EDUCATION AND RE-ORIENTATION OF IGALA CULTURAL VALUES
Posted by Rev. Fr. Fidelis Ele-Ojo Egbunu at June 24th, 2013
EDUCATION AND RE-ORIENTATION OF
IGALA CULTURAL VALUES
EGBUNU, FIDELIS ELEOJO (PhD)
GSM: 08068515750/ 08059215672
DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES, KOGI STATE UNIVERSITY, ANYIGBA, NIGERIA
African Journal of Culture, Religious, Educational and Environmental Sustainability (AJCREES), Vol. 1, No. 2. Pp. 66 – 82. Dec., 2013
This paper utilizes the methodology of double deconstruction. It employs education which is an aspect of culture in elevating the Igala culture and at one and the same breath, re-evaluates culture in the light of the twenty-first century educational trends. This exercise could simply be termed a double-demolition enterprise. It could be euphemistically said to be the revaluation of Igala values. It is expected that this arduous and thorny venture would not only lead us to the reconstruction or revaluation of salient pristine Igala, nay African trado-cultural values, but also bring about a true assessment of at least an arm of the present trend of education in our land. By and large, the paper would attempt to lucidly unveil the essence of building the development or transformation of Igala people on the rock-solid foundation of cultural re-orientation. In other words, the paper is geared at harping on the import of applying genuine Igala traditional values as the springboard to the much needed development of Igala society and by extension, the Nigerian nation, African Continent and perhaps the entire globe.
The high point of this paper is that this is the opportune time for Igala Cultural renaissance. Within the purview of the discourse, our task is very modest. After undertaking the task of conceptual clarifications, we hope to assess the educational climate of Nigeria and Igala land in particular to unearth the riches inherent in education, try to identify specific educational needs; revisit the Igala traditional society to glean out what is embedded in the indigenous educational system; then we shall proceed to identifying certain Igala traditional values, before attempting to present what could be considered as healthy reorientation of Igala culture values in relation to the Western modernistic systems. We shall then end by making some humble projections into the future by way of some forward-looking suggestions.
CLARIFICATION OF CONCEPTS
There are five key terms in our topic that needs vivid clarification, namely, Education, Re-Orientation, Igala, Cultural, Values.
A careful analysis of these central words would not only serve to bring up their interconnectedness, but lay to rest the challenge of the need for reconstructing, repositioning or realigning either or both of the two variables, Education and Culture.
The term, education, is derived from its Latin roots educare, educatus which means to rear. And on the other hand, educere (in Latin) which means “to lead forth or to bring out or develop” (Mish 1990, 296; Robinson 1999, 419). It therefore simply denotes any of the following, depending on the context: to provide schooling for; to train by formal instruction or supervised practice especially in skill, trade or profession; to develop mentally, morally or aesthetically especially by instruction; to persuade or condition to feel, believe or act in a desired way or to accept something as desirable. This is in line with Bellingham’s (2007, 83) definition of education as “any process, formal or informal that helps develop the potentialities of human beings, including their knowledge, capabilities, behaviour patterns and values”. It is therefore evident here that the process of education entails much more than mere acquisition of knowledge. It embraces character building and even the learning of societal values or guiding principles which enable one to make healthy adjustment within particular cultures. Such values could be in relation to the mental, physical, spiritual, moral, social or aesthetic aspects of life. That, perhaps, explains why Okafor (1992, 19) posits that education is,
a process of acculturation through which the individual is helped to attain the development of his potentialities, and their maximum activation when necessary according to right reason and to achieve thereby his perfect self-fulfillment.
This description of education places much emphasis on integral development of the human person. In this case, knowledge is not only acquired or the intellect developed but the will is empowered and character is formed in such a way as to lead to self-restraint and reconstruction of values.
The doyen of Nigerian Education, Fafunwa (1974, 17) had earlier seen it as,
the aggregate of all the processes by which a child or young adult develops the abilities, attitudes and other forms of behaviour which are of positive value to the society in which he lives… It is a process of transmitting culture in terms of continuity and growth, for disseminating knowledge either to ensure control or to guarantee rational direction of the society or both.
This definition is particularly very illuminating and instructive, because much stress is laid on “positive value”, and the “transmitting of cultures” of one’s immediate society. Little wonder then that Onyia (2002,12) while citing Otti readily avers that,
Education is leading out from something bad and undesirable, notably, ignorance, “darkness”, primitive life, poverty, disease, slavery, superstition, pride, indiscipline, bad habits, to knowledge, “light”, civilized life, comfortable living, healthy life, freedom, scientific living, humility, discipline and good habits.
It is worth noting at this juncture that some of the above categories (especially, primitive, superstition, civilization, comfort and light) are relative and thereby are capable of raising a lot of questions which are indirectly addressed in the course of this paper. In our context here, it suffices to simply refer to education as the processes, whether formal or informal, by which people are aided in drawing out or bringing to the fore or manifestation the positive or virtuous qualities that are inherent in them as individuals or their socio-cultural ambience.
In our context, reorientation refers to changing once again, a position or attitude, relative to the situation or circumstances (Robinson 1999, 971). In other words, the state of being redirected differently, rearrangement or realignment intellectually or emotionally. It denotes change in thought pattern, inclination or interest (Mish 1990, 832) in which case it is referring to the symbiotic relationship between Igala culture and education or modernity. Since, education, according to Bellingham (2007, 83) is “something that takes place in the society, for the society and by the society”, this cultural reorientation is very vital. The stress, therefore, is more on cultural renaissance, renewal, refinement or purification than on mere cultural revival. For, as it were, it is simply impossible to practically relive the patterns of the life of our Igala forebears who lived a couple of centuries ago in our contemporary society which is virtually suffused in high-technology. We shall only give a benign look at the past with all its cultural baggage with the aim of living our lives forwards and understanding them backwards, not in the sense of adopting so-called atavistic cultures and thereby anachronistically repudiating our present opportunities.
There is little or no need to dwell so much on this concept. It suffices to say it is the language of the ethnic group located at the eastern flank of the confluence of rivers Niger and Benue. In other words, they are located in the eastern region of Kogi State of Nigeria. Geo-politically, they are described as belonging to the middle belt or north-central of Nigeria.
They are bordered on the north by Benue and Nassarawa States, on the West by River Niger, on the East by Enugu State and on the South by Anambra State (Egbunu 2009, 7). Igala land is 120 Kilometres wide and 160 Kilometres long. It is located approximately between latitudes 60 30” and 80 North and longitudes 6030” and 7040” East and covers an area of about 13, 665 square kilometers. The population of the Igala people is estimated at two-million in the late 1990s (Egbunu 2001, 5).
Historically, they are said to be linked to the Yoruba, the Jukuns and the Binis (Edo) and the northern Ibos. Owing to their central location, they have mutually interacted and lived with the Idomas, Bassa-Nkomo, Nupe, Igbirra and Hausa people.
The Igala ethnic group is densely populated in their settlements around the major towns such as Idah, Ankpa and Anyigba. They are also found in Edo, Delta, Anambra, Enugu, Nassarawa, Adamawa and Benue States. However, the bulk of them are indisputably found in Idah, Ankpa, Dekina, Omala, Olamaboro, Ofu, Igalamela/Odolu, Ibaji, Bassa (and even Lokoja and Ajaokuta) Local Government Areas of Kogi State (Egbunu 2001,49).
This refers to what pertains to culture or a people’s totality of life. That is, the customs, ideas, values, etc of a particular civilization, society or social group at a point in time, improvement and development through care and training (Robinson 1999, 327). From the historical and contemporary angles, Mondin (1985, 145-6) opines that culture has three meanings and three principal uses, elitarian, pedagogical (educational) and anthropological, thus:
In the elitarian sense, it signifies a great quantity of knowledge, either in general or in some particular sectors… In the pedagogical sense, it indicates the education, formation, and cultivation of man: it is the paideia of the Greeks – the process through which man (the child, the youth, and the adult) comes to full maturation and realization of his own personality… in the anthropological sense, it signifies that totality of customs, techniques, and values that distinguish a social group, a tribe, a people, a nation: “it is the mode of living proper to a society”
The pedagogical and anthropological sense would be more of the reference point within which this paper would be situated. That which Tylor refers to as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, other capabilities and habits acquired by human beings as members of society” (Shorter 1998, 22). It comprises many aspects, namely, language, knowledge, human institutions, technology, beliefs, traditions and customs (Chuta 2008, 23). This phenomenon can be split into three basic objectives: material culture, social culture, and mental culture, which Lapiere (1965) termed the three universal ingredients of culture. Culture is therefore inside and outside, above and beneath all experiences of the human person. This underscores the need for tapping from the personal reminiscences of our cultural patrimony.
“Values” in this context refers to moral principles or standards (Robinson 1999) or as Giddens (2002, 45) would put it, “abstract ideas which define what are considered important, worthwhile and desirable within a given culture”. Norms are the rules of behaviour, which reflect cultural values. Values and norms work together to shape how members of a culture should behave within their surroundings. Values and norms are deeply embedded, but can change over time, it is dynamic.
Distinction is often made between permanent values which are important to society and temporal values which are mere attitudes that are fleeting and unstable. Society depends more or less on stable values. These stable values may be termed traditional values. On these values (general or shared), social order depends. They are invariably considered legitimate and binding on the society in question and “act as a standard by means of which the ends of actions are selected” (Abercrombie, Hill and Turner 2000, 373).
In our conception here, therefore, do not necessarily connote primitivity, backwardness, brute-likeness, irrationality, non-sophistication or belongingness to the indigenous religious sphere. Both words in their nuances rather denote positive elements of culture regarded as part of the common inheritance of a social group. Groups, societies or cultures have values that are largely shared by their members. They are values emanating from tradition rather than from any particular moralist, writer or thinker. It has to do with beliefs, moral codes and mores that are handed down from one generation within a culture, subculture or community to the next generation. Wielding of traditional authority and folk culture are implied. The values identify those objects or “Modern” characteristics that members of the society consider important or valuable. Such values are identified by noting which people are being respected or honoured. Members participate in this culture even when the individual member’s personal values do not totally tally with some of the approved normative values of the culture. As it were, from the multiple subcultures, to which they belong, the individual is expected to draw out aspects of them that are of value.
Having given this task a little bearing by briefly clarifying these key terms, our next task would be to briskly take a look at the riches inherent in education.
RICHES INHERENT IN EDUCATION
Nduka (2006, 211) sharply informs us that sociologists have identified some functional prerequisites which are necessary for the continuity or survival of the human society, namely, the family, the school system, the economy, the political system, the health or welfare system and the religious/moral system. Thus, while the family ensures the reproduction of the population, the educational system is geared towards the learning or transmitting of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will prepare them adequately to function and contribute their quota to the development of the society. This probably informs why Emile Durkheim (1956, 25) would see education as the influence exercised by the adult members of a given society over the younger ones, with the aim of instilling in individuals certain skills or attitudes that are adjudged to be useful and desirable in that society. In the same connection, O’Connor (1957, 5) believes it is meant “to develop the individual as a person and prepare him to function effectively in the society”.
Education is often classified into both formal and informal. Kneller (1964, 25) sees education in this light. From the formal, he observes that it is “the process by which society deliberately transmits its cultural heritage through schools, colleges, universities and other institutions”. An enabling environment is created by the school to cater for the future of the society culturally, economically and socio-politically. As a matter of fact, the school environment operates with the basic assumptions that “human beings possess inherent potential capacities which can be developed through education for the benefit of the individual and the society at large” (Student Handbook, KSU, Anyigba, p.6). It is the school therefore that helps to produce citizens who are not only academically sound but leaders of tomorrow who are morally, spiritually and socially competent and equipped to contribute to the growth of the society. As one educator expressed it recently, “children are like fire, if you handle fire very well, it will serve you; if you handle it carelessly, it will burn you…” (The Bell Magazine, 2010/2011, p.19). The school plays a very central role in the formation of young minds, especially in fostering such principles or values that are highly cherished by the society, such as goodwill and patriotism and are also very crucial in the building up of a united and virile people.
The National Policy on Education (1998) harps on the need to inculcate national consciousness and national unity; the inculcation of the right type of values and attitudes for the survival of the individual and the Nigerian society; the training of the mind in the understanding of the world around; and the acquisition of appropriate skills and the development of mental, physical and social abilities and competences as equipment for the individual to live in and contribute to the development of his society. In a nutshell, the quality of instruction at all levels of our education is expected to be oriented towards inculcating holistic human development (National Policy on Education, nos: 9, 8).
From Kneller’s (1964) categorization above, it is necessary to note that education is also made possible through the informal angle. By this means, the society inculcates its attitudes, norms, knowledge and skills to the younger generation. And indeed, that education is much more than what takes place within the four walls of an institution (Onyia 2002,13). The concept of indigenous education falls in line here. This involves socialization through parents, guardians, peer-groups, mosques, churches, even the mass-media, and so forth. As a matter of fact, it begins far earlier than when the individual enrolls in school. Obviously, the child learns speech, greetings, eating, drinking and even miming before going to school; skills like farming, weaving, knitting, cooking, and the crafts and various forms of arts are learnt in due course; acts of tolerance, patriotism, patience, humility, truthfulness, kindness, chastity, etc are also imbibed from the society. Ezewu (1990) itemizes learning of such attitudes as internal harmony, values of the past that are cherished, functionality (or personal responsibility) so as to bring about useful changes in the society (in Onyia 2002, 14-15). This singular point of the need for an educated individual to bring positive or useful changes to the society would deepen our understanding of Cultural reorientation in the course of this paper. It suffices at this juncture to note that the concept of education develops with time. And in the modern age which is the age of globalization, education is seen as something that takes place in the society, for the society and by the society. It is vital for the reorientation and readjustment of the individual with the objective of social progress.
As Bellingham (2007, 84) succinctly puts, it is a “natural, harmonious and progressive development of man’s innate powers”. The development may be guided but it must be all round. This is what Mahatma Gandhi alluded to when he said, “By education I mean an all-round drawing out of the best in the child and the man in body, mind and spirit”. This is simply referred to as holistic or integral development in our context. Any process, formal or informal which helps humans in developing their potentialities, whether academically, emotionally, physically, economically, spiritually or their socio-political capabilities are referred to; the development process which the school or other institutions organize mainly for the purpose of instruction and learning are referred herein. In other words, the entire gamut, sphere or aggregate of development required by an individual by means of instruction and learning are being referred to here as education.
Ajimoko (in Ojo 1981, 45) classifies the processes by which a person develops his abilities, attitudes and skills into a tripartite overlapping and interacting categories, namely, informal, formal and non-formal.
Briefly, the informal brand pertains to that which involves life-long process within which people acquire values, attitudes and knowledge or capabilities from daily affairs with the educative influence of the social environment, especially from the family angle or peer groups, sports, work, Church or mosque, mass media and even the market squares, as earlier indicated. Informal education has a process that is mainly unsystematic or unorganized in style. Yet, it is a very great means whereby a great number of people are being educated.
In the wider sense of the term, education entails human development from infancy to maturity. It embraces the influence of one’s profession, vocation or trade, friendship, parental upbringing, the socio-economic milieu and everything which adds up into making the human personality. In this light, education is for life and throughout life.
The formal educational system, on the other hand, is structured hierarchically and is guided chronologically and systematically at all levels, whether it is the nursery, primary, secondary, tertiary or university levels. This type entails a good deal of “specialized programmes and institutions for full time technical and professional training” (Ajimoko, 1981).
And the non-formal mode of education refers to any organized educational activity outside the confines of the established formal system. They could operate separately or as an important dimension of some wider activity which is aimed at serving identifiable learning needs and particular learning objectives. It is often carried out within the framework of sub-groups (adults, youths, children, women, and/or specialized groups such as nomadic-fulanis, the speech impaired, hearing impaired, differently able people (the mentally retarded, the blind, the lame, etc). Vocational or domestic education in their various forms, continuing education in their different shapes such as by through Open-University, Correspondence courses and even On-the-job-education, as in apprenticeship in various trades, seminars and workshops, etc belong to this category.
It is pertinent at this juncture, to briefly identify the educational needs of the Igala people who are our point of focus here. This would, no doubt, enable us unearth the quality of educational and cultural reorientation that is most crucial at this point in time.
IDENTIFYING SPECIFIC EDUCATIONAL NEEDS
In our bid to identify the educational needs of the Igala people, we shall have recourse to the general need of the nation before narrowing it down to the Igala ethnic or geo-political enclave.
Enoh (1996, 140) advocates the need for modern education methods being aimed at meaningful development generally in Nigeria when he cited the late Sardauna of Sokoto, Ahmadu Bello, thus:
The needs of modern society are many and varied. It requires specialization, scientific and humanistic knowledge in order to satisfy them, and we must give our men and women the necessary education and training in arts, science, engineering and technology in order to meet the needs of the society.
In a similar vein, the erstwhile Education Minister and Veteran educationist, Prof. Jubril Aminu’s point is very illuminating,
Education for national development should aim at total development of the individual, equip recipients with necessary attitudes, knowledge and skills; discover the gifted in the society and develop the spirit of self-reliance as well as inculcate problem-solving and survival skills (Enoh, 1996:309).
In this era of globalization, when the world is seen as a global village and information is only a mouse-click away, life is on information super highway, and adhering to such admonitions as are given above is very necessary so as not to miss the moving bus. When we are inundated with terms such as e-library, e-books, e-conferences, e-voting, e-payment and internet services in general, information is made accessible to the common man with every ease. Yet, there is every need to guide the younger generation in imbibing the positive as against the negative garbage that are associated with modern culture and unhealthy ideological postures. Issues which bother on yahooism or internet scams, lackadaisical attitude towards thorough research owing to availability of the internet, pornography, culture of violence, terrorism, occultism, spiritism and sheer licence or promiscuity ought to be squarely addressed.
At this juncture, the one billion Naira question on stares one on the face.
As Balogun (2008, 1) graphically captures it, “the conception of an educated person as one who is only lettered and literate is philosophically inadequate.” He went further to posit that,
The idea of an educated person in traditional Africa is holistic; inclusive of evidence of a well integrated personality with positive moral dispositions and observance of the society. Only those who are educated in the holistic sense can make significant and meaningful contribution to their societies.
As a matter of fact, education plays a pivotal role in the socialization of a people and also in the moral or ethical life of the people. This is akin to what Idachaba (2008, 5) refers to as “recognition of the fundamental importance and role of Education in the personal and collective development of the Igala nation”. And this, according to him is possible by banishing the “enenene dunyi wn ali ochu” (wherever your abode, you are capable of seeing the moon) mentality.
A person devoid of good character, though filled with all knowledge cannot be said to be cultured. He is in no wise an educated fellow. Education is supposed to be the master-key to unlocking the doors to development and modernization. The educated is expected to apply what is acquired to better the condition of his or her society by humble service for the common good.
It is worth reiterating the fact that education entails much more than being through the four-walls of a school environment, memorizing or cramming all one is taught and passing examinations. One who is really educated must also allow the school to pass through him/her before he can be actually considered to be an educated person. Such a fellow could be said to be only literate but highly uneducated who after being schooled still exhibits some wanton sense of primitive accumulation, panders after base desires and is non-challant towards the common good. Such men/women are self-styled educated elites who, unfortunately, are uneducated literates. In other words, they can read and write but are to say the least, uncultured. To buttress the fact that literacy education is far from being an end in itself and that it is only a means, a tool or vehicle for equipping one for a more qualitative life. Some other renowned nationalists/educationists who at various instances drew home this point.
Nnamdi Benjamin Azikiwe (1904-1996), a most colourful political icon and pioneer nationalist, holds in his Renascent Africa that “Africans have been miseducated. They need mental emancipation so as to be re-educated to the real needs of the Renascent Africa (1937, 135). This, he attributed to uncritical transportation of one system to an alien one with mostly different cultural background and history. He saw this as being anachronistic and lacking moral stability, perspective and permanence of values. And he terms this, “the cultivation of false values which are based on the veneer of a decadent civilization” (1937, 134), a kind of training which only succeeds in alienating them from their indigenous environment (Enoh 1996, 47). This accordingly, makes the African “a misfit, despising African institutions and glorifying the social and material culture of other people. Such Africans, he averred “chase the rainbow of Occidentalism and allow its rays to strangulate them…” (1937, 134). With this backdrop, he calls for a re-evaluation of concepts of values in Africa in such a way that education will serve to bring about the needed spiritual balance, social regeneration, mental emancipation, economic determinism and political Risorgimento (Azikiwe 1970, 254). Azikiwe lays much emphasis on the need to learn history and General Studies, and for being creative. He frowns at any scheme of education which has little immediate currency to the people and does at the same time discourage any system that is so localized as to cut off knowledge of other lands (Azikiwe 1970, 169). He sees character development as a very important ingredient. It is in that perspective he draws home the importance of the influence of religion and ethical instruction (Azikiwe 1960, 258). “Sportsmanship” to him “is co-terminus with character building.” Sports to him instills such time-honoured virtues as,
playing the game according to the rules, not taking unfair advantages, fair play, teamwork, endurance and equity. It also forges lasting friendship and goodwill and studied resistance to the better end. Just as it teaches participants to remain noble in victory and graceful in defeat (Enoh 1996, 60).
It is meant also to equip individuals for meaningful livelihood through dependence on acquired skills (Enoh 1996, 60). Therefore, the social and economic needs of the people have to be brought into consideration. Because accordingly,
The scientific erudition, bestow them with vocational proficiency and infuse in them a sense of mission, particularly in those areas which satisfy the needs of the particular communities concerned in their crusade against poverty, disease, ignorance and superstition ( in Enoh 1996, 63).
The type of education that would prepare students for the inevitable role of leadership, self-reliance, and much more, was his point of emphasis. The essence of education in Zik’s thought is not necessarily what one acquires, general or specialized. It is rather the attitude which such education develops in one. We shall now move to another towering figure, Awolowo.
Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo (1909-1987) was another nationalist of great repute. A lawyer, teacher, economist and principled politician. He remained a proponent of Universal education and believed that education is the pivot or motor on which all developments, whether of individuals or society revolves (Enoh, 82). He sees education as,
a systematic course of instruction, giving intellectual and moral training to persons, bringing up of the young, helping the young to develop, to lead out the best in him, and to evolve an integral personality (Awolowo 1968, 186).
He laid so much emphasis on the three most important aspects of human development, namely, head or mental development, heart or spiritual self-realization and health or physical well-being (Enoh, 1996, 83). He believes that “only an educated person can play meaningful role in the affairs of the society and believes also with Winston Churchill that, “the future of the world belongs to the educated elites” (Awolowo 1981, 109). As it were, without human development which comes through education, there is nothing in man which can generate dominion over all other creatures and which can place him as monarch on earth (Enoh 1996, 94).
He sees the acquisition of education as a means of personality development, a state in which the individual,
never fears anything, he cringes not, and never feels inferior to anyone no matter the colour, stature, strength of such a one: he is self reliant, and will resist any form of enslavement until the last breath in him is exhausted (Awolowo, Voice of Reason 1981, 160).
And now we are unto yet another astute leader, Ahmadu Bello.
Ahmadu Bello (1910-1966) is said to be such an ebullient, dynamic, charismatic and unequalled fellow in courage, who believed so much in work and worship. He remained an advocate of equal educational opportunity and making of concessions for the best interest of the people. According to him, people are bound to have differences,
but such differences should not be the occasion for disagreement, but be merely a variation which adds more colour to a picture. We can then benefit by the greater variety of ideas that can result from differing viewpoints (Selected Speeches, cited in Enoh 1996, 376).
He entertains a concept of education which is mainly targeted at equipping individuals with greater power to appreciate their immediate environments; to become well-informed about issues affecting their lives and to come up to the level whereby they can distinguish truth from falsehood in addition to possessing a skill for the purpose of achieving self-reliance. This reasserts the fact that education is far greater than schooling which entails only acquisition of knowledge or literary skills. For him, education means giving “enlightenment in cultural minds” (Ahmadu Bello 1962:viii). And it is quite instructive to note that he regrets for,
the North now paying the penalty of the reluctance of our forbearers to accept modern education method… that the complicated world of today requires modern education methods for meaningful development. Thus, it is true as he says that the North is full of cultural traditions such as the art of government, music, dancing and ceremonies, but admits that the needs of modern society are many and varied… ( in Enoh 1996, 72).
Ahmadu Bello recognizes the promotion and preservation of local culture and traditional institutions which schools, as important agencies in society are especially set to achieve as an important function of education(cited in Enoh 1996, 151).
The Sardauna thus believes that the first function of education is indeed that of
Conserving rather than innovating. It is the preservation of local culture rather than a modernizing one and, even when it attempts to modernize it, it must do so only as far as this does not disrupt existing spiritual, cultural and social values (Enoh 1996, 151).
In his exhortatory discourse with Ahmadu Bello University, he re-echoed this point,
While universities are primarily concerned with academic problems of worldwide interest, they have also the responsibility of promoting the culture, customs and traditions of the community in which it is situated. The preservation, protection and development of these traditions should be a main function of the University (in Enoh 1996, 151).
For him, high premium should be placed on preservation and promotion of culture. By so doing, it is believed that social change shall be gradually ushered in by such a piecemeal and orderly fashion. There is need therefore to revisit Jubril Aminu.
Aminu Jubril was at some stage of the Nigerian history, education minister. He holds that three broad aims are discernible, among which transformation of culture is uppermost. Others include transmission of knowledge and skills relevant to technological advancement and the need for continuity of an efficient system. He believes that education should be used for cultural diffusion and assimilation. That by way of interaction or research and publication of textbooks on the diverse cultures of the country, certain “shaky assertions bandied, here and there according to political expediency of the moment” (Aminu 1988, 42) would be dispelled so that the individual would become so detribalized.
Another notable figure in the educational landscape of Nigeria is Prof. Aliu Fafunwa (1930 – 2011). He is unmistakably the doyen of Nigerian education, who believed strongly that the Traditional African has a nature and character of traditional education which needs to be harnessed. According to him,
the warrior, the hunter, the nobleman, the man of character or anyone who combines the latter feature with a specific skill was adjudged to be well educated and a well integrated citizen of his community (Fafunwa 1966, 15)
He proposes the restoration of African personality through the use of mother tongue. That the imposition of an alien language of instruction is “one of the important factors that militate against the dissemination of knowledge and skills and thus of rapid social and economic well-being of the majority of people in developing countries” (Fafunwa 1989, vii). Fafunwa further argues that “a language that one has never been happy in, never been angry in, never made love in, a language that is only for school, is no language in which to develop the enterprise of the mind” (1889, ix).
And finally, the history of the development of education in Nigeria is never complete without the mention of Ukeje Onyerisara. He talks of the need for educational reconstruction. He agrees that today, the society is changing and that new demands are emerging, that calls for a new manner of learning for the good of the society (Ukeje, 1966, 133). He believes that adjustments are quite necessary in new habits, attitudes and values if there should be effective education. Ukeje frowns at a situation whereby changes are copied wholesale and expressed the need for interpreting a whole complex of a society’s culture instead of adopting from other cultures (Ukeje 1966, 104). For him, education is an outgrowth, as well as an integral part of the culture of a people; it varies as culture from culture to culture. He stresses the need to educate women, emphasizing that women education promotes a shared responsibility for the training of children and for social improvement.
Gleaning through the gamut of thoughts of the giant figures in the history of Nigerian education as are lined up above, one observes a constant re-echoing of the need not only for cultural reorientation but also for some readjustment in the current educational curriculum. Fortunately, this seems to be the stance of policy makers in Nigeria. The Nigerian Policy on Education (2004, 18) specifically stresses these needs,
to develop and promote Nigerian languages, art and culture in the context of world cultural heritage; … to foster national unity with an emphasis on the common ties that unite us in our diversity;… and to appreciate those values specified under our broad national goals and live as good citizens (nos. iv, vi, vii).
One is personally convinced too of this need in the Igala environment, considering one’s personal observation and investigation into the pressing need (Egbunu 2009) and also by taking a cursory look at the view of some of our renowned Igala educationists. Professor F.S. Idachaba, the brain behind Igala Education Summit and Vice-Chancellor Emeritus of Kogi State University, for instance, had the occasion of challenging Igala reliance on their sense of “false security” or “political and numerical superiority”. This, he inveighed against as being “non-sustainable with a weak, flawed and inferior education status.” According to him, this is owing to the fact that some groups in Kogi State are superior to the Igala group in terms of educational achievement (Idachaba 2008, 5). In fact, as he puts it in his magnus opus title “Good Intentions Are Not Enough” (2006), to which we may quickly add a rider, “they necessarily need to be backed up with good deeds, if they must bear good fruits.” Achor (2009, 1) corroborated this view, when without mincing words; he revealed “that professors from Ogori and Magongo alone compete favourably with the total number from the entire Igala land. He further confesses that Kogi East is probably the only factor for considering Kogi State as an educationally disadvantaged State (2009, 2). Little wonder then that in a couple of years back, our renowned educationist and Commissioner of Education, Chief S.M. Onojah, OON while pointing out that education was in a comatose state before he came on board, declared that it had only moved with strenuous efforts from the Stretcher to the Wheel-chair. This made him to fight frontally the prevalence of exam-misconduct with all the venom of an astute and avowed educationist that he is to such a manageable level.
Aside, the hydra-headed nature and recalcitrant traces of exam-malpractice which have been identified, Achimugu (2010, 3), Obeta (2007, 3) and Okpanachi (2009, 25) also identified other challenges to education in Igala land, viz, incessant educational reform, girl-child or gender issues, lack of infrastructural facilities and equipment, downward trend in performance, ill-motivation of teachers, poor training of teachers, politicization of education, non-conducive learning environment, industrial disharmony, cultism, corruption, riots, thuggery, certificate forgery, unemployment and lack of admission, etc. These flaws that have been identified and even much more, may not be peculiar to the Igala alone, but there is every need here to employ the tool naturally and readily available to us as a people in our own culture to find some remedy to these problems or challenges. On this account therefore, we shall attempt revisiting the case of Igala Indigenous Education.
REVISITING THE CASE OF IGALA INDIGENOUS (OR CULTURAL) EDUCATION.
In the Igala Traditional ambience, there exists a long standing system of bringing up the younger ones.
In comparison, formal education is therefore merely schooling and it remains only an insignificant aspect of the education in relation to the Igala indigenous concept of education. In the traditional mode, the moral physical, social, spiritual and economic considerations in relation to the needs of the society are very central. In the Igala traditional worldview, what constitutes best education are characteristically measured on the bases of the development of the intellectual skills. The intellectual or cognition only formed part of a large whole, the inculcation of cultural values in form of development of character, and communal living, vocational skills were placed over and above the intellectual. It was in fact, integral or holistic except that it remains at the informal level. Within the traditional context, there was largely no dichotomy between education and life, education was virtually a flexible affair because it never created any gap between normal life and learning. Life itself was the school. And every member of the society had the opportunity of being educated.
The entire landscape is better explained in detail as portrayed in my earlier work (Egbunu 2009, 27-48). As a matter of fact, in the traditional ambience, every meaningful member of the society (especially every elder) was a teacher, because as it is believed, “alu ogijo magbulu omieka” (the elders are custodians of wisdom). Every genuine elder is indeed considered a mini-encyclopaedia of traditional wisdom. In this light, education began at the early stages of life and continues all through life.
Igala traditional values are principally expressed and transmitted by means of oral traditions such as myths, folktales, rituals, proverbs, folksongs, dances, pithy sayings, social institutions and works of art. Among the Igala, some myths are carved on woods, clay, iron, ivory and stones. Some are tattooed on the body of ladies. Some other ones come as tribal marks accordingly in different strokes, shapes and sizes. Others are represented in arts and crafts and especially in wooden stools, staffs, chairs, tables, doors, coffins and the others are retained in dances, rituals and ceremonies and on masks. Some others still, are represented in natural objects such as trees, rivers and mountains. Details on this form part of what needs further research.
In the indigenous Igala educational system, there is no stress on paper qualification but on passing on of information, entertainment and edification of the young. Most of the lessons are either passed on orally or through observation and practice as children learn the trade of their parents or elders within their environs. Farming, fishing, hunting, smiting, building, setting of broken bones, folksongs, brewing of local liquor, weaving, dyeing or farming may be undertaken by the womenfolk. And it is along these lines that people were decorated with honorific titles (Egbunu 2001).
Among the Igala, there is that strong notion of “Udama Ch’ukpahiu” (unity is power). Togetherness is seen as a great source of strength or power. As it is often expressed in proverbs, “alu ma mujon ya fufon” (if the lips do not come together, there can never be successful whistling); “oli katete adago amud’okon” (a tree cannot make a forest); “omowo katete any’oji adina-n” (no single finger can bring lice from the hair); “Oli owo katete aneke gba’nen” (a single broomstick can never sweep the floor); “ema tito jugbo katete-n yaw u wowon” (if you do not urinate on one spot it would not foam); “ana du domi komi dud u we onwu ch’anade” (it’s rendering of helping hands from both sides that make in-lawship thrive. Variation: Love is reciprocal); “owo awoto agw’awohi, awohi lagwawoto” (the right washes the left hand and the left washes the right hand or true love is never one-sided; one good turn deserves another). Whether some of the assertions or allusions made in the proverbs rendered above lack plausibility in certain situations is not our point of concern here. It is only necessary to note at this point that these ideas form a good part of what the the Igala person cherishes.
This explains why in the Igala socio-political milieu, forming of associations and co-operatives (oja eche) is very prevalent among the different age grades. Even up till the present generation, one needs only take a bird’s eye view on the society, either at the clan, hamlet, village or township levels to observe how they often gather under trees or village huts (atakpa) or halls to hold meetings at frequent intervals. At such fora birds of the same feather flock together. Like-minds or age-groups gather to rub minds. Most often they are people of same sex or occasionally of mixed sex gathering under the same umbrella to trash personal issues, teething societal matters and share ideas on how to make progress. Every so often, they gather meager sums of money and take turns in hosting such meetings which also aid them in putting resources together to cater for their needs.
In fact, from childhood, children of the same age group consciously or naturally meet under the moonlight to share stories, myths, legends, folk-tales, fairy-tales, folk-songs, proverbs and wise sayings. Therein they learn societal mores and norms, play different games, including hide and seek (okwu bebebe), etc. Within this atmosphere, they get to know the dos and don’ts of the land. An adult mingling with such little children would be very absurd. This would be tantamount to “ogijo ki a tido aka nugba” (an elder who dances to the tune of ordinary play cans or tins). For the elderly ones are only expected to dance to the tune of real drum-beats. Again, “ogijo ki joji ajuwen” (an elder ought not habitually chicken is meant for children. In other words, a reasonable adult is not expected to stoop too low. It is within the context of such moonlight exercises, children learn traditional dancing steps with their peers, mimic their parents and generally the elders in the society, either for good or bad. sThey learn techniques of agreeing and disagreeing, develop leadership and basic skills in home keeping.
Youngsters in their adolescence stage were often seen with their peer groups. The male-folk of same age group had their circumcision organized together and were termed the “onoji”. This group would traditionally be offered gifts by passers-by in respect of their coming of age. They were often hailed as “abokele” (men) for attaining manhood. People of this age-group were often seen organizing “adakpo” or “ailo” which literally means “group work”. They were able to set aside reasonable time to help one another in their father’s farms, in building mud houses, raising roofs or in other energy-sapping or highly-engaging jobs. This often gave them some sense of healthy competition and by this token, they could weigh who was stronger and even know who is more endowed and energetic in one field of endeavour or the other. In like manner, the young ladies also organized themselves into groups seasonally, either in harvesting crops in their parents’ farms, fetching of water or fire woods, in preparing palm-oil or cracking of palm kernel. It could also be in cooking for a large crowd at traditional marriage ceremonies, burials or land festivals. In such gatherings, certain traditional songs, such as, “ugbo ch’anukwu-o, odokuta chanukwu igbele” (the natural habitat of the young ladies is the grinding mill) and “godo godo onobule ategwu oli no-o” (climbing of tree is an odd and abominable deed for a woman) were sung in order to draw home some salient messages on pristine customs, values and mores of the society. Igala men and women believed in playing complementary roles in their society. Allowing women to do hard jobs was often considered a taboo so as to encourage men to be readily available to help out. One therefore notices some form of education in the need for solidarity while still creating room for some role differentiation, not by any means paving way for any form of ill-treatment of the women or inferiority complex.
In both sexes, there is often an under-girding principle of checks and balances and tendency towards uniformity as peer-groups are readily available to help each other in times of need. This is owing to the traditional Igala feeling that “ule j’one meji” (it takes two to tango). Literally, a long and arduous journey is made shorter and easier by the sheer fact of traveling with other good companions. In other words, “eju we-e akpone” (loneliness is not only boring but it kills). The above assertions do not mean that the Igala person does not and can not operate alone, but companionship is most often the preferred option and it is most cherished.
This is what partly informs the forming of co-operative societies, associations, unions as earlier observed. By this, it means they assert their solidarity and communal nature of life even in diaspora. In so doing, they support each other; sew same colour, quality and style of dress or outfits. They grow up with this attitude and every activity of theirs is virtually permeated with this spirit of solidarity.
That explains why even in adulthood, as married men or women, they are able to continue to render help to each other. It is actually with this background that they see themselves as one in the positive sense of it without undue sense of discrimination. And so, the good wind blowing in the typical Igala traditional atmosphere seems to be echoing and re-echoing,
Your husband is our husband
Your wife is our wife
Your daughter is our daughter
Your son is our son
Your father is our father
Your mother is our mother
Your farm is our farm
Your problem is our problem
Your joy is our joy
Your pain is our pain
Your promotion is our promotion
Your demotion is our demotion
Who hurts you hurts us
Who fights you fights us
Who derides you derides us
Who insults you insults us
Who bewitches you bewitches us
Who pursues you pursues us
Our wife therefore must be cared for whether you are alive or dead
Our children must be catered for whether you are dead or alive
Our elders must be loved and protected whether you are alive or dead.
There are certain modes of behaviour the Igala person holds very dear. These shall be carefully addressed under the next sub-topic
IDENTIFYING IGALA CULTURAL VALUES
Experts in sociology often classify cultures into different categories. Haralambos (2000, 884-5) has five typologies, namely, High Culture, Folk Culture, Mass Culture, Popular-Culture and Sub-culture.
High Culture refers to the highest level of human creativity as found in cultural creations that are particularly depicted in Opera compositions of Beethoven or Mosart, and sculptures of Michael Angelo, Shakespare’s classics, etc.
Folk Culture is of the ordinary people especially those living in pre-industrial or pre-modern societies. This springs “from the grass roots, is self-created and autonomous and directly reflects the lives and experiences of the people” (Strinati 1995). It is prevalent in traditional folksongs and legends or myths as are handed down from one generation to the next. And it is characteristically unique and original in nature; Mass Culture, however, is basically a product of the mass media and of the industrial societies. Examples abound in popular feature films, television soap operas and recorded pop-music, which is often redolent with wholesale buying of alien and untoward cultures; Popular Culture is yet another category – which is closely related to Mass Culture. This is where detective stories, the Titanic, certain TV Programmes, Pop-music and mass market films belong. And it is most often viewed by cultural analysts as being too harmful or shallow; and Sub-Culture is a widely employed term which simply denotes “groups of people that have something in common with each other” (Thornton, 1999). Such ones share the challenges of life, beliefs and interests together.
What we refer to as Igala Cultural system with its traditional values belong strictly to the second group above, known as folk culture. This is identifiable with the ordinary, original, grassroots, village, pre-historic, pre-industrial or pre-modern societies (Egbunu 2009, 93). It arises from the self-created and autonomous.
The Igala cultural system is also identified with sub-cultures. The complex modern value systems are found mainly in the typologies of High Cultures, Mass Culture and Popular Culture and perhaps some tincture of sub-cultures.
It is our humble submission in this work that there are salient aspects of Igala culture that are capable of being refashioned for the promotion of not just the Igala individual person but that could be also harnessed for the much needed harmony and development of the contemporary world. Such characteristics of culture, for instance are observable in their trado-cultural value systems. As a matter of fact, like any other African culture, the Igala culture is under the “battering influence of Western imperialism” (Obi-Ani 2004, 35). That not withstanding, certain principal cultural values are easily identifiable as being typical of Igala,
v Familial Solidarity – in which case the extended family members, the ancestors and children form a formidable force. The loyalty or love one owes to the family and the support needed are of utmost priority.
v Sense of the Sacred – no sharp distinction is made between the sacred and the secular for an Igala, God is at the centre of life itself.
v A sense of Ritual and Festivity – any celebration without song and dance can never be said to be complete.
v Primacy of the personal – every individual person is respectable and so needs to be given attention, to be well greeted and made to feel at home. A typical Igala can spend quality time with friends, parents, brothers, sisters and relatives to show much concern. For instance,
To greet is to acknowledge the existence of others
To greet is to bless God and neighbours
To greet is to wish others well in life
To greet is to celebrate life
To greet is to share part of one’s life
To greet is to show and be shown concern
To greet is above everything
To greet is to love and be loved.
In the course of salutation, different gestures are employed in stooping to greet. There are gestures for women and gestures for men, in accordance with sex and in accordance with age, in accordance with family background and in accordance with status in the society. For instance, “Okolo” (buckle up) is a general greeting used for junior males in the family, that he may be reminded not to rest on his oars. “Daudu” (more grease to your elbows) is used for the first born sons of the family, that they might be encouraged to carry more of the load of their younger ones. Other general greetings to women may be “ogodo-Omeko”, enaji-om’ome”, “oyoo”, etc. There are also special greetings meant for the traditional rulers alone. The Attah has his, and the other traditional rulers have theirs as the case may be. This might require some indepth research in due course.
v Respect for and Love of Life – has to do with respect for the elderly who are not taken into any old people’s homes when age tells on them, but are catered for by relatives and friends. Children are taken as visible signs of hope of tomorrow. Therefore abortion, suicide, violence, murder and so forth are out rightly condemned by the traditional Igala society.
v Other values include, respect for elders, chastity of women folk, dignity of labour, communalism, filial piety, integrity, truthfulness, belief in God, courage and hospitality. As Tertullian of Africa said long ago, we ought to be “sharers in the possession of the world, not of its errors” (cited in Okafor 1974, 48).
As it were, the drastic erosion of moral values is most often attributable to many factors, among which, the decline in the learning of Igala language in our institutions of learning is paramount. The need for the development of intellectual culture cannot be gainsaid. More effort is needed in making more research into Igala traditional names, legends, proverbs, folk-stories, folksong or music, as to forestall our fast eroding cultural values.
Many of the values, aims and mores or discipline of the society are internalized through the aforementioned ways and by these precursors they begin to function accordingly.
From all indications, “Igala people are not toddlers. They are goal-getters in every positive sense of the term, never mediocres. In a nutshell, they are typical achievers, movers and shakers of history” (Egbunu 2001).
In Idegu (1998) many sterling qualities of the Igala race are brought into focus, namely, self-sacrifice, fortitude, bravery and the irrepressible desire to be free with the indomitable spirit of the Igala person. The last point here is very much related to what (Omale 2001) terms the spirit of resilience, but it has to be resilience with the ride side up, not turned on its head. That perhaps explains why Prof. Idachaba (2008, 5) would admonish on the urgent need to work on or banish the false feeling of contentment that life is good “enenene dunyi nwu ali-ochu” (– transliterated, wherever your abode, you are capable of seeing the moon), especially in relation to sensitizing the Igala to the inalienable role of education in our modern highly competitive world. Being a trailblazer in this respect, he has often reiterated the need to shine forth in excellence by means of honest hardwork in this light. Education remains indeed an indispensable vehicle for moving Igala land to the next level of development. As affirmed by Ajayi (in Adesina 2008, 27) “every society that has climbed the development ladder did it on the platform of education.”
Egwemi (1983) also, using Ibaji axis as a launch-pad gives a vivid overview and x-ray of Igala as a hardworking, honest, peace-loving, forward looking people, and a force to be reckoned with in education, business, agriculture, even in the present dispensation. In which case, the prevalence of ills such as exam-malpractice (academic suicide), drug-addiction, thuggery, prostitution, violence, kidnapping, armed-robbery, pen-robbery, ritual-killing and defiant attitudes as are prevalent in our age, are to say the least, antithetical to pristine Igala cultural values. And so are not in the nature of the typical Igala.
The classic case of Inikpi’s legendary self-sacrifice in a bid to ensure victory for the fatherland during the war of the Igala with their Bini neigbours in about 1515-1516 AD (Idegu 1998) portrays even in a greater fashion the loving and selfless nature of an Igala person. Abdulahi (2006) mentions some of the Igala traditional values when he said, “Igala people are well cultured, peaceful, trustworthy, reliable and God-fearing…” In Nigeria today, we have something to sell, “honesty”. Indeed, a typical Igala person cannot afford to exchange his “integrity” for a mere proverbial “pottage” in cash or kind. As it is often wittily expressed, “Igala tene ewnu achukata” (the Igala person abhors disgrace). Riches or honour is not a do-or-die affair.
Abdulahi (2006) further outlines some notable features of the unalloyed hospitality the Igala show to visitors or relatives. One could hardly find an Igala on the street begging perpetually because the person is physically challenged. This is owing to the fact that they are catered for by their parents or relatives. The insane is not also allowed to parade on the streets anyhow.
Boston (1968) tries to capture how the strategic location of Igala land is of key significance in the historical development of the Kingdom. This has brought the people into contact with a wide range of peoples and a great variety of cultures, as earlier indicated.
Miachi (1992) drew home this point when he observed that the culture of the Igala people is very much similar to those of most other Nigerian people, especially those from the geographical middle-belt, southwards to the coast, cultural practices such as kinship, funeral ceremonies, beliefs, marriages, masquerading, mode of dress, body adornment, etc being very similar to those of other Nigerians in the sub-region. That not withstanding, the Igala person cannot be said to be totally the same with her neighbours in many ways of reacting to similar situations. For instance, it is a show of how accommodating they are with all other good intentions that they formed the “angwa” settlements (as in Idah and Ankpa), the “sabongari” (for new settlers or non-indigenes) sprang up in Idah, Ankpa and Anyigba respectively. There could hardly be any trader stranded and in need of water to drink or for his vehicle who would be asked to pay for it before he is offered water; Or it would be a rare sight for a stranger or trader in the traditional Igala society that needs to be directed to a particular location to be played off or led astray; Or a stranger’s vehicle gets stuck in the sand or mud, it would be somewhat unusual for a typical Igala child to ask for money before it is being pushed out. It would indeed be very rare to find such because as it is often put, “ojo kegbeyi one egbeyi olawe” (one good turn deserves another or put literally, the good done unto a neighbour is another way of caring for oneself).
On another note, it is quite reassuring to note that Igala women were not relegated to the backwaters in societal leadership. Okwoli (1993) explains how capable women were usually given positions of influence and power. One of such women was Ochonia Apeh, who was said to be of the Ocholi lineage of the royal ruling house of Idah.
Okwoli (1996) also observes that in every community, there exist a set of codes of behaviour for the people to follow. Failure to abide by them will bring disaster to them. The Igala believe there is a close link between sin and illness. Theft, adultery, sorcery or witchcraft, for instance, are said to incur the wrath of the ancestors. In the same vein, ambitiousness and usurpation are out rightly condemned by the society (Etuh 1993, 69). These and many more other cultural values are some of the relatively unique features of the Igala people which they can share with the larger world.
TOWARDS A HEALTHY REORIENTATION OF IGALA CULTURAL VALUES IN RELATION TO THE WESTERN EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
While it is true to say that educational values occasioned by high technology have helped the society in no small measure, it is equally true to note that it has done some harm to tradition and eroded positive cultural values. In other words, it has ushered in some crises. The “crises of modernity” is in the sense that traditional ways of life have been replaced with uncountable and unmanageable alternatives (Egbunu, 2009, 42) which have been variously referred to at different times as “cultures of death” (John Paul II, 2000) and “culture of the occupying force” (Fanon 1968) or “technological arrest” (Rodney 1976). Be that as it may, this seemingly ugly experience has also succeeded in transforming the “tribal” or “primitive” Igala person to a “universally” oriented or globalized individual. Most disgustingly, the educated elites are the worst offenders in exhibiting the battering influence of these modern cultures. As it were, the dressing code of lawyers, judges and clerics is brought before the sanitizing eyes of our African cultures as being too urbane. The unwholesome swallowing of western style of music and dancing is brought into focus; bleaching, with all its health hazards, and introduction of European cuisines as against our African dishes, is brought under critical examination. The death dealing cultures birthed by modernity which is manifest in all that stands in opposition to solidarity, the degradation and evil associated with drug addiction, pornography, eroticism, unrestrained pursuit of pleasure, gambling, induced abortion, AIDs, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, alcoholism, divorce, single parenthood, unemployment, yahooism, murder, violence, warfare, sophistication in exam-misconduct, etcetera show that all that glitters after all, is not gold.
However, if we may not be anachronistic in value judgement, the beautiful and bright side of modernity should also be considered. The extremist approach of labeling almost everything western as harmful or of viewing every technological breakthrough with skeptically tailored lenses ought to be thrown into the waste bin of the past. In this age of globalization, there is every need for a healthy adoption or updating in order to fit into the modern scope of things. As it were, the vehicle of change is moving, no right thinking person ought to remain perpetually glued to the past. The “Caveat” is more on the side of prudence so as not to follow every wind of change, for it is glaring that the society cannot distance itself from modernity. It is equally true that modernity must be accepted by the society as a challenge, for with it a lot of improvement is noticeable in every facet of life, in the economic, religious, social, intellectual, material, political and other spheres. For instance, natural beasts of burdens such as Horses and Oxen were eventually abandoned and new inventions revolutionized the transportation sector with the advent of new engines propelling cars, lorries, trains, ships and airplane; the discovery of energy sources like petroleum and nuclear energy served to promote such new inventions. Commercial activities are much easier not only through the above means but also even through the communication media such as telephone, fax, e-mails. And by the aid of radio, television, video films, cable network, internet and computer services, etc, a lot of messages are disseminated by the fastest possible means. The rate of letter writing is apparently reduced drastically considering the level of people’s exposure to SMS, e-mail and e-commerce and e-banking, e-library, e-votes, etc have become common place. With more progress in scientific breakthroughs and the discovery of x-rays, microscope, electricity, etc, people’s life-styles are drastically changed; medical discoveries in the form of antibiotics also ushered in new means of combating diseases, surgery and other forms of Medicare also brought about further progress. These feats have curbed infant mortality rate, decreased death from starvation, eradicated some incurable diseases and has enhanced the status of many people. Indeed, this has made people to live longer (Joinet, 2000, 15); tolerance is also promoted through the secularistic nature of the society; that apart, modernity also allows the practice of Democracy which gives people ample opportunity to air their views. The advantages are simply many and varied.
By and large, it is obvious from the foregoing that there is every need to learn certain qualities and form habits that are desirable in a cultured and civilized manner at one end, and at another end, to unlearn those habits and idiosyncrasies associated with the uncivilized and uncultured.
An aspect of this trend which needs to be addressed squarely is the fast growing culture of spreading cassava along both sides of our tarred roads in Igala land. It has passed the level of its unhygienic nature to the point of being an avenue of alarmingly attracting domestic animals such as goats and sheep to the roadside. And your guess is as good as mine. This results into unnecessary road mishaps to the unwary road users. Is the law of the land incapable of putting a stop to this? And as a matter of fact, the uncanny and untoward practices prevalent in certain localities whereby women are only to be seen and not to be heard is a point of urgent concern in this era; the ill-treatment being meted on widows and the filthy practice of alienating designated families considered as descendants of slaves in some boundary areas of Igala land needs be seriously revisited.
On another count, Onucheyo’s (2007) challenge is very illustrative of the imperative of unlearning certain bad practices. Among the glaring disvalues which the Igala person ought to unlearn are losses of economic discipline and self-restraint, unnecessary extravagance, weakening of cultural foundation, loss of respect for traditions, loss of respect for established religions, and increase in materialism with primitive capital accumulation. Spiritual indications of the decay, according to him, are being exhibited in a rise in immorality, the love of alien customs and the lack of respect for human life. In fact, as he succinctly expressed it, “the Igala man’s burden is simply how to move forward without losing his Igalaness, how to modernize without being westernized”. Sheepish and indiscreet imitation of the Western style would be cultural suicide.
Spencer’s (1971) view that Western societies are more evolved than other societies is being disputed here to an extent. As a matter of fact, Western culture cannot be used as a general yardstick for measuring every facet or form of civilization in every setting. That would be tantamount to being too ethnocentric. In as much as culture is fundamentally “the whole way of life of a people” (Tylor 1971) and in line with Linton (1945) who states that “the culture of a society is the way of life of its members; the collection of ideas and habits which they learn, share and transmit from generation to generation,” a particular culture ought therefore not to be judged with the lenses or parameters of a foreign culture. Igala cultural values therefore need necessarily to undergo reorientation and be judged accordingly in its own very context. There is need therefore to suggest the best ways in this forest of ideas.
THE WAY FORWARD
The one billion Naira question at this juncture is “where lies the way forward?” How do we achieve the feat of having a truly educated person? Because as it is graphically captured by Balogun (2008, 1) “the conception of an educated person as one who is only lettered and literate is philosophically inadequate”. As can be well attested to from the above findings, education in the traditional Igala setting is integral or holistic. And this implies proper personality development and positive physico-moral, socio-economic and psycho-spiritual disposition to significantly contribute one’s quota to the overall progress of the society in question. Education, more than anything else remains the hub of societal socialization. It is the master-key to unlocking the doors to societal development and modernization. The educated person is expected to reciprocate some good done to him by the society especially by enabling him or her to acquire the capabilities for humble service. One who is educated necessarily allows the school to pass through him/her before he could be actually recognized to be so. One could therefore be said to be only literate and certificated but highly uneducated who after being so schooled continues to exhibit some wanton sense of primitive accumulation, pander after base desires and is non-challant towards the common good. Such men/women are self-styled “educated elites” who, unfortunately, are educated literates. In other words, they can only read and write but are to say the least, uncultured. Literarily, education is far from being an end in itself. It is only a means to an end, a tool or vehicle for equipping one for a more qualitative life.
The era of schooling just for the sake of certificates is long past. Our highly cherished Igala cultural values ought thereby to be readily embraced more than ever before and to also be formally adapted by education experts for the restructuring or repackaging of our educational curriculum. This could be done especially by way of utilizing local materials.
Educating our pupils on the history, culture and traditions of our forebears should not be considered as an optional extra. So also the need to consciously develop salient Igala cultural practices cannot be gainsaid. Pristine Igala cultural practices such as story-telling, use of proverbs, myths, legends, folk-lore, folksongs, cultural dances or dressing and even cuisines would richly serve to fill the ever-widening lacuna being created through Western education which is somehow devoid of ethical and cultural education. This would go a long way to enhancing our cultural independence. And this indeed is the necessary prerequisite for economic, socio-political and other independences.
This naturally leads to the need for re-echoing the serious relevance of moral/religious education in our schools. With this, it is hoped that the prevailing negative trends occasioned by exam-malpractice, thuggery, violence, terrorism, yahooism, occultism, spiritism or promiscuity shall be reduced to the barest minimum, if not totally curbed.
It would scarcely be necessary to commend the giant strides of Prof. F.S. Idachaba, OFR, the VC emeritus of Kogi State University and the Alhaji Dr. Ibrahim Idris, the Executive Governor of Kogi State for brazing the trail. This they did by initiating the Igala Education Summit, and by instituting Scholarship Awards for well deserving Igala sons and daughters and paying the WAEC fees for Kogi Students, respectively. It might serve us better if only this magnanimous gesture could be replicated by more leaders in the economic, political and other spheres of the life of our people. We can draw heavily from their inspiration as this would motivate the younger generation, in no mean measure. As it is often rendered, any success without a successor is tantamount to sheer failure.
We may also need to resolve as lovers of our language and culture to improve on learning the mother- tongue thoroughly by ourselves so as to pass it on to our children. More so, to agree on giving our children not only the theophoric Igala names such as Ojotu (Ojotule or Ojotumale (God is greater), Ojogbane(God delivered), Ojonoka(God has the best strategies), Eleojo(God’s gift), Ojonuba (God is my boast) etc, but also, the axiomatic and ethically laden names such as Adigo, Atulukwu ,Iganya(kima cheju), Achimugu (kijewogwu anawo), Acheneje, (kimachoja je), etc.
Women education should also be given a boost more than ever, because as it is normally expressed, to educate a woman is to educate a whole nation in a whole generation.
The government is also called upon to greater commitment to the course of education, by creating the enabling atmosphere for proper learning for both teachers and pupils by means of appropriate remuneration, motivation, supply of infrastructural and teaching materials. More so, students should be provided with the opportunity for high-tech and globalized form of education by use of internet resources or other scientific apparatuses, which would enhance greater creativity.
Teachers should also face their duties with every sense of responsibility, for as the popular Latin maxim has it, “exemplo ducemus” (example is better than precepts). Virtue is caught not caught. For it is true that,
A good teacher communicates content
But a great teacher communicates character
If the teacher is sincere, the students learn sincerity
If the teacher is focused, the pupils learn to be focused
If he is humble, they certainly learn to be humble
And if the teacher is disciplined, they also learn to be so.
Parents and guardians also ought to get more sincerely committed to their wards’ education especially in eschewing practices which smirks of criminally aiding and abetting misconducts.
We are not under any illusion when we think that Igala people achieve true and full development by means of cultivating the lives of people in line with their naturally endowed culture. By so doing, we can be doubly assured of contributing something quite original to the development of the entire humanity.
Education remains a veritable tool that should be utilized by any society that wants to ensure its continued survival. By utilizing the values embedded in the culture with all its continuities and discontinuities we are sure of attaining unimaginable heights in personal and corporate development. This therefore demands shift in focus if we may achieve any reasonable and rapid growth in this respect.
Just a few minutes after its birth, for instance, the baby antelope wastes no time in adapting to its environment in order to survive. But the same thing cannot be true of a human being whose propensity to fend for himself is relatively zero immediately after its birth. It is through learning and education therefore that the human person achieves this. For this animal, it is by sheer instinct but for man, it is by way of culture and learning.
Education is quite like a baton in a relay race. It has to be passed on before ever one can record an all-round success. The Igala society owes it a duty thereby to go into the business of building people up as there are already too many factors in the demolition business in our present day society. In a nutshell, we ought necessarily to admit the centrality of the factor of change in both our culture and system of education. This calls for some reorientation, readjustment or creation of a new order, if there must be holistic change.
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