Dynamic and Rigorous Religious Education Program: The Pathway to Tolerance and National Cooperation
“The function of education is to teach one to think intensely and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true educations.”—Martin Luther King, Jr. (National Education Association, n.d.).
Throughout history, Nigeria has implemented a variety of policies, programs, and projects geared toward change in society. One of those policies was the introduction of education programs, and with this, much development has taken place. According to Jawoniyi (2009), these programs promote the core values esteemed by the nation, mainly religious history, traditions, and cultures and values, and their impact is felt in the values learned from religious education, which centers on the training of the mind and character.
Unfortunately, the peace and tranquility envisaged with the introduction of religious education were thwarted by religious conflicts, which have been tarnishing the relationship of Muslims and Christians (Mike, 2015). Recently, in Abuja, the capital state of Nigeria, a woman preacher was hacked to death during a morning call service. This death was not unrelated with the religious conflicts that are endemic in the northern part of the country (Omonobi, Johnbosco, & Jannah 2016). Thus, the government is saddled with the responsibility to use education to achieve peace among the supporters of these religions.
Religious education was provided as a means of transmitting values to aid national peace and security in the nation (Mike, 2015). The two major religions have their dogmas and fundamental beliefs that influence the behavior of those who practice them. The medium of communicating the dogmas and practices of these religions is religious education, which is the process of teaching and learning the values of a particular religion.
Cooperation was the main aim of the country’s education ideology. However, the nation erred when they separated the teaching of these religions along religious lines. Christian religious education was taught in Christian schools in the north, while Christian religious knowledge was dominant in the southeast. This made the teachers of Islamic education impact values with an aim to surpass their Christian counterparts. In fact, there is a belief that all Christians are infidels in the Islamic religion, giving them no power to assume political leadership. This is one of the reasons the country is facing political unrest.
In Nigeria, before the advent of Islam and Christianity, traditional education had been in vogue. During the traditional epoch, wherein there was complete peace and tranquility, students learn through enculturation—a process in which cultural values are transmitted to the next generation through storytelling. In addition, apprenticeship became another means of learning trade of vocational skills. In 1505, the Islamic religion crept into the Northern part of the country, and Usman dan Fodio played a pivotal role in its promotion. Three centuries later, Christianity appeared in the West. These religions had their own religious education system aimed at conveying their values as enshrined in their sacred texts. Indeed, the education then was completely owned by missions. However, the objective of having national peace was not achieved as the curriculum was not integrative of all religious subjects. Because the process aim was not achieved, the government took control of education from the mission in 1970 (Ajah, 2015).
The government’s belief was that by taking over schools, peace could happen. Their quest for tolerance and cooperation ignited their aim to incorporate both religions into their national basic curriculum. In the end, this could not stand because the teachings of the religions were based on religious lines. A Muslim child learns the doctrines of Islam, while a Christian child learns the tenets of Christianity. Merging the two religions proved to be a difficult task as conflicts among them persist. These religions have been operating at parallel dimensions, hence the need for a dynamic and rigorous religious education program. This program will produce students who will significantly grow to coexist with one another in a multifaith and multicultural society.
A Major Element: Training of Religious Teachers
The government should, from time to time, look at the teachers of religion to determine their expertise. Those who teach religious education subjects are generalists, meaning they only have basic knowledge of the subject but are not considered experts (Digga, 1991). Training of these teachers will enhance their competencies to perform their daily tasks (Ismail & Bongogoh, 2007). While this may mean that there is still a lot to do before this is achieved, it is important to start doing so to improve the teaching of the subject, with the hope that this training of teachers will make much business sense. This is where a more effective program becomes critical.
With this, the government should come up with a strategy to attract students to enroll in religious programs when they seek admission to university. Because it will cost a huge amount of money to solve a social problem, it will be more ideal to spend little to train religious teachers whose effort will prevent youth restiveness in the near future. There should be a special package for those who will be in the business of influencing religious values to students in schools.
A dynamic and rigorous religious education will promote quality teachers. Thus, authorities need to strengthen the religious education curriculum, which should be integrative of the several religious principles from the major religions in Nigeria. If they succeed in strengthening the foundation of this subject, it is similar to unlocking the secret to a strong and peaceful society. Regrettably, from the context of the Christian religious studies, the curriculum is yet to achieve its major objectives that are centered on character development (Njoku & Njoku, 2015). If authorities succeed in establishing an all-encompassing curriculum, students will develop a good attitude in approaching issues in life and have better insight toward cooperation. The possibilities will be evident when people are well educated, and the desired outcome is good behavior. Knowing all this, how do we get there?
Create a New Paradigm of Trademark
A dynamic and rigorous religious education program is the new paradigm of trademark we need in our education system today. Students must be trained for them to attain the right behavior. In the world of business, a trademark is defined as a “recognizable sign, design or expression which identifies products or services of a particular source from those of others” (Definitions.net, n.d.). This implies that trademarks make the product or the services of the organization stand out in the market. In this new trademark, we need to improve the quality of learning of students, which will produce individuals with moral behavior, and then later develop minds toward harmonious cohabitation.
The current approach toward religious education subjects will not help us to stand out in society. It is difficult to attract parents from affluent homes to seek admission to universities for their children if the outcome of teaching is the negative behavior of students. Moreover, the international community will not see it fit to compete at the globalized level. Our new paradigm of trademark should set our education in an international context. Our products—the students—should be identified by the values impacted to them through religions.
Education without moral behavior is hopeless. The curriculum should not just be aimed at the cognitive domain of students; instead, it should be caught across all major domains: cognitive, affective and psychomotor. Change in behavior will help students in Nigeria live in harmony with one another. Manus (1992) opined:
Every religious group is called upon to respect and appreciate whatever wisdom and goodness is contained in the tenets and traditions of the religious groups. Each one of them should be convinced that all these positive values and traditions put together at the service of the nation will contribute both to the unity of the country.
The curriculum should be developed to include all the values that each religion practice. The values should be the values that can promote peace and coexistence among various religious groups. According to Manus (1992):
True religion does not consist only in prayers, ablutions, sermons, fasts, and religious favor alone. All these are useless with God and worse that useless to humanity if they are not accompanied by a true spirit of justice, honesty, humanity and universal love which lead to true peace.
Project the New Paradigm of Trademark
The teachers are the implementers of the curriculum. Before focusing on the students, change in behavior should be seen in them first. The hidden curriculum of teachers is paramount. If our teachers are good teachers, the issue of having violent-driven students will be minimized. When one hears about a headmaster alleged defiling a boy of 4 years old (Oyelude, 2017), this type of behavior among teachers will undoubtedly hinder growth in the education system. The new paradigm of trademark or identity should discourage malicious and immoral behavior among teachers who are supposed to be custodians of values.
Policy makers are part of the value transmitters. Young people learn through observation and will, from time to time, evaluate the actions of our leaders in public. A situation where a policy maker is caught fighting in public, which is sometimes televised, sends a bad signal to the younger generation. Moreover, there were also videos of several kinds showing fighting among the parliamentarians that went viral (Vanguard, 2017). This is a display of the level of damage done to the values in educations. Therefore, if every adult in the country absorbs the values in religious education, the anomalies witnessed today can be curtailed.
Conclusion and Recommendation
In general, when one teacher teaches the religious education curriculum as we see in other countries, it will bridge the gap between the two religions. It is also established that the government should hire experts of religious education to handle the subject with regard to both Islam and Christianity. Muslim students should be placed in the same classroom with their Christian counterparts. When these students learn cooperation in the classroom, they will experience change in their lives that will guide them to adulthood. Teachers and policy makers should project the new paradigm of religious education by practicing the virtues they teach, and their way of teaching must be congruent with the lessons they teach.
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