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03.08.2017 Feature Article

Why Did GES Expunge History from Its Syllabus?

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Maybe it was an oversight. It happens! We focus either too or so much on what our neighbours are doing only to realise that our children don’t even know how their beloved nation was founded, who founded it and when it was founded. Most of the things we learn are un-Ghanaian. And often we’ve been made to believe that our culture is primitive and anything Ghanaian or African is backward or sub-standard. It’s called ‘Suatra’ in Akan Twi language.

Maybe we were over ambitious or overzealous and the idea wasn’t properly thought through at the time. Or maybe we forgot the intriguing message reggae legend Bob Marley planted in his Buffalo Soldier album for the black race. The singer, teacher and the Rastafarian said this: “if you know your history then you would know where you’re coming from. Then you wouldn’t have to ask me who the heck do I think I am.”

Did you know the song didn’t appear on record until the 1983 posthumous release of Confrontation? That’s what history teaches. It reminds you of the past and sets you on a right path. The title and lyrics refer to the black US Calvary regiments known as Buffalo Soldiers that fought in the Indian Wars after 1866. The legend compared the Buffalos fight to a fight for survival and recasts it as a symbol of black resistance.

It appears we’re treading the path of forgetfulness. Gad someone reminded me two days ago to look yonder and peer back as well. Someone who identified herself as a great admirer of my write-ups contacted me via WhatsApp.

“.. I took my two young boys to the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and I was so fascinated. But to my horror I was told they don’t teach History in the curriculum. I was very alarmed to say the least. History as a subject both national and world History is so vital for our generations to learn of great things, like the industrial revolution, our fight for Independence but also learn not to repeat mistakes like genocide, apartheid, slavery, holocaust etc.”

Indeed it was this reader’s appeal or concern that informed me to wade into the aforementioned subject.

Ghana has a rich history. It has history about its beautiful people, history about its dynamic arts/culture, history about its picturesque landscapes, history about its undying heritage, language, values and many more. Centuries ago, history used to be passed down (oral tradition) unto us by our forebears until formal education was introduced. And history would become part and parcel of our socio-cultural and political development until Ghana Education Service (GES) cut the subject into pieces with its switchblade.

Why? We will find out.
History used to be one of the major subjects taught in elementary (primary/middle), secondary schools including universities in Ghana. Its inclusion in the schools’ curricula or syllabus no doubt gave many Ghanaian pupils and students the opportunity to learn both national and world history.

I’m a beneficiary, an Apostle of history. I loved history then and I still love it. But I wonder if our school children today know anything about the battles of Adaamanso, Feyiase or the Nsamanko War. How about the bond of 1844, the Fante Confederation, the Anglo-Ashanti War in 1900’s, the capital of the Denkyira’s? I wonder if our children today have any knowledge of these kings—Gbewaa, Agokoli, Ansa Sasraku, Asamani, Ntim Gyakari, Boahen Anantuo, Togbui Sri, Tweneboa Kodua etc.

Sad to note, today, history has no stake in Ghana’s socio-cultural and political platforms.

Absolutely, it’s been expunged from the GES syllabus. And if my memory serves me right I think it’s been gone for decades now. Like me you probably never took notice of its demise and the effect it may have on this generation and the generations yet unborn.

But what did GES replace it with?
History was replaced by Social Studies. However, I am informed some expatriate schools also known as International schools like GIS, Lincoln and others do still have History in their curricula?

If true, does it make sense why the expatriates’ children are learning our history while the Ghanaian child is denied what s/he is supposed to know?

Are we not missing the point here?
Be reminded apples and oranges aren’t the same. In like manner, water and wine are both liquid substance but you cannot replace water with wine and vice versa. Each of them is unique and plays significant role in our socio-cultural milieu.

Social Studies is the study of the problems of society. The subject prepares the individual to fit into society by equipping him/her with knowledge about the culture and ways of life of their society, its problems, its values and its hopes for the future. GES holds the view that the subject is multi-disciplinary. And on the backdrop that it takes its sources from history, sociology, psychology, economics, geography and civic education.

Yes, that’s been the argument put forward by GES over the years. Are we seriously producing the right pegs to fit into the right holes? I dare to ask.

“Essential elements of the knowledge and principles from these disciplines are integrated into a subject that stands on its own. As a subject, Social Studies helps pupils to understand their society better; helps them to investigate how their society functions and hence assists them to develop that critical and at the same time developmental kind of mind that transforms societies,” GES notes at its website.

Let me emphasise that my piece isn’t purposed to pigeonhole GES structured programme. Far from that, it rather seeks to crave the indulgence of the service to reconsider its stance. GES argues that Social Studies helps students to make informed decisions, understand better and what else... Investigate how their society functions. On paper that’s true but in practice I don’t think the nation has realised that objective. Maybe it’s yet to do that. But how long ago was it introduced or incorporated into schools’ syllabus?

Also, how has that translated into the development of our country since its introduction visa vis the period History and subjects like Geography stood on their own before integration or when they were supplanted?

GES makes another case as to why it replaced Social studies with history: It says: “Our society has been a slow moving society. It is hoped that as pupils understand the Ghanaian society better, and are able to examine the society’s institutions and ways of life with a critical and constructive mind, the country will surely be on the path to better and faster growth in development.”

With regard to pace, I think it’s needless to remind GES that we’re still in a ‘Go Slow’ traffic. Maybe the service has lost track of the pace of the period when History was studied or taught at our schools. That presupposes, History had no correlation to our slow growth. It could be other variables. So, I will implore GES to figure that out. And let’s also remind ourselves that the two subjects aren’t the same. Even though the latter has its bases from History and others, one cannot use that as a case to justify History’s relegation to the background.

My final question (s) before I draw the curtains down: Whose idea or decision was it to expunge History from our schools curricula? Is too late to reintroduce it? I don’t think so. I therefore per this write-up wish to appeal to GES to reconsider incorporating History back into its syllabus.

Gordon Offin-Amaniampong
Gordon Offin-Amaniampong, © 2017

The author has 375 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: GordonOffinAmaniampong

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