Thursday, August 4, 2011


A brief peep into the current realities of the Nigerian Society
To the Casual observer, Nigeria can safely be classified as being “relatively peaceful” or in other words “not at war”. A deeper reflection on the political and socioeconomic realities in the society will however reveal that the opposite is actually the case.
The society is rife with manifestations of the culture of war and violence. Structural violence in many forms permeates the entire Nigerian socio-political structure. This is turn leads to outright outbreak of physical violence in many cases.
Many manifestations of structural violence abound in the polity, these include ethno religious intolerance, discrimination, corruption etc.
Most of the outbreaks of physical violence in the country are actually the results of long neglected existence of structural violence which boil over. Many individuals and groups live in an environment that is repressive, offering them no credible, civil means of airing their discomfort and in fact no transparent and credible civil structure for seeking redress when wronged or opportunity for effecting transformation of their uncomfortable realities through nonviolent means.
Salient barriers exist which limit the heights to which individuals can aspire the society. These barriers, though not claimed publicly as official policy, exist and they limit the attainable educational, economic and political heights achievable by a citizen. Citizens face discrimination on the basis of their tribal origins, religious beliefs or economic class.
By thus limiting the levels to which citizens can aspire to, many citizens grow up with a form of repressed anger which sometimes breaks into physical violence at the slightest perceived provocation.
Children from low-income earning families are barred from access to a qualitative education which is only available at privately owned fee-paying institutions. Thus at the end of 12 years of Public Primary and Secondary education, they end up without the prerequisite knowledge and skills that can enable them aspire to higher education. By virtue of the low economic powers of the parents, they are thus deprived of further education, which is a tool that could be used to change their lives for the better. Without a qualitative primary/secondary educational background plus a higher education, they thus doomed to be fit only for unskilled jobs while their mates from higher income earning families acquire top class primary and secondary education, then go on to acquire higher educational and professional qualifications with which they stand better chances of securing middle level/top level employment.
This breeds a form of silent anger at the society in the minds of youths thus denied this opportunity and in many cases this anger fuels their capacity and willingness to go into crime or initiate violence on a society that they feel has been unfair to them. Such youths also become willing weapons in the hands of politicians who use them to wreck havoc on opponents during electioneering periods.
It is against this background of undertrained and untrained youths, coupled with lack of effective civil structures for conflict mediation and conciliation; that many ethnic and religious riots have found roots. Ethnic and religious groups who perceive themselves to be unable to find relevance in the existing societal structures live with repressed anger at the system become enticing to the already disillusioned youths.
Though the reality looks bleak, I believe there still exists opportunities for educators to introduce students to new peace-promoting ideals that could guide them to become better citizens by imbibing the culture of peace.
Firstly, it is essential for the teacher to undertake a sincere soul search within himself to purge his mind of personal misconceptions, internal conflicts and prejudices that could manifest as violence in his words, or actions.
After being able to come to peaceful terms within himself on the need to cultivate and promote the culture of peace; it is then important he ensures his life and work exude these ideals.
A teacher is a role model to his students either when he is speaking or when he is silent. He is looked up to as the epitome of their aspirations, someone who should be imitated in all things. But they will be more willing to adopt his teachings if he actually lives what he teaches.
In the Nigerian situation, the teacher will help promote the cultivation and promotion of a culture of peace in the minds of his students if he models his classroom to be a participatory environment in which every student can find a sense of belonging.
He should initiate and promote opportunities for effective conflict resolution and mediation among the students.
Where feasible, the group or cooperative learning approach should be adopted, as it fosters the spirit of cooperation among students and also helps them build relationships which many times go on well beyond the school days.
In selecting students into groups, the teacher should carefully reflect on their diverse personalities, intelligences and capabilities. Efforts should be made to ensure groups are composed of a proper mix of different individuals. Working together in a group greatly enhances their learning process as they better learn the value of individual participation towards the realization of group aims and objectives.
In the present Nigerian context, cultivating and promoting a culture of peace will give rise to the ancient question of “which comes first, the hen or the egg?” Youths grow up acquiring the social habits they see in their immediate society and it is these social habits they end up exhibiting as adults and the next generation becomes influenced by them in turn. So goes on the vicious cycle of socialization, in this case a vicious negative cycle that is promoting a culture of violence.
In my view, the cycle can be broken into and infused with a culture of peace which in time will diminish and finally eliminate the traces of the culture of war. This process of transforming the present reality will require the active participation of the various agents of socialization. Schools are reflections of the wider society; Schools reflect the culture of the society in which they operate and in turn their efforts can effect changes in the society.
In the school context, the task of guiding the students to understand and imbibe the concept of a culture of peace is a task that rests mostly on the shoulder of the teacher! We as teachers must portray peace in our words and actions (both in the class and outside of it). It is by being seen to represent the peace we teach and abhorring violence, that we can actually get them to clearly see the evils of the culture of violence and adopt a culture of peace.

1 comment:

  1. Ibrahim,

    It is important to give youth a sense of hope. Young people are the future of a community and a country. If they can be given the tools to affect change in their society, then there is a chance for a better future for them and their children. Dialogue is a place to start, a dialogue that includes everyone.

    As you say the outlook is bleak but there are opportunities to try and change the current situation. Through this course I hope that you continue to find inspiration to plant the seeds of change in the young people of Nigeria.


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