Thursday, 12 September 2019

Secular Broad Based Education : A New Tribe —Chidi C. Chilaka

12 September 2019 

On August 12 each year, Nigeria joins the rest of the world to celebrate the International Youth Day (IYD). It is an awareness day designated by the United Nations (UN) to draw attention to a given set of cultural and legal issues surrounding the youth. The theme of this year's International Youth Day; "Transforming Education", highlights the different efforts to make education more inclusive and accessible to all youths regardless of their background (cultural, religious, tribal, racial) including efforts by youths themselves.

Education as we all know isn't only a leveller or an equalizer; it is also a very important and effective bridge builder. Transforming education is simply the development of the next generation of lifelong learners, innovators and global citizens. It involves learning from and with colleagues, engaging in continuous improvement and building the systems and structures needed to sustain it all, through the use of effective technology and the right support. This can be achieved by making public education secular and broad based.

Secular Broad-based Education is a public education in countries with a secular government or separation between religion and state, for example; Nigeria. It encourages individuals to be in contact with all types of people. It is an education that focuses on the historical development of a continually developing common oriented base of human knowledge and art, the timeless value of classic thought on central human issues by landmark thinkers, and revolutionary ideas critical to historical paradigm shifts or changes in world view. Here, a program of studies which is highly general, nonspecialized, and nonvocational is advocated, which exposes all citizens to the development of thought for the evolution of traditions integral to the survival of the freedoms, human rights and responsibilities inherent to a true Democracy. For me, it is the height of fairness and love and the power of education to unite people at anytime and in any combination.

Sadly, this hasn't been the case of our Nigerian public education in the last thirty years. For those of us who were born in the late 80s and early 90s, many would agree with me that due to the failure of our public schooling system in Nigeria, our public education has become neither secular nor broad based. Our public schools has moved from been the first choice by our parents to becoming the last resort for our children. For me, this is one of the saddest commentary on the state of governance in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Nigeria. A country of about 200 million people with over 1, 150 dialects and ethnic groups, and of different religions; a country already deeply divided over faith and tribe; a country where peace depends on our ability to hold sensitive conversation over potentially explosive issues; a country where majority of her citizens revel and traffic in arrogant ignorance precipitated by mental slavery, and have become more fearful under a democracy than during the military juntas.

At a time like this! When one is not able to change many aspects of his or her background, education especially one that is secular and broad based, helps to create a new brand new tribe - one that can be freely chosen by anyone, no matter the colour, religion, race or culture. A tribe of those who value knowledge and respect empirical data, bringing together age long admirers of ideas, facts and reason and giving an opportunity for the birth and rebirth of so many social firsts. This helps to moderate the tension between the upper class and the lower class. For through interjections from members of this brand new "tribe" during everyday conversions up and down this country, we are able to liberate and transform the mentality of the majority of our citizens, giving them the capacity to change their socio-economic background and status. There is really no alternate to transforming our public education into one that is secular and broad based, there is no other option. For failure to do this not only brings trouble, it guarantees trouble.

Chidi C. Chilaka is a public affairs analyst who writes from Nigeria 

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