A Country as Heterogeneous as Nigeria Cannot Survive Without the Introduction of Citizenship Education in the School Curriculum

A COUNTRY AS HETEROGENEOUS AS NIGERIA CANNOT SURVIVE WITHOUT THE INTRODUCTION OF CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION IN THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM

INTRODUCTION

When an individual receives education that crates his or her awareness towards the state’s diverse problems, he or she will be able to function and properly play the role in a dynamic society of ours – Nigeria; that education is citizenship education. With this education, members of the society are equipped to grab the knowledge not only of the state but to be aware of the duties and obligations to the state, their rights and expectations from the state. They will also be able to totally conform to the accepted ways of life of the people. With citizenship education there will be full compliance with the rules and regulations and total allegiance to the state, not necessarily asking frequently what the state or federal government will do for them. To be able to do this, acquisition of citizenship education will be compulsory for all and sundry in the society (Nkang, 2007).

However, Citizenship Education has featured prominently on socio-political milieu and educational agendas in Nigeria in recent years.  Since 2002 Citizenship has been a statutory, core subject in the National Curriculum for maintained secondary schools in the country.  Whilst there are few who can doubt the value of educating young people about the responsibilities of citizenship; concerns related to the introduction of citizenship are emerging. Some citizens described the new programme of study for citizenship as “light touch” (QCA, 2001), meaning that its implementation would be necessarily flexible for teachers.  But, despite the flexibility proposed in the implementation of the Citizenship curriculum, there is research which suggests that some schools are experiencing difficulty with the assessment of the subject.  Consequently, attitudes towards students’ achievements in citizenship education deserve some further investigation.

Citizenship education is concerned about what it takes to be a citizen of a country, the person’s responsibilities in the society, limitations and the fundamental rights that he or she is supposed to enjoy as is contained in the constitution (Lar, 1999). Citizenship emphasizes how to prepare the individuals for social responsibility which will enable them to live a useful life in the society that they may find themselves in the future (Enem, 2007). Citizenship education can be viewed as the type of education that is concerned about character molding and development of good behaviour by the citizens for the positive contribution in the development of their society. To Okam (1998), “Citizenship education has to do with leading the individual to find excitement and motivation in the process of social living.” Citizenship education is about the production of citizens who are aware of the human and political issues at stake in their country or nation and “also aware of the inconsistencies in human ideals and their actual behaviour” (Okam, 1998). On the whole, citizenship education is a veritable tool through which political socialization is acquired by the citizens. Political socialization means the way in which political values are acquired and how the political culture is transmitted from one generation to another.

DEFINITION OF CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION

There is no universally accepted meaning of citizenship education. Many scholars defined citizenship education according to their own understanding and problems of their various countries. Thus, Dave (2006) sees citizenship education as developing the young people who understand their rights and responsibilities to play active part in the society. UNESCO (2009) asserts that citizenship education enables people to develop the knowledge, values and skills to participate in decision about the way things are done individual and collectively, both locally and globally that will improve the quality of life without damaging the planet for future.

In order to secure the future of a society, citizens must train younger generations in civic engagement and participation. Citizenship education is education that provides the background knowledge necessary to create an ongoing stream of new citizens participating and engaging with the creation of a civilized society. For some students entering into a different society, citizenship education is much more rigorous than the education provided to native residents.

For example, immigrants who hope to become legal citizens must learn a lot about the policies, history, and governmental structure of the country they hope to live in. Students who are already citizens often know very little about their own country compared to those who hope to move there.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION

A consideration of the issues surrounding the teaching of controversial issues serves only to underline the importance of good citizenship education from an early age. If children become accustomed to discussing their differences in a rational way in the primary years, they are more likely to accept it as normal in their adolescence.

Citizenship education helps to equip young people to deal with situations of conflict and controversy knowledgeably and tolerantly. It helps to equip them to understand the consequences of their actions, and those of the adults around them. Pupils learn how to recognize bias, evaluate argument, weigh evidence, look for alternative interpretations, viewpoints and sources of evidence – to give good reasons for the things they say and do, and to expect good reasons to be given by others.

RELEVANCE OF CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION IN NIGERIAN SCHOOL CURRICULUM

When Nigeria was being underdeveloped through the European expansionism of the 19th century, kingdoms, chiefdoms, empires, caliphates states, cultures, languages etc. that hitherto were culturally and firmly established, became disrupted. A new kind of political and social system introduced. The Nigerian Nation – State and its citizens now see the nation as a nation full of diverse cultures, diverse ethnic groups. Nigerian Gofwen (2004) don’t even liked or agree in this forced unity of the country because they still and believe in their former groups of kingdoms and empires; and they wanted it to be so.

Nigeria enjoyed, since 1914 amalgamation a robust economy, giant size and intimidating cultural image among others. As one witness an upsurge of education and great awareness from it, the same nation now saw according to Yusuf (2005) a nation at cross roads with wide spread of inter-religious crises, intra ethnic violence. Agborna, Yusuf, Jekayinfa and Saliu (2001) also observed the widespread of indiscipline, ethnic suspicion and distrust among various groups. There is corruption, loss of value, negative attitudes to national issues, lack of patriotism; others are Niger Delta crises, the North-South dichotomy syndrome, Boko Haram problem, kidnapping, cattle rustling problem, pipeline vandalization among others.

Amidst all these problems Omo-Ojugo (2009) assures that the teaching of citizenship education is necessary in the country because if fosters, the spirit of nationalism rather than ethnocentricism and individualistic tendencies. Also Agi (1999) affirms that the teaching of citizenship education in Nigerian schools will create in the citizens the awareness to discourage divisions and antagonism and to promote links that unite Nigerians and the people.

The teaching of citizenship education also develop a sense of community among ethnic nationalism. Baike (2000) states the value of orientation and inculcation that will promote real democracy that will not encourage limitations to the development of intellect but also the development of character for constituted authority. The unity of Nigeria is therefore justified, there is every need for Nigeria to unite irrespective of diverse culture, language, religious background and ethnic groups in Nigeria and this is made possible through the teaching of Citizenship Education.

Citizenship education, therefore, is-or should be-a prime concern. There is no more important task than the development of an informed, effective, and responsible citizenry. Democracies are sustained by citizens who have the requisite knowledge, skills, and dispositions. Absent a reasoned commitment on the part of its citizens to the fundamental values and principles of democracy, a free and open society cannot succeed. It is imperative; therefore, that educators, policymakers, and members of civil society make the case and ask for the support of civic education from all segments of society and from the widest range of institutions and governments.

Education for citizenship has been enforced as a separate subject because educationalist and scholars believe that such an academic training will aid students in their development as a responsible and contributing citizen (Jerome 2002, p.1). The National Curricula for citizenship education has been designed in order to enable students to; (1) deliberate and respond to political, social and national issues with enhanced confidence, (2) understand their duties as a citizen, (3) acquire a better understanding of the dramatically change political dynamics and social structures, (4) get enhanced understanding of the political and state forces that influence their lives, (5) discover their potential for collective and individual efforts, (6) be motivated for actively participating in the wider community, (7) be fully aware of their rights and duties towards other, (8) acquire the values and attitudes which are essential if they are to live in a culturally diverse society. With all these aims at its heart, it is not difficult to understand why citizenship education is of immense importance. If these teaching objectives are achieved, schools can bring about a social transformation. These objectives will be discussed in detail in the following paragraphs.

Increased Acceptability of Differences

If children are given citizenship education from an early age, they are likely to be more accustomed to dealing with their differences in a rational way and will accept these differences as something normal. Citizenship education helps individuals to learn to respect people with different ethnic backgrounds, nationalities and cultures (Citizenship Foundations n.d). As societies continue to grow into multicultural diverse communities and people from all parts of the world migrate to developed countries in search of better opportunities, a significant rise in prejudicial attitudes and stereotypical behavior towards people of different nationalities has been observed, which has also given rise to several psychological, social, judicial as well as political problems. If citizenship education is imparted in primary schools and if it successfully meet its goals, then such biased attitudes can be prevented to a great extent (Kerr 1999, p.2).

Awareness of Rights, Responsibilities and Duties

Civics or citizenship education is interpreted generally to involve the preparation of young mind playing their role effectively in the society and this is accomplished by making them conscious of their social and moral duties and responsibilities as a citizen of a democratic society (Gearon 2006, p.64). The main objective of the curricula designers’ efforts to develop and implement citizenship education courses is provide a broad knowledge to pupil about their rights and duties as a citizen and to enable them to wisely demonstrate their understanding of personal and collective responsibilities through engagement in various community-based activities (Jerome 2002, p.42).

Enhanced Understanding of Political and Social Elements

Teaching of citizenship courses in schools is aimed at enhancing children’s and adolescents’ understanding of certain socio-political elements that shape their lives. These elements encompass economic and legal system, roles and forms of government, civil and criminal justice, contribution of the volunteer sector, political machinery, community cohesion, human rights and other essentials of a democratic state. If taught in a well-planned and effective manner, citizenship education is likely to help students develop their analytical skills, challenge social injustice, bias, discrimination and inequalities and critically discuss various political, social and moral problems prevailing in the society.

Scope of Citizenship Education

Citizenship education is a term which has been distinguished from civics education but it incorporates wide range of subjects including social sciences, civics, social studies, moral education, life skills and world studies. In addition to this, it also has strong association with subjects such as religious studies, economics, history, law, environmental studies and geography (Kerr 1999, p.2). The diversity of subjects and the link with wide variety to topics depicts the importance, scope and complexity of the issues that are addressed in this field. The significance of Citizenship education has grown dramatically in last four decades and continues to increase as nations are faced with newer socio-economic and political challenges and they seek to better prepare young people to efficiently overcome these challenges of the swiftly changing world.

Values, Beliefs and Disposition

Citizenship education serves to develop the key values and fundamental beliefs that play an important role in the establishment of a healthy democratic state. As stated by the Ex-Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair ‘We should not shy away from teaching people the responsibilities, values duties and rights of citizenship to make sure that all the different communities fulfilled their duty to integrate’ and his successor Gordon Brown also strongly advocated the idea of teaching citizenship in schools in order to ‘re-enforce the concept of Britishness and its true meaning’ (Tonge et.al 2012). Such a course equips young minds to critically engage with diverse values, ideas and beliefs they share as citizens and to better understand how the global society is changing (National Curriculum 2007).

Political Awareness

Citizenship education was initially introduced in schools on the philosophy of building a strong vertical relationship between the state and citizens by means of democratic participation and social renewal (Tonge et.al 2012). However, concerns over the political involvement of youth and the continual emphasis on the need to enable them to socialize better gave way to stress on the need to redefine national identity and the sense of belonging. In UK particularly, these concerns were driven largely by the riots in Bradford and Oldham and gain intensity with the 2005 London attacks. In the recent years, increasing efforts have been made to tune citizenship education with the right political knowledge that could bring about civil renewal and ensure active citizenship. As argued by Blunkett (cited in Tonge et.al 2012) education for citizenship would provide youth the skills to respond responsibly and justifiably to the changing social and political climate, suggesting that such academic programs have a great potential to shape the attitudes of youngsters towards racism and the growingly complex multi-cultural society. It has also been argued that making citizenship a part of school curriculum, a more tolerant, civic and more demanding sense of nationalism can be generate (Tonge et.al 2012).

Citizenship not only lays stress on the social and political dimensions but also takes into account the impact of historical context. Such an education will facilitate students to make sense of today’s world and to equip them for facing community changes and challenges. As they are taught about their right to freedom and justice, they are also provided with an in-depth knowledge of how parliament and government machinery works, how laws that influence citizens’ lives are made and also how individuals can effectively take part in the electoral and democratic process to make their contributions in the local and national decisions.

THE PROBLEMS OF CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION IN NIGERIA

There are some problems that have stirred at the Nigerian citizenship education which pose a mass of confuse images to a number of people. For the purpose of this term paper I’m going to dissect some these problems together. However, below are some of those problems of citizenship education:

1. Interferences in Management

The problem of educational development in Nigeria is that of lack of responsibility and lack of control, there is evidence of conflict of interest on the part of education managers in the country at different levels, ranging from the Federal, and State as well as the Local Government. For instance, let us take a look at  the gap that existed between the State government and the Federal government institutions, regarding school fees, the federal government cannot for whatever reason, regulate functions in educational institutions that can binds on all the educational institutions at all levels, let alone to interfere in the affair of the state and local government institutions.

That is why the State institutions can decide on whatever amount of money as school fees to be paid by students. It is also obvious that the control of the educational system is neither in the hand of the federal government, nor the state government, let alone in the hand of local government and this has posed a serious problem to effective citizenship educational development in the country.

2. Political Interference

This is another problem of citizenship education in Nigerian. One of the prevalent problems in Nigerian schools system today is political interference, and politics remained one of the major forces affecting the educational system in Nigeria.

Today, a lot of educational institutions that have been opened are run on political motives in many states of the federation. Take, for instance, admission into these institutions and colleges are, for the most parts, guided by Nigerian influential politicians, and not determined by students’ academic performance, think of a situation, where parents will use their political offices to influence their children’s education in Nigeria?

3. Examination Malpractices:

Through findings, examination malpractices on the part of the Nigerian students have been identified as one of the problems witnessed in the Nigerian educational sector today, occasioned by students’ poor preparation for an examination. And this is another set back in the Nigerian educational system.

Considering the rising costs of education in Nigeria, in terms of school fees, and enrolment fees, and cost of books including other school materials, students, in fact, even their parents will not for whatever reasons, want to be kept behind, rather they will want to go to extra miles to make sure that, their children obtain better grades.

4. Teachers Unholy Practices

Another instance is that most teachers in Nigerian school system are not even helping matters, they will go as far as possible to encourage examination malpractices in Nigerian schools, by way of asking students to sort for their marks and grades, as well as contributing money to teachers, so that they (the students) can secure teachers’ assistance during examinations. This is unfortunate! Why? It is because, even the teachers are aware that the students have not prepared for the examination, and they have not encouraged them because they knew that they are standing chances of losing their money, should they encourage the students to read and prepare for their examination.

5. Poor Funding

This is another problem facing citizenship education. Underfunding of the Nigerian educational sector, and the negligence in maintaining school facilities, as well as, instructional infrastructure has led to schools getting deteriorated. That is why there are deteriorated classrooms blocks, and libraries and laboratories among other facilities.

PROSPECTS OF CITIZENSHIP EDUCATION IN NIGERIA

No matter the challenges, there is need for citizenship education especially in a country like Nigeria that is full of problems like inter-religious crises, cultism in schools and communities, armed robbery, kidnapping, insurgencies, political rangling, corruption and other vices that tell on our economy. If citizenship education is taught in our schools it will create in the students awareness that will discourage division among the ethnic groups and develop a sense of community among ethnic nationalism.

All human beings are both individuals and citizens of the society to which they belong. Therefore, human rights and citizen rights are interdependent. Men, women and children all come into the world as individual human beings. Thanks to the immense historical conquest of human rights, we are equal, in rights and dignity, to all other human beings. When citizenship education has the purpose of ‘educating future citizens’ it must necessarily address children, young people and adults, who are living beings, having the status of human beings endowed with conscience and reason. It cannot, therefore, exclude consideration of individuals as subjects, each with individual characteristics.

Moreover, human rights include civil and political rights, the latter obviously relating to the rights and obligations of citizens. Thus a comprehensive human rights education takes account of citizenship, and considers that good citizenship is connected with human rights as a whole.

Conversely, citizenship education which trains ‘good’ citizens, i.e. citizens aware of the human and political issues at stake in their society or nation, requires from each citizen ethical and moral qualities. All forms of citizenship education inculcate (or aim at inculcating) respect for others and recognition of the equality of all human beings; and at combating all forms of discrimination (racist, gender-based, religious, etc.) by fostering a spirit of tolerance and peace among human beings.

Thus, when we speak of the purposes to be ascribed to either citizenship education (producing citizens with moral qualities) or human rights education (comprising a knowledge of the social and political rights of all human beings, and their recognition) we inevitably end up with the complementarity between citizenship and human rights.

Depending on the cultural traditions of each education system, we shall have, in some cases, civics education, comprising a knowledge of human rights and their exercise, and in others, human rights education, stressing civil and political rights as the basis of citizenship, and hence the national features assumed by these rights and guaranteed by states.

Bearing in mind this complementarities, citizenship education means not only ‘educating citizens’ but also ‘training children for adulthood and citizenship’.

Citizenship education has, therefore, three main objectives:

  • educating people in citizenship and human rights through an understanding of the principles and institutions [which govern a state or nation];
  • learning to exercise one’s judgement and critical faculty; and
  • acquiring a sense of individual and community responsibilities.

These three objectives correspond both to educating the individual as a subject of ethics and law, and to educating citizens. These objectives suggest four major themes for citizenship education: A Country as Heterogeneous as Nigeria Cannot Survive Without the Introduction of Citizenship Education in the School Curriculum.

  • The relations between individuals and society: individual and collective freedoms, and rejection of any kind of discrimination.
  • The relations between citizens and the government: what is involved in democracy and the organization of the state.
  • The relations between the citizen and democratic life.
  • The responsibility of the individual and the citizen in the international community.

People in a heterogeneous society such as Nigeria are always characterized by group, class and individual interests, Intentions, motives, needs, desires, beliefs, attitudes, values, fears and anxieties. These diversities however have been positively harnessed for greatness by other nations of the world. The case has been quite different in Nigeria. This is despite the fact that our heroes past have long realised this as far back as the twilight of independence when they sang in our National anthem, “though tribal, tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand”. This was a prompt and early reminder, that inspite of our differences which in reality were diverse and varied “we stand as one in brotherhood”. These diversities in our national life manifest in music, language, culture, dance, beliefs, religion and infact a hundred other ways. Regrettably, these diversities have not been positively harnessed for development; rather they have served as the bane of social, economic and political development. Consequently, Nigeria as a nation has been besieged by an array of social, economic and political problems. These include corruption, ethnicity (Tribalism), loss of value, negative attitude to national issues, lack of patriotism political gangsterism and a host of other practices, which offend the psyche of well-meaning Nigerians and the civilized world. In the civilized world, moral values and beliefs are generally accorded a higher order of importance (Nduka 2004). A Country as Heterogeneous as Nigeria Cannot Survive Without the Introduction of Citizenship Education in the School Curriculum.

An anatomy of the Nigerian value system reveals a gap between the aspirations and dreams of the founding fathers of the nation and the current situation. In a key note address to the Nigerian Academy of Education, Nduka (2004), observed that Nigerians exhibit deplorable ethnical attitudes in virtually every aspect of life. Indiscipline, a common feature in the country is exemplified, for by scrambling or riotous behaviour in public places, recklessness in driving, lack of respect for law and order …” Furthermore, he noted that there is rampant avarice, cheating and exploitation of fellow citizens, lack of right attitude to work, pervasiveness, lack of commitment to a sound ethical base, pacesetters in cheating, stealing and fraud including the notorious advance fee fraud 419

Attempts at reversing these negative and unethical practices but aimed at refocusing and redirecting the Nigerian value system has resulted in the conception and launching of a number of policies, agencies and commissions. These include: war against indiscipline (WAI) 1984, National Orientation Agency (NAO) 1993, Mass Mobilization for Economic recovery, self-reliance and social justice (MAMSER) 1987, Ethical Revolution (1983) and more recently, the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) 2002 and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences commission (ICPC) These were complemented by intensity in religions activities across the Country. However, it is painful and regrettable to observe that these efforts have at best been a scratch on the surface of the decay in the nation’s value system. It is probably in recognition of the poor outcome of these efforts that Nduka (2004) observed that: A Country as Heterogeneous as Nigeria Cannot Survive Without the Introduction of Citizenship Education in the School Curriculum

Although our value disorientation is pervasive, and has infact reached a crisis proportion, it is the firm belief of the Nigerian academy of education that the best hope of rescuing ourselves from our ethical shipwreck and enabling the Nigerian developmental ship of state sail smoothly and confidently on the high seas is a revamped educational system.

It is in recognition of the submission of the Nigeria Academy of education that the present effort aimed at examining the impact of citizenship education on the Nigerian society becomes necessary. Citizenship education is one subject, according to Ajose (2001) that is specifically designed in content and function to produce healthy, good and active citizens, wherein a good citizen is seen as patriotic, responsible, disciplined and conscientious, morally sound with love for his state.

CONCLUSION

From the foregoing, it is now clear that citizenship education plays a vital role in the inculcation of rights attitudes, values, such as co-operation, open-mindedness, honesty, respect, obedience, national consciousness and loyalty on the youths. Youths that are well informed, educated, and have acquired the basic social skills in the society, cannot be a threat to political stability, instead asset to political instability solution in Nigeria. A Country as Heterogeneous as Nigeria Cannot Survive Without the Introduction of Citizenship Education in the School Curriculum

The country cannot be saved if there is political instability, economic crises, and ethno-religious conflicts in the country. Therefore, in order to have socio-economic and political stability, citizenship education should be encouraged so that youths and other members of the society would acquire social skills, values and attitudes that will promote political stability. A Country as Heterogeneous as Nigeria Cannot Survive Without the Introduction of Citizenship Education in the School Curriculum.

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