Imperatives of Citizenship Education in Nigeria

Citizenship Education in National Peace and Unity
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It is disappointing to note that our school system has given more attention to foreign studies to the detriment of indigenous education. Fafunwa (1974) noted that students in Nigeria know more about Europe and European people than Nigerians who belong to ethnic groups different from their own. To create trust and confidence among Nigerians, Mezieobi, Domike and Osakwe (1996) suggested that among Nigerians, it is necessary to provide Nigerians the type of education that is characterized by Nigerian intercultural education.

By defining ‘citizenship’ in terms of human rights and civic responsibilities, citizenship education attempts to avoid concepts of ‘citizenship’ that define nationality in terms of ethnic, religious or cultural identity. It has therefore become the norm for modern citizenship education to have a strong human rights values base, to make specific reference to children’s rights and address issues related to diversity and the rights of minorities within society.

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 citizens to be 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 aim at shaping respect for others by fostering a spirit of tolerance and peace.

Citizenship education which is the major focus of social studies has been used in many countries like the United States of America for solving political problems. Awosolu (1998) noted that this type of education can be used to prepare members of plural societies, even as Omare (1999) stated that citizenship education trains the mind of people in the direction of what is required for a stable and enduring democracy.

Citizenship education analyses man in all aspects of environments like social studies. It considers social, economic, political, religious, cultural and technological aspects of life. The teaching of citizenship education enables learners to think beyond their individual and ethnic interests, thereby making them to tolerate and respect the views of others. It is citizenship education that will enhance unity and stability and human right.

According to Yusuf (2005), citizenship education which has important components of value education could serve as an Instrument for bringing about desirable positive change in the Nigerian value orientation. It determines action and shapes the direction in which an individual operates in a given situation. Obike (1993) opines that the people’s value orientation and their social attitude expressed through services rendered to one another, constitute the bedrock upon which members of the society depend, for their survival. However, the problem with Nigeria is Nigerians themselves because of their apparent negative value orientation. In the opinion of the writer of this article, this negative value orientation may be traced to the elitist type of education inherited from the former colonial authority.

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Citizenship education can be used to produce effective citizenship which is a basic requirement of a strong and a united nation. Education was used to inculcate religious ideas and values in the colonial years, as observed by Iyewarun (1989).

To him, the evangelical efforts succeeded partly because they started with children at the elementary stage. In the United States of America, inculcation of national consciousness and national pride became successful using education (Omare, 1999).

The Federal Government of Nigeria observed that education can be used to effect changes in the attitude and behaviour of learners (FRN; 2004). Therefore, citizenship education, when introduced would foster mutual respect among different ethnic groups in Nigeria.

Obasanjo (2004) observed that Nigerians have a sense of territorial unity only rather than national unity. He therefore suggested that it is in the national interest these ethnic groups develop respect for each other’s value system. This can only be achieved if they know and understand each other’s custom.

In support of this view, Obike (1993) noted that citizenship education teaches attitudes and values in current affairs and includes the ways of democracy, which include democratic ideas, skills and techniques required for democratic actions. He states further that citizenship education brings about understanding of other ethnic groups in our society. UNESCO (2005) also advocated citizenship education with intrinsic human rights component based on universal international instruments such as the United Nations General Assembly’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) in New York and the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) including World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, Austria. As stated in UNESCO’s Integrated Framework of Action on Education for Peace, Human Rights and Democracy (2005), education must prepare citizens to cope with difficult and uncertain situations and fit them for personal autonomy and responsibility. Awareness of personal responsibility must be linked to recognition of the value of civic commitment, of joining together with others to solve problems and to work for a just, peaceful and democratic community.

The concept of education for citizenship is framed within the education for all movement, not only through its goal number six in regard to improving the quality and relevance of education, but more fundamentally, by setting the aims of education and its underlying values. Citizenship education in our school system will inculcate national moral values and develop a truly patriotic citizenry whose consciousness will transcend its ethnic boundary, and as a consequence produce an educated citizen, who knows his duties to his country.

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At this trying period of our national history, Nigeria requires citizens that are capable of tackling problems of unity and development. Nigeria should also borrow a leaf from developed countries like the United States of America, where citizenship education form of social studies has been used to build a highly developed sense of national consciousness and patriotism among the citizenry.

We are living at a time when economic and social development in the country demand highly competent professionals and skilled human resources. The fast expanding service industries and technology-based production requires people with the ability to learn new skills rapidly.

Access to information and knowledge available on the Internet depends largely on language skills. Have we been able to equip our younger generation with such language skills?

The country’s education system is beset with a number of serious structural problems. The language issue is one. Another is the ‘persisting diploma disease’ that prevents children from acquiring much needed skills and basic competencies. These problems have far reaching consequences beyond the education system. It is unfortunate that we do not seem to have leaders in the country who are capable of comprehending the complexity of the issues and the need to resolve them in a reasonable manner, within a reasonable period of time.

Curriculum of Citizenship Education

In citizenship education, contemporary issues and current events which would enable them to become well-informed citizens can be taught. Citizenship education should also be taught using multi-disciplinary approach so as to enable it to identify the link between the present and the past. The use of multi-disciplinary approach will enable the student become actively involved and participate as effective students (Ade and Olawepo, 1997).

Bernard (2006), one of the architects of citizenship education in British schools, stated that the subject should educate children on how to be politically literate using real issues. This is because being taught to respect the law without learning how bad laws can be changed and better ones promoted tends to create apathetic subjects rather than active citizens.

He stated further that citizenship education does not merely seek to study social problems in the society but it tries to identify them, analyze them and find solutions to them. Citizenship education is one of such rare fields which can provide this affective aspect of education. He therefore suggested that citizenship education requires careful selection of objectives, content and procedure. If carefully and appropriately directed, it can prepare a student to participate effectively in the progress of his community in the teaching of citizenship education.

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Shaver and Berlak (1968) argue that citizenship education should not be programmed upon the ideas of what is desirable but upon the empirical and virtual supposition about what is and will be. Since citizenship education analyzes man in its entire ramification, Omare (1999) suggested the multi-disciplinary approach of social studies to the study of citizenship education. This is because it takes cognizance of the social, economic, political, religious, cultural and technological aspects of life. The authority also believes that it will broaden the horizon of the student and make him operate beyond parochial levels of ethnicity and religion.

Citizenship education, according to Obike (1993), teaches attitudes and values, therefore, role playing as a teaching method can help the democratic process and national consciousness in leadership training programme.

The emphasis on the affective domain in citizenship education encourages feelings of patriotism and national consciousness in individuals. lyewarun (1989) states that the need for citizenship education includes the creation of many sided personalities equipped with practical knowledge and inspired by ideas so that they can make their way and fulfill their mission in a changing society.

Conclusion and Recommendation

It has been emphasized in this discourse that citizenship education should be introduced at all levels of our educational system. It is against this backdrop that the following recommendations on the strategy for the effective implementation of citizenship education are made.

Citizenship education should be introduced at all levels of teachers training institutions. This is because teachers must be prepared and equipped to effect the needed change in the children.

Teachers should be trained and this could be done through in-service training.

Multi-disciplinary approach should be employed as a method of teaching citizenship education at higher level of education.

For effective implementation, education should be made free and compulsory at least up to senior secondary school level. This is because students would have inculcated good citizenship at this level of education.

Researches should be conducted to identify major problems and support systems that may affect citizenship education. To do this, researchers should be encouraged by government to carry out meaningful studies.

Citizenship education must be divorced from all others and taught as a separate programme because the issues for which it provides knowledge is quite serious and must not be sparingly unleashed on our system.

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