The Nigerian government has reacted to controversy over alleged removal of key religious subjects from the country’s education curriculum.
In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES Monday, the acting Executive Secretary of Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), Kate Nwufo, denied claims that Christian Religious Studies and Islamic Studies had been removed from the curriculum, or were now studied as a single subject.
“We have developed a curriculum on Religion and National Values to expose pupils to see relationship between moral values – which entails religion, social values – and civic values,” Mrs. Nwufo said.
She said the NERDC developed the curriculum in partnership with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission.
The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, the country’s largest Christian body, had told PREMIUM TIMES that CRS, specifically, had been dropped from the latest curriculum, leaving only Islamic studies.
“If you look at the curriculum, you will see that the religious subjects were removed for unknown reasons,” President of CAN, Samson Ayokunle, told PREMIUM TIMES by phone Monday.
The cleric said CRK was merged with civic studies, saying that was not good for the country.
He linked growing criminal activities in the country to a lack of early religious education for children.
“Criminal activities are growing at an alarming rate all over the country,” he said. “Just last week, we saw somebody’s son that was arrested in Lagos for his notorious kidnapping offences,” Mr. Ayokunle said in reference to the arrest of the notorious kidnapper, Chukwudi Onwuamadike, a.k.a., Evans.
He said the latest curriculum had been in the making for more than two decades before education authorities began tampering with religious studies.
“Especially in Ilorin, there is no CRS in the time table of the concluded examination,” he said.
But Mrs. Nwufo strongly denied the allegations and said the Christian leaders were dissipating their energy on unfounded claims.
“People especially leaders should be careful of the information peddle around and take their time to make findings,” Mrs. Nwufo said.
“We live in a sensitive society therefore we should come together and not destabilise the country as it will affect everybody, we should avoid escalating issues.”
Copies of the curriculum she gave to PREMIUM TIMES showed that Christian Religious Studies remains part of the curriculum along with Islamic Studies.
The curriculum was designed for Basic Education; Primary 1-3, 4-6 and JSS 1-3 and merely created an omnibus subject head called Religion and National Values. Under it are the following subjects:
1. Civic Education
2. Social Studies
3. Christian Religious Knowledge
4. Islamic Studies, and
5. Security Education.
The latest curriculum was adopted in 2012 under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan and is not due for review until 2019, the acting executive secretary said.
Mrs. Nwufo said “teachers across the country have been adequately trained” on how to use the curriculum.
“A teachers’ guide was also handed to them.” she added
She further stated that even then, religious subjects were never directed to be taught together, they are to be taught by different teachers and at different times.
She said CAN was part of the committee that designed the latest curriculum alongside other Islamic leaders.
“We wrote to CAN and they presented two candidates to us in persons of Ray Chukwura of ECWA Goodnews and Dominick Oleagbe from Ahmadu Bello University Zaria,” she claimed.
But CAN denied being part of the committee, saying the education authority had already started designing the curriculum before it raised alarm.
“It was when we raised alarm and went to see the minister of education at the time that we were told that two Christians have been nominated as part of the committee with NERDC,” Timothy Opoola, chairman of CAN in Kwara State said.
Mr. Opoola, a professor of mathematics at the University of Ilorin, told PREMIUM TIMES he was a member of the delegation that met with the minister.
“We told them to allow CAN present delegates but CAN never presented candidates because they did not allow it,” he said.
The cleric also said questions set for Basic Education Certificate Examination slated for next month in Kwara State included separate Islamic-related subjects, while Christian course is absent.
But education authorities in the state rejected the claims.
“I can tell you categorically that we don’t have any separate Islamic studies in our schools,” Musa Yeketi, Kwara State Commissioner of Education, told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday. “We use the national curriculum.”
But he said there are exceptions in the composition of school curricular in the state.
“All the students take the same course, except those from dedicated Islamic schools.
“We have College of Arabic and Islamic Studies in the state, about five across the state.
“Only students from the school will take the Junior Islamic Studies —in religious knowledge and Arabic language— and Arabic Islamic History.
“The Christian Religious Studies, CRS, and Islamic Religious Studies, IRS, are to be taken by Christian and Muslim students, respectively, alongside the national values subject,” the commissioner said.
Mr. Yeketi said Religion and National Values were not the only subjects merged.
“Basic Science and Technology, for instance, is a composition of information technology, physical and health education, and general science,” he said.
Some junior secondary students told PREMIUM TIMES Tuesday that CRS, IRS and national values’ questions were together in junior secondary school exams, and that they attended the religious studies questions based on their respective religions.
But the national values questions are mandatory for all students.
Musa Musibau, a teacher at Gateway Secondary School, Abeokuta, Ogun State, said Religion and National Values comprised CRS, IRS, social studies, security education and civic studies.
“Christianity and Islam are still taught in schools across the state,” Mr. Musibau, an IRS teacher, said.