History is not taught in Nigerian schools.
One of the best ways to determine the state of a nation is to inspect the schools. Just pick any school – primary or secondary – with a sizeable number of students. Observe the student-teacher dynamics, the cliques that form among staff and students, the school’s assessment and reward system, and the curriculum. Then you will know all there is to know about the country that school is in.
History isn’t taught in schools, meaning that our nation doesn’t care about the past. For a people who profess so much respect for ancestors and elders, this is shocking. We cannot begin to dream of a better Nigeria unless we know where we are coming from. Unless we learn from the past, we will never develop. We will simply keep achieving variations of underdeveloped structures and mindsets – not progress.
Children don’t know their heritage, so the country’s future is in soup. They only know about American presidents and King Henry VIII’s wives from cartoons and television shows. They know nothing of our powerful precolonial kingdoms and empires, the great kings and queens, what the Benin bronzes and Nok terracotta sculptures are, the animals that once roamed Nigeria that have left their traces in ancient artwork, and nsibidi and how the easterners communicated before the British imposed their culture on us.
Our museums are empty and desolate because there is no curiosity. I used to get annoyed whenever I visited the Things-Stolen-From-Other-People Museum in London because those artefacts are ours. They were unfairly taken from us and the British have innocent blood on their greedy hands. However, now that I am back in Nigeria and I see the grotesque lack of regard for our heritage, I think those artworks might as well stay where they are in the UK; where they are treasured and appreciated; where people value every curve and symbol, oohing and aahing at them in amazement.
We destroy historical sites and buildings because we do not see their value. Buildings I grew up with are no more. Mud houses, Portuguese structures, colonial architecture are being torn down to make way for shopping malls and overbuilt houses, magnanimous shows of wealth and prestige. We pay millions of naira every year to go around London and see their old buildings and monuments. Yet, we are destroying ours.
If we knew our past, perhaps we would treasure its footprints. We need to put history back on the menu in schools. We cannot progress until we lay in our minds the foundation that is history, standing on the shoulders of giants.
Image|Sacred Forest, Osogbo|Source: Jeremy Weate, Flickr