Debates, Resources

SHOULD RELIGIOUS STUDIES BE TAUGHT IN NIGERIAN SCHOOLS? By Victor ADEYEMO

SHOULD RELIGIOUS STUDIES BE TAUGHT IN NIGERIAN SCHOOLS? YES

Delivered at First Leg – Hall Category, Jaw War 2018

Religious studies is a form of education and in our world today, the world agrees that education is a birthright of every person. Judges, my opponents are attempting today to take away this right just so they can be right. But I am right here to emphasize that religious studies, a form of education, should be taught in Nigerian schools.

Religious studies according to the department of religious studies, University of Newfoundland, Canada, is a secular academic discipline concerned with how religious beliefs and practices shape and are shaped by human experience. Nigerian schools in the context of this debate are primary, secondary and tertiary schools. 

First, the knowledge of Social studies tells us that Culture is the total way of life of people in any society. Our lives, beliefs, and behaviour are all linked to our culture. Without our culture, we lose our essence. Azim Shariff, a professor of Psychology in the University of California stated in a 2014 research paper that culture affects human behaviours. This is why today, a huge emphasis is placed on teaching our culture.  In fact, here in the University of Ibadan, a whole course, GES 102, the study of African cultures and civilization is devoted to this sole purpose. Ladies and gentlemen, do you know that religion is an important integral part of culture? Professor J.K Ayantayo of the department of religious studies in the University of Ibadan posited in 2012 that religion evolves from people’s culture. This is why even in GES 102, a whole chapter is devoted to explaining the link between Religion and culture. Ladies and gentlemen, if we cannot talk on culture without touching on religion, why then should we teach culture and neglect religious studies? 

Second, we are not saying religious studies be compulsorily taught in Nigerian schools and students mandated to study it. No! Chapter 1, section 10 of the 1999 constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria clearly outlines that Nigeria is a secular state and besides, the freedom of choice is a fundamental human right. This is why on July 12, 2017, the Nigeria House of Representatives decided against making Christian and Islamic knowledge compulsory in the secondary school curriculum. The house agreed instead that students with the inputs of their parents be taught religious subjects of their choice in. Hence, the fact that it is taught doesn’t mean you must learn. Therefore, teaching religious studies still leaves out your freedom of choice. Hence it should be taught in Nigerian schools.

Furthermore, according to a report by the World Bank in 2011, northern Nigeria has the highest illiteracy rate among all regions in the world. Little wonder this same region has the highest number of religious killings. This is simply because there are insufficient schools to teach religious studies and the people are left with nothing but religious indoctrination.  So we can say that if religious studies were taught as it should in these regions, then religious indoctrination and killings can be stalled. Why then should religious studies not be taught in Nigerian schools?

However, should my opponents come here to tell religious stories of why religious studies should not be taught in Nigerian schools but in separate institutions, please ask them, where else should religious studies be taught if not in a Nigerian school? Is it in a church that practices only Christianity or in a mosque that teaches only Islam? Judges, in as much as we might want to respect these institutions, we run the risk of religious indoctrination such that young Philip thinks his religion is superior because Father Titus said so. However, school acts as a neutral ground where any religion can be taught without religious bias.   

Should they say that religious studies is one of the leading causes of terrorism in Nigeria.  Let them know that they should not confuse religious studies with religious extremism. Religious extremism is what diabetes is to sugar, what hypertension is to salt. It is a result of an abuse and should not be the end of a use. Besides, instead of scraping religious studies like mentally ill patients in a psychiatric home, we should put them in an institution where they can be monitored and that institution is a school. 

Finally, our country has a deep religious background. Hence, it only makes common sense that we teach religious studies in our schools. According to Gallup International, a research organization, Nigeria has a massive 95% religious citizens making her one of the most religious countries in the world. Ladies and gentlemen, join me in welcoming my opponents as they come to religiously tell us why religious studies should not be taught to religious people in a religious country.