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Defusing basic education time-bomb

THE decision of the Federal Ministry of Education to bow to pressure and restore the Christian Religious Knowledge, CRK and Islamic Religious Knowledge, IRK, as separate subjects in our basic education curriculum is welcome and commendable.

In 2013, the Federal Government had set up a committee to explore ways of reducing the number of subjects under the nine-year basic Basic Education curriculum from 20 to at least nine to reduce the overbearing academic load on our children. The eggheads in the National Educational Research and Development Council, NERDC, went on a quixotic adventure by merging CRK and IRK along with Civics and Security Studies as a single subject known as Religion and National Values.

The National Council on Education, NCE, without pondering the implications of this unwholesome measure, approved it for implementation as from September 2014 amidst protests from Christian and Muslim interest groups. Matters were worsened when Arabic and French were imposed on students to choose from, which many Christian groups suspected was an Islamisation ploy.

The great danger in adopting Religion and National Values as a subject lies in the manner in which the founders of the two rival faiths were depicted which did not match what their respective scriptures taught. As Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu rather belatedly observed, putting the two religions under one subject was as futile as trying to mix oil and water. As expected, many lawsuits were lodged against the new curriculum.

Those who tried to merge the two rival religions into one were simply exploring a new way of increasing national tension. Also, forcing students to study Arabic when it is of no interest to them stokes the embers of suspicion of religious imperialism. This is condemnable and must be withdrawn.

Our Constitution forbids the imposition of religion or any of its appurtenances on any Nigerian. Section 10 makes it clear that the Federal and State governments shall not adopt any state religion. Also, Section 38 (2) directs that no person shall be forced to receive religious instruction other than his own. No child shall be forced to study a religion not approved by his parent or guardian. These efforts to ruffle religious feathers are not only unconstitutional but also unpatriotic.

Because of the manner in which these issues were being pushed last year the impression was erroneously created that it was part of a hidden Islamisation agenda by the current administration. By taking this measure, this speculation will be put to rest.

We therefore urge the Federal Ministry of Education and the NCE to go further (in case they have not already done so) and restore Arabic as a subject only for those who wish to study it.

It does not pay to play with fire.

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