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History of Education in Nigeria

Three distinct types of education have existed in Nigeria. These are:

The Traditional
The Islamic and
The formal or Western Education

Traditional Education System

The traditional system of education (also called indigenous, pre colonial, informal, tribal or community-based) education existed before the coming of the Europeans. Here there were no formal teachers and classrooms. It was a system through which each society and or community attempted to inculcate practical knowledge and skills to its new members (the youths) so that they would grow up into quality adults with a high sense of social responsibility. One main feature of this was the apprenticeship system where youths learned through masters. There were no curriculum, no textbooks, no work books and no formal classrooms. Knowledge was passed through oral tradition, story telling and practical training.

Some of the skills and knowledge inculcated include carpentry, farming, pottery, palm wine tapping, dressmaking, traditional medicine, roofing, magic, mat making, etc. Inn addition young youths were taught rules and regulations governing the communities, family life, and the interrelationship between members of society and villages. Intellectual training included but not limited to the study of history, legends, poetry, reasoning, riddles and proverbs.

It is important to note that most of the features of African traditional education system are prominent in the contemporary educational system. For example, people who studied certain trades or vocations spent a specified period of time and at graduation through a ceremony were given either tools or materials to start their own trades.

A key characteristic of the traditional education was the relegation of the girls to the back ground. This essentially was due to the belief that a woman's place is her husband's house and in the kitchen. Thus most training affordable the girls focused on kitchen training.

In modern times, the traditional education is still an integral part of education in Nigeria. In some instances it has been interwoven into the formal education system such they both run side by side. In most rural communities and even in the urban centers, youths still go through the apprenticeship system while oral tradition is still mostly passed on as in the former days. To fully understand and appreciate the role and importance of traditional education, you only need to trace back to the traditional education systems as operated in core Nigerian societies. For instance, among the Yoruba's, traditional education is so strong and entrenched that those who miss it are deemed . In Yoruba land education is called Eko (pronounced ehkorh) and embraces all aspects of life, social and political upbringing.

Islamic Education

Islamic education was introduced into Northern Nigeria in the 13th century. It involves training in koranic recitation and Arabic language. Children learned up to one or two chapters of the Quran by rote from a local mallam, or religious teacher, before they were five or six years old. Religious learning included the Arabic alphabet and the ability to read and copy texts in the language, along with those texts required for daily prayers. Any Islamic community provided such instruction in a mallam's house, under a tree on a thoroughfare, or in a local mosque. This primary level was the most widespread. A smaller number of those young Muslims who wished, or who came from wealthier or more educated homes, went on to examine the meanings of the Arabic texts. Later, grammar, syntax, arithmetic, algebra, logic, rhetoric, jurisprudence, and theology were added; these subjects required specialist teachers at the advanced level. After this level, students traditionally went on to one of the famous Islamic centers of learning.

Islamic education is delivered through mallams (teachers) or ulama, who specialized in religious learning and teaching. The students are generally known as Almajeri. The tools of the education include a slate for copying and reciting the Koran, ink and writing stylus.

Formal And Modern Education

Formal or modern education can be said to have started in Nigeria as far back as 1842 with the Wesley Missionaries in Badagry. At this stage education was focused in the 4Rs namely: reading, writing, arithmetic and religion and prepared the students for job opportunities, as teachers, church evangelists or pastors, clerks and interpreters. The missionaries established primary and secondary schools using these as avenues to teach the gospel and educate formally.

Much of the educational work in Southern Nigerian, prior to 1882, was done by the missionaries almost without government assistance. From 1882, the Government started promulgating codes and regulations, guidelines and policies on organisation of schools. Government also began to appoint inspectors and to make grants to schools to ensure quality. Later, from Between 1952 , the regional governments also began to promulgate laws meant to enhance the quality of education.

In 1959, the Federal Government set up the Sir Eric Ashby Commission to identify the high-level manpower needs of the country. Amongst other findings, the report submitted by the commission noted that education was indeed the tool for achieving national economic expansion and the social emancipation of the individual of Nigerians. It also recommended the establishment of four Federal Universities in the country, and presented some vital courses for them. Subsequently the Federal government in compliance with the report established five Universities namely: University of Nigeria, Nsukka (1960), Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (1962), University of lfe, lle-ife (1962), University of Lagos, Lagos (1962), and University of lbadan, first established as University College, lbadan in 1948.

Today the country boasts of more than a hundred Universities, thousands of both public and private primary and secondary school, many polytechnics and colleges and a host of other specialized institutions.


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