Citizenship Education in National Peace and Unity

Citizenship Education in National Peace and Unity
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Let us start by learning the keywords we are not yet familiar with.

Citizenship: This is the status of: (a) being a citizen or member in a community (as in a college); (b) the quality of an individual’s response to membership in a community.

Development: The progressive advancement from a lower or simpler form to a higher or more complex form. It could also mean an evolution, evolvement, flowering, growth, progress, advancement, e.t.c.

Citizenship Education: Refers to the instructionalized means of educating citizens about their rights and obligations to their country.

By now we already know the meanings of national peace and unity. If you don’t, you should check my previous posts about it.

Conceptual Framework

Citizenship, which is seen as the quality of an individual’s response to membership in a community, as earlier observed, is considered a social or cultural phenomenon; that is, the product of critical social relationships. These social relationships provide important influences that are used in shaping of individuals’ perspectives of how society works and their place in it.

Each society provides a series of shared social experiences which become the common denominator of experiences for that society. These shared social experiences consist of interactions between individuals and groups that give a symbol to the individual’s social world.

When life begins, the individual is biologically and socially dependent upon the family, particularly the mother or the primary nurturing caretaker. But as the individual progresses in life and matures, he or she comes in contact with an expanding social and physical world. As time progresses, those critical social relationships are expanded to include individuals and groups outside the immediate family.

The effect of these changing social and cultural experiences is to form a distinct social pattern that becomes characteristic of a particular society. The social patterns consist of individuals performing roles guided by norms and values that contribute to the operation of the society.

Individuals look to a variety of groups that provide criteria which can be used as a basis for judging and classifying all human conduct according to standards of appropriate and inappropriate behaviours. These criteria serve as a source of influence for the individual’s social interactions with others and his orientation to society as a whole.

The sources of citizenship behaviour are the critical social relationships that emerge as the child experiences an ever-expanding social world. This social world has a profound influence on the individual’s acquired understanding of his role as a member of society.

For individuals growing up in countries like the United States of America, there are six stages in which important social relations dominate the citizenship development process. Each stage challenges the individual’s ability to achieve acceptance and status within a social relationship setting.

In addition, each of the six stages of citizenship development is characterized by changes or modifications in the previously dominant critical social relationship. It is also characterized by the emergence of a more complex set of social context.

While the individual continues to modify his citizenship orientation throughout life, the years of birth to twenty-one years, are considered the formative period of citizenship development for American youths. It is during these years that the individual is required to move from one set of social relationships to another in accordance with the demands of the American society.

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In Nigeria, such social contexts and the corresponding critical social relationships exist largely in the village settings.

Historical Development of Citizenship

The historical development across time reveals that while democracy has evolved as a standard part of the modern idea of social organization, the idea of full democratic citizenship, which is at the very core of western civilization, has been deeply suppressed throughout the development of democracy. In order to make the reader aware of the dimensions of the evolutionary process of citizenship and community, an introductory rationale for this broad historical backdrop is necessary.

Citizenship could be said to have begun in Ancient Greece with the onset of constitutional government in the city-states. This tradition of democratic citizenship, now regarded as the ancient or classical model, beginning with the Greeks, showed citizens as playing a de facto, integral role in governance: governance was citizenship and citizenship governance. Further, citizenship was seen as an integral part of attaining mature adulthood: only citizens could be adults and adults could become adults only through being citizens.

Two Eras of Citizenship

The history of citizenship is divided into two eras – before and after the French Revolution. The legacy of the first era existed from the time of Greek city-state. It was small-scaled, culturally monolithic, hierarchical and discriminatory – and also moral, idealistic, spiritual, active, participatory, and even heroic in that it commanded personal military service from its citizens.

In the first era, one was truly considered a citizen only if one participates. The Aristotelian legacy’s hallmark required that one could only gain civic virtue through active participation in governing. Riesenberg described the second era of citizenship as “civic virtue being drained out of the citizenship – an ideal from the beginningā€¦”

From the Greek city-state era, Aristotle and Plato defined citizenship in terms of privilege and status. While Athenian society divided itself into four orders based on an agricultural yield, land ownership was not a prerequisite for citizenship in Sparta. Spartan citizenship, however, placed greater emphasis on responsibility of commitment to public service. In Sparta, only a few voted, held public office, and made policy decisions.

“Whether in Sparta, Athens or any other polis, citizenship was a privileged status.”

The primary difference was that Sparta struggled greatly against democracy. The great funeral oration of Pericles sets down for posterity the canons for Athenian democracy. Citizenship is seen as “part of an educational program and of an inspiring moral tradition in which each generation acknowledges a connection to all others and a responsibility to them all for maintenance of the community and the traditions.”

It is in this tradition that Dewey bases his philosophy – education becomes the basic tenet in providing the strong roots for participatory democracy.

The encouragement of self-govermment began with the Greeks: but, Ancient Greek democracy was partial. The subcultures, working class populations, demanded allegiance. A new dimension of citizenship developed into two allegiances: first to one’s family, and then to one’s ethnic community. Subsequently, subcultures learned to coexist among each other because of self-govemment within these communities. Remnants of this form of ethnic allegiance and the
the practices of self-government within the confines of these ethnic communities have survived to the present day.

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The prosperity of the Periclean Age gave way to wars and strife between the city-states. After the Silican campaign prophecy, the spirit of the age had always tended to weaken authority of tradition, to loosen the cohesion of the community, and to direct the individual reliance upon his personal judgement in all critical questions.

The strength of keeping the community together lay in the strength of religion. One must keep in mind that the Hellenic religion was interwoven into the fabric of daily life. The Golden Age of Pericles was a sign that the gods saw the people in great favour. When prosperity began to disintegrate, with war and strife taking its toll, the state of religion was blamed for causing this great calamity.

“Together with the Hellenic gods, the human and civic virtues which they demanded, fell into disreputeā€¦and gradually, all sense was lost of the truth, that a state cannot exist except by the virtues of its citizens. The ancient religion became defenseless against the hostile spirit of the times.”

Need for Citizenship Education in Nigeria

The need for national unity and stability is greater now in Nigeria than ever before, especially with the current and rampant ethnic violence and religious crises. Many highly placed Nigerians with the likes of Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Umaru Dikko, and Pa Abraham Adesanya have often described “One Nigeria” as temporarily a dream and Utopian (Punch, 1999). Education is a potent instrument that can be used to foster peace and unity. Therefore we should evolve a type of education that will inculcate in the learners the idea of national consciousness and awareness. In essence, citizenship education should be introduced at all levels of our educational system. This position, on the roles of education is a consequence of the experience of some other countries. According to Metzieobi, Domike and Osakwe (1996), Sparta which was essentially a military and aristocratic city transformed Homer’s chivalric type of education into a system that served its political and military purposes. In the same vein, Adeyinka (1992) cited the communist philosophy of then United States of America, which was different from that of pre-revolution Russia, that the communist party found is necessary to transform not only the social system but the attitudes, loyalty and thinking of soviet people. The instrument used for the change was education, and within a few years, Soviet Union was transformed from an agrarian society to an industrialized powerful state.

In like manner, Omare (1999) noted that a country like Germany was concerned with preparing students to acquire political knowledge, values and skills for democratic rights in a free nation. Hence, political education was introduced at both federal and state levels of German education.

Osakwe and Itejere (1993) define citizenship education as a system for the acquisition and internalization of the values, sentiment and norms of the society in which they live and actually get involved to ensure that the common good of the citizens is catered for, including resisting anti-social and unguided youthful exuberance. Probably, that is why Omare (1999) opined that the manifestation of citizenship education can be seen in the behaviour trait such as critical thinking, political activism, inquiry, goals and value of good citizenship.

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According to Dave (2006), the aim of
citizenship classes is to develop young people into responsible citizens, who understand their rights and responsibilities and can play an active part in the society. In other words, citizenship education requires a citizen to be well-informed, gather facts, reject ethnocentrism, religious jingoism and encourage national consciousness. That means that citizenship education develops in individuals, skills, attitudes and values that will enable them show concern for the wellbeing and dignity of others, respecting the worth of others and approaching civil decision in a rational manner.

Studies have shown that there is high degree of ethnocentrism among Nigerians. Mezieobi, Domike and Osakwe (1996) reported that among the Igbos and Yorubas, friendship and marriage would be ethnically determined. As a result of distrust and suspicion, various Nigerian leaders like Wole Soyinka, Odumegwu Ojukwu and others, have called for a sovereign national conference to re-negotiate Nigerian unity as well as rotation of the presidency among the six geo-political zones.

In addition, there has been ethnic violence among the Yoruba and the ljaw and also ethno-religious crisis as a result of adoption of Sharia law in the northern part of Nigeria. Therefore, development of national awareness is essential in Nigeria at this critical time of our national history.

Nigerian leaders are now conscious of only their ethnic background and are suspicious of other non-ethnic groups. There has been an unfortunate feeling of general despondency on the part of many Nigerians. Obasanjo (1999) expressed this opinion while addressing ljaw leaders, as a reaction to ethnic violence embarked upon by the ljaw youth in the Niger Delta area. He further stated that Nigerians were not patriotic and lacked a sense of national consciousness. This, he said, was because they had lost confidence in one Nigeria and therefore spent incalculable efforts in fruitless sectional, ethnic and religious quarrels. It is the belief of this article that in order to avoid national disintegration, the school can be used to achieve national consciousness, stability and unity by teaching citizenship education.

In an attempt to foster national unity, the federal government, in the past, introduced Universal Basic Education (U.B.E), established unity secondary schools, otherwise called Federal Government Colleges, the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and the National Youth Service Corps scheme. While launching the Universal Basic Education in Sokoto State, President Olusegun Obasanjo noted that the scheme has one of its objectives, the correction of educational imbalance in the country.

Though the provision of educational balance in the country is necessary, it is not sufficient in a country like Nigeria, with the prevalence of ethnic and religious crises. In order to create a sense of national consciousness and patriotism in the minds of Nigerians, citizenship education should made compulsory at all levels of education in Nigeria. In other words, school curriculum must be so redesigned as to include citizenship education that would give the learners experiences needed to achieve national objectives.

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