Resting the dust on CRK, IRS controversy

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One of the issues that shook the education sector in 2017 was the alleged removal of Islamic Religious Studies (IRS) and Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) from the curriculum. The intervention of lawmakers, however, put the debacle to rest. MARTIN PAUL writes.
It was as if the hell was let-loose during the controversy that surrounded the introduction of National Values and Civic Education in the school curriculum, where the study of Christian Religious Studies and Islamic Religious Studies were embedded.
As at the time of writing this report, lawmakers in the lower and upper chambers, have rested the case, which almost turned the basic education sector into a field of debate.
Emerging action
As promised, Senate Committee on Education took the bull by the horns and investigated the reforms in the educational sector, which led to the exclusion of Christian Religious Knowledge from the new 9-year Basic Education Curriculum.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, however had asked all stakeholders in the education sector to remain calm to enable the National Assembly look into the various issues involved.
Saraki, made the call while receiving a delegation of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), who paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja.
Explaining the background to the introduction of the policy, the Senate President said the process began in 2010, when the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan came up with a series of reforms to reduce the number of subjects in the school curriculum.
“As leaders, we must continue to seek and find solutions to problems. You will remember that in 2010, the past administration came up with reforms on how to reduce the number of subjects at the basic education level.
“There were about 20 subjects at that time, and subsequently they were reduced to 12. In the process of implementing those reforms, we have this problem. Why I am saying this, is so we don’t leave here and believe that it was done to favour one religion over the other.
“Now the reform is clearly not working. So our responsibility is to look into that reform and make it work. I am sure that there was no intention to make one group feel disadvantaged with this new school curriculum. This is why this Senate will direct our Committee on education to look at the reform and find out why it is not working with the relevant stakeholders,” he said.
The CAN delegation, according to the report, was led by Prof. Charles Adeyinka Adisa, who represented the CAN National President, Samson Ayokunle.
Similarly, the House of Representatives has waded into the matter and has insisted that civic education must be separated from religious studies, be it Islamic or Christianity.
The lawmakers said it was opposing the policy on the grounds that it would not only confuse children, but also deny them and their parents the right to a religion of their choice.
They said much as civic education or national values could be taught in schools, they should be clearly separated from religion.
The House, which was presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Yusuff Lasun, took the decision after exhaustively debating a motion moved by Beni Lar.
Lar, according to reports, is the Chairman, House Committee on Science and Technology and he specifically mentioned that the policy was in breach of relevant section of the 1999 Constitution, as amended which makes Nigeria a secular state and therefore, religion should be separated from national values.
CAN position
It would be recalled that the President, Omega Fire Ministries Worldwide, Apostle Johnson Suleman, raised the alarm, recently that schools were no longer teaching Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) because it had been removed from the school curriculum.
Consequently, Ayokunle, led a delegation of other members, according to a report, on a visit to Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo and disclosed to him that while Christian Religious Studies (CRS), had been expunged from the curriculum, Islamic and Arabic Studies had been retained and French introduced.
It was at this point that concerned citizens, organisations and faith groups rose to speak either in support or against the purported action.
Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), therefore, accused the education minister of employing destabilising plots to foist the study of Islamic religion as compulsory subject in public secondary schools.
HURIWA demanded the restoration of both Islamic religious study and Christian religious knowledge as subjects in public school and also called for an alternative subject to be called African Traditional Religious Study to be introduced to balance the religious equation in the country.
Citing the 1999 Constitution (as amended), HURIWA stated that “specifically section 38 (1) & (2) averred thus: (1) “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, practice and observance.
“We have it on good authority that the current education minister has arbitrarily ordered that in the current curriculum, Islamic and Christian Religious Studies will no longer be studied in schools as subjects on their own but as themes in a civic education.
“It added that Islamic studies had, however, been made a compulsory alternative subject with French for students in sections of the curriculum”.
HURIWA assumed that “Christian students would be forced to take Islamic Arabic Studies since French teachers were scarce in the country as against a glut of Islamic teachers”.
NERDC responsibility
The organisation charged with the responsibilities of drawing out subjects into the curriculum, the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), did not rest on its oars.
In a press statement to put the records straight, said “the claims peddled on social media platforms and a national dailies, are to say the least speculative, false and unfounded, specifically, as regards the Religion and National Values Curriculum”.
The Council, to whose purview the review of curriculum rested, stated inter alia 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 and that 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 or anywhere in the world as being speculated.
“French is a compulsory subject from Primary 4 as dictated by the National Policy on Education Section 2 sub-section 23.7p 13”.
To further nib the argument in the bud, NERDC 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.
“As a regional centre of curriculum excellence, we are very receptive to good suggestions from all critical stakeholders especially ideas that are policy driven and within the scope of our mandate. Indeed, we sincerely appreciate the organisations, institutions and individuals that considered it wise to contact us on this matter.
“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 destabilising the education sector and mortgaging the future of upcoming generation of Nigerians”, the statement added.
It could be recalled that the curriculum, was reviewed by the NERDC through the directive of the National Council on Education, the highest policy making body of the education sector during the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
One of the reasons for the review was to prune down the number of subjects offered by primary and secondary school students in accordance with international best practices and a new subject called Religion and National Values (RNV) was introduced in the new curriculum, comprising Christian Religious Studies (CRS) and Islamic Religious Studies (IRS), Civic Education, Social Studies, and Security Education.
However, while the melee continues, the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, blamed the media for the controversy of replacing Christian Religious Studies with Islamic Religious Knowledge in the secondary school curriculum.
Adamu said on the contrary, the government simply made the choice of IRK mandatory for Muslim students and CRK mandatory for Christian students.
Adamu made the clarification when he addressed State House correspondents after the meeting of the Federal Executive Council, chaired by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.
“You journalists, especially those of you on social media, are not helping this nation by bandying things that are absolutely false.
“The issue that all the national and social media took-up, deceived even the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria because they believed it.
“I read in the papers that they asked the acting president to confirm, there is no truth in it at all. It was just somebody’s imagination, probably somebody who wishes to raise tension in the country after the Biafra issue and then the quit order given by some young people in the north so the person just followed suit trying to stoic the embers of religion. There is no truth whatsoever I repeat.
“You cannot know who you are without knowing who your ancestors were in the past and the National Council on Education did accept and agree that the teaching and learning of CRK has been made compulsory for all Christians students and teaching and learning of Islamic studies is compulsory for all Muslim students.

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