School Curriculum Controversies’ Whole Stories: Reps wants CRK, IRK returned in school curriculum, as Christian leaders’ agitation gets legislative supports

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Some school children on assembly ground.

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*Genesis of school’s curriculum controversies

*What will I gain imposing IRK on Christian students – Minister

*All claims of CAN, others baseless, mischievous, unfounded – NERDC

*They are only victims of their own suspicions – Respondents

*Says NERDC stands for academic excellence and development

…Truth critics of school’s curriculum dodge to tell – Investigations

By Kemi Kasumu, General Editor

“NERDC stands for integrity and excellence in educational research and development.  The management stands for education for human dignity, economic reconstruction and value reorientation.  We, therefore, sincerely appeal to politicians and fifth columnist to desist from dragging education into the political melee capable of destabilizing the education sector and mortgaging the future of upcoming generation of Nigerians,” he said.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday urged Federal Ministry of Education to urgently cancel the merger of Christian Religious Knowledge and Islamic Religious Knowledge (IRK) with civic education as a subject in schools.

The House mandated the ministry to make both subjects independent as they had always been and also, to make civic education compulsory in primary and secondary schools across the country.

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This followed the adoption of a motion entitled “Call to make Civic Education Optional Instead of a Compulsory Subject for Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE)’’ moved by Rep. Beni Lar (Plateau-PDP).

Moving the motion, Lar noted that under the previous secondary school curriculum, civic education was not a compulsory subject.

She pointed out that religious education was taught as either Islamic Religious Knowledge or Christian Religious Knowledge, both of which were optional subjects and taught independently.

Lar said that the ministry introduced a revised curriculum without due consultation with parents and stakeholders.

Reacting to the development on the floor of the House of Representatives, by  Lar from Jos, a respondent wondered why politicians always recourse to religious clerics in seeking solution to decadence reflected in the rise in crimes and collapse of values in Nigeria when they know that efforts made to strength a government-clerics collaboration in restoring the values would equally be opposed by them.  As for the Christian leaders, he said, “they are only victims of their own suspicions.”

Speaking further he said, “What Beni Lar, daughter of a former governor of Plateau State and Chairman of People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Solomon Lar, a well cultured with high values, has done to have involved herself in that controversy hyped by Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and its cohorts only shows that she took side with her Christian sentiment because what the Christians who were complained were saying was that Islamic Religious Studies was left in the curriculum and forced on Christian students while Christian Religious Studies was deleted from the curriculum.

“So, if Beni Lar wanted to help like she pretended to be doing by taking side in matter that she should be seen publicly as non-partisan about, the first thing she should have raised to her legislative colleagues on the floor of the house was to ascertain whether the agitating Christian leaders were saying the truth about their claim of deletion of Christian Religious Studies while leaving Islamic Religious Studies to be forced on Christian students.  Failure to do this and the media are not asking question is a problem that will continue to leave with us in this country that Christian leaders particularly can never be wrong even when their inflammatory utterances are causing disaffection in the land.

“When Apostle Johnson Suleiman for Omega Church and CAN first raised this alarm, the then Acting Executive Secretary of Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, Mrs Kate Nwofor, told the country that there was no iota of truth in what they raised alarm over.  She said CRK and IRS were never deleted from the school curriculum and showed the proof presenting copy of the curriculum to the press.

“Later Pastor Adeboye, Oyedepo, CAN and some other Christian leaders came up with another controversy this time no longer talking about imposition of IRK on Christian students but that placement of French Language and Arabic Language making one of the two compulsory was to impose Islamic Religion on Christian students in the country.  Unfortunately those that have intervened in this self-made controversy fail to get it right in their arguments.  Except one is just deliberately dodging or afraid to say the truth, question they should ask is ‘how is choosing between French and Arabic as Language subjects in the school system an imposition of Islamic Religion on Christian students? Do the Christian leaders think deep to know that they will be creating problem from English Language if the Muslims were to be controversial as they are?” He submitted.

According to Beni Lar on the floor of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the curriculum for primary one to three classes which is the formative stage of a child does not provide for the adequate teaching of the religious beliefs of the people.

“It rather provides destructive half-truths which destroy the fundamentals of the religious beliefs and erodes the essence of such religion being taught the children.

“The new curriculum which is in conflict with certain religious beliefs also makes the teaching of those beliefs compulsory.

“Section 10 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, makes Nigeria a secular state; therefore, religion should be separated from national values,’’ Lar added.

Where Lar might be right about improper design of religious knowledge at formative stage, observers knocked her down for not coming out with truth herself as she failed to prove where Islamic Religion came to bear in all the controversies she intervened in.

One of them said, “This is how we have got it dragged to this level in Nigeria and it has given many people the impression that religion and politics are bane of Nigeria’s development.  Yes and no.  Yes because, let the truth be told, those religious groups that are in control of the media have dragged us along this unfortunate line and the earlier they began to admit and turn a new leaf the better.  How can your religious group take delight in dragging another religion into its problem with government, if any, all the times and you just feel that all you can do is to pamper them.

“The other time in this country, some three men, dressed like Muslim cleric and arrested in Ola Oluwa Local Government Area of Osun State, confessed that they were Christians sent by their Pastor who happened to be the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the Local Government and Pastor of Baptist Church in the community that was the scene of crime.  CAN in Abuja ensured that no media reported that huge crime done to drag Muslims into serious security challenge among their Christian neighbour in Osun and the entire South West.  That is still agitating the minds of Muslims.  There have been many others which were swept under the carpet.

“But when it comes to being talked about, whoever raises it has become a fanatics yet the impression the provokers are making continue to rage.  If we want peace in Nigeria, those lawmakers who were talking based on the information made available to them by the sentimental religious leaders should go back and address these problem and stop covering up the truth.  I am a Muslim yes, but the Allah makes it clear in the Qur’an that He hates and will punish whoever “covers the truth with falsehood or hides the truth when he knows.”

“We all asked the government to come to the aide of religions by empowering them in removing the ills among their practitioners be they Muslims or Christians.  For these Christian leaders to go hay wire at this time over the corrective and supportive measure being taken, it is likely that we now know where our religious problems lie against what they used to tell us about Muslims’ intolerance in the country especially in the North.”

No child should be taught religion other than of his parents – Reps

However, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila (Lagos-APC), speaking in support of Lar’s motion, condemned the policy, adding that the ministry should reframe the policy.

According to Gbajabiamila, the policy is clearly against the constitution.

“Any law or policy that restricts freedom should be guided. You cannot teach a little child against his or her beliefs.

“When there is a policy of the government that goes against our Constitution, such policy should be fought against by this house.

“Religion is a very significant and delicate issue; we must be very careful and be guided,’’ he said.

In his own contribution, Honourable Okey Jev (Benue-APC) said, “I am just wondering how we combined both religions and made them compulsory, considering the religious sensitivity of this country where some people kill in the name of religion.”

Quoting section 31, sub-section 1 and 2 of the Constitution, Hon. Johnson Egbonniyma (Edo-PDP) said that the Constitution stated it clearly that children should not be taught anything outside the approval of parents or guardians.

“This issue should not even be a controversial one because it is stated clearly in our Constitution.

“Everyone has the right to what religion to practise. It is not proper for an institution to impose religion on anybody without the approval of their parent or guardian,’’ he said.

Rep. Rita Orji (Lagos-PDP) said it was wrong for students to undertake religion that they were not practising from home.

“I am begging this house to save this nation and call on the ministry of education to withdraw this curriculum,’’ she said.

Hon. Aminu Shagari (Sokoto-APC) said that the issue was a constitutional matter and should not be debated.

“We should be careful to take decisions that deals with sensitive matters,’’ Shagari said.

In his ruling, the Deputy Speaker of the house, Yusuff Lasun, who presided at plenary, described the policy as wrong.

According to him, if the ministry of education had studied the Constitution carefully, it would not have introduced such policy that is totally against freedom of religion.

Genesis of curriculum controversies created by Christian leaders

The Christian leaders in an explosive report published in certain print medium speaking harshly had threatened that imposition of Islamic Religious Knowledge (IRK) on Christian students would set the country on fire.

The General Overseers of the  Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), Bishop Mike Okonkwo, Living Faith Church (Winners),  Bishop David Oyedepo, Deeper Life Bible Church, Pastor W. F. Kumuyi among others, were on Sunday loud in the news ordering Christian students across the country to boycott Arabic Studies amid reports that the subject was made compulsory.

Also present at the meeting were Rev. (Dr.) Mercy Ezekiel, the National Coordinator of Christian Pentecostal Mission (CPM), Pastor Wale Oke and the General Overseer of the Thronegrace Mission, Pastor Emmanuel Nuhu Kure.

They also called for immediate reversal of the revised Basic Education Curriculum, especially the collapse of Christian Religious Studies (CRS) as part of an omnibus subject known as Religion and National Values, and maintained that CRS should stand on its own as a separate subject just as it has always been.

According to Vanguard, they criticised the move to impose Arabic Studies on every secondary school student in the country, stating that the Federal Government has no right to force any Nigerian student at any level to study Arabic Studies.

They said that the proviso in the revised curriculum that every student must take either French or Arabic Studies compulsorily in a country where French teachers are scarce was an attempt to impose Arabic Studies on Christian students.

The Christian leaders did not however ask Christian students in the country to boycott French and English studies being that they too are languages of some foreign nations of the world being taught here in Nigerian schools as compulsory subjects particularly English.  This sentimental disposition on the part of one religious group is causing disaffection among Nigerian people especially Muslims who continue to see the Christian leaders likes Pastor Adeboye and Oyedepo as being deliberately mischievous out mainly to ensure that anything with resemblance or connection to Islam must continue to be pulled down in Nigeria.

What will I gave imposing IRK on Christian students? – Education Minister

But in a Sunday July 3 report of the response of Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, given in a telephone interview with The DEFENDER, he wondered what those behind the “unnecessary” controversy trailing a policy that was the brainchild of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan administration planned to achieve by trying to heat up the polity on unfounded claim of Islamisation through school system.

He said, “What do I gain from forcing a religious study on students who do not believe in that religion?  I think these religious leaders and journalists who write their stories should verify their facts before they bring it to public hearing.

“The Redeem church leader is close to the Acting President.  Why did he not find out from him before having to ask students to boycott IRK, whereas there is nowhere Christian students are forced to be taught IRK in the curriculum?

“This policy was not our regime’s making.  It was the making of Jonathan regime.  There is a council that is in charge of this thing and whoever is lover of truth should go there and find out.  To me, I just think that people are just making noise about this thing because they want to cause trouble,” the minister, who was not inclined to talk on the issue, said.

Truth critics of school’s curriculum dodge to tell – Investigations

In the meantime, the management of the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), according to Vanguard’s report of June 20, had clarified that Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) was still being taught in schools as a separate distinct subject with the accompanying Teachers’ Guide.

Junaidu called on Nigerians to discard reports from some quarters that the subject had been removed from the school’s curriculum.

He said, “The Management of NERDC hereby reiterates categorically and unequivocally to all Nigerians that the subject offerings (Civic Education, Social Studies, Christian Religious Knowledge, Islamic Studies and Security Education) under the Religion and National Values Curriculum are distinct.

“The subjects are as listed and taught separately on the time table.

“In this Curriculum, no child should be coerced or compelled to learn or be taught in school any religious studies subject but only one (out of the two) that restrictively relates to the belief system professed by the child and his/her parents.”

Junaidu added that teachers had been trained in the six geopolitical zones to be able to teach these distinct subjects.

He said the teachers were also aware of the mode of
teaching the Religion and National Values Curriculum as distinct subjects on the time table.

“In view of the claims therefore, NERDC hereby states that CRK is still taught in schools as a separate distinct subject with the accompanying Teachers’ Guide.

“CRK is not a theme in Civic Education. Civic Education is a distinct subject on its own which teaches the rudiments of good citizenship.

“There is no subject in the Nigerian School Curriculum called Islamic Arabic Studies nor anywhere in the world as being speculated,” he said. He added that French was a compulsory subject from Primary 4 as dictated by the National Policy on Education Section 2, sub-section 23.7p 13.

The executive secretary said efforts were in top gear to print the Christian Religious Knowledge and Islamic Studies Curriculum separately in order to maintain their characteristics and distinctiveness.

“NERDC stands for integrity and excellence in educational research and development.

“The management stands for education for human dignity, economic reconstruction and value reorientation.

“We, therefore, sincerely appeal to politicians and fifth columnist to desist from dragging education into the political melee capable of destabilizing the education sector and mortgaging the future of upcoming generation of Nigerians,” he said.

He said that at the commencement of the present administration, the Minister of Education sought and obtained the approval of the National Council on Education to make CRK and IRK compulsory for Christian and Muslim students respectively. He, however, said that the claims peddled on social media platforms and a national daily are speculative, false and unfounded.


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