our teachers never really told us who he his or was, but they do cite him as an example of holy people. So, even though I know the name Awolowo, I do not really know who he was,” she said.

An early childhood teacher at a private school in Ketu, Lagos is supposed to have been different from the pupils she teaches. But it was a disappointment when the student of the College of Education, Akoka, Lagos, blatantly told The Guardian that she did not know who Awolowo was.

A Chemistry graduate of the Delta State University (DELSU), Delta State, Miss Kome Uroko, who is awaiting her orientation in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) in Lagos, added to the history shocked when she stated that Awolowo was the “first President of Nigeria”. Another student seeking admission into the university in Lagos, Kelly Edoh, described “Awolowo as a former Prime Minister of Western Region Protectorate.”

If you think the scenario is peculiar to Lagos, a visit to Ogun State would convince you that the historical ignorance is a nationwide phoneomon.

A JSS3 student of Nawairudeen Grammar School, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Soetan Ayomide, said money, rather than academic history, reminds him that some nationalists once walked the soil of Nigeria. “All I know about Azikiwe and Awolowo is that their names and pictures are used in the Nigerian currency,” he said.

Miss Soetan Oyindamola, SSS3 student of Asero High School, Abeokuta, Ogun State, simply described “Awolowo as a philanthropist”, adding, “I do not know anything about when he was born or when he died.”

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