Why tempering CRS and IRS is a good thing

by Alexander O. Onukwue

Every Nigerian and his dog are dedicated to one religion or another, to tamper with that aspect of their lives is to tamper with the essence of what makes them.

So there should be no surprise that there is a ruckus about the supposed adjustment in the curriculum of secondary schools, which would create the possibility of students studying both Christian Religious Studies (CRS) and Islamic Religious Studies (IRS).

Those who have been old enough in the Nigerian Education system will attest to the various changes that have followed the naming of the religious aspects of education in Nigeria. With the Christian part as an instance, it has gone from Bible Knowledge (BK), to CRK and CRS.

The changes have been subtle and while too much cannot be read into them to suggest a sequence of diminishing purpose, there are differences between being taught Christian “Knowledge”, and undergoing Christian “Studies”.

But if we can allow the idea that there has been a conscious effort to neuter religious “knowledge”, the curriculum being proposed currently is surely an instrument towards furthering that purpose. Because to provide students with the pairing of the subjects, as presently being contested, is to entice them towards the normalization that the study of both religions is necessary, not particularly for the spiritual value of religion, but as just another aspect of the general acquisition of knowledge, and to seek to know other practices outside of the Sunday or Friday schedules as received from homes.

In other words, there is nothing wrong in a Christian having to be taught about the principles of Islam in school, and vice versa.

On face value, it looks to be geared towards National integration, hence the addition of “National values” to the “Religion” in the nomenclature of the subject, which also combines Civic Education. However, the proponents of this must ask themselves true and sincere questions. Do both religions support the teaching and learning of the other? And if they choose to selectively teach aspects of agreement, how long will it be before everyone gets tired of the study of both religions as monotonous repetitions of each other and drop them altogether? Would the intention to cultivate interest in other religions here not foster indifference and neutrality towards one’s one religious practice, hence, fostering irreligion?

If that is the goal here, then it can be admitted that the new arrangement would work. However, the Ministry of Education may want to consider that though there is the need to teach Christian and Muslim secondary school students to appreciate their similarities, it may work best to have them be the best possible versions of themselves as taught by their religions. In effect, letting “Muslims be Muslims and Christians be Christians”, as the Anglican Primate, Nicholas Okoh, did say.

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