Education officials from all over Nigeria met in Lagos on 26-27 October 2023 under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Education to discuss the development of the first national peace education curriculum with a focus on addressing violent pasts. It aims to unpack the country’s rich, diverse and complicated history and provide students with the knowledge and values needed to prevent atrocities and live together in peace. Nigeria is rolling out this project as part of UNESCO’s International Program on Holocaust and Genocide Education, implemented with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
The Lagos meeting participants underscored the nationwide importance of such a curriculum. They discussed how they could draw from international expertise and practices of teaching about violent pasts to inform its drafting. Studying the history of the Holocaust can enhance understanding of the drivers, processes and consequences of genocide, the danger of prejudice and hate speech, and the human dimensions of historical events. It has also proven to be a helpful entry point for engaging in difficult conversations about unaddressed national trauma.
As an outcome of the gathering, the Secretary General of the Nigeria National Commission for UNESCO, Director from the Federal Ministry of Education, Executive Secretary of Nigeria Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC), Executive secretary of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) and Commissioners of Education from selected six geopolitical zones (federal regions) of Nigeria agreed on an action plan with the next steps for the curriculum development, implementation and dissemination.
Developing content to learn about the past
They will now work to define the necessary content elements shaping this curriculum. As the project progresses, the team hopes for the future curriculum to serve as a model for other countries in the region seeking to address their difficult histories while building a more peaceful and inclusive world.
“Based on the results of productive discussions Nigerian Education Sector representatives had at the meeting, there’s a shared agreement that building on the content of Holocaust education could be beneficial for enhancing Nigeria’s Peace Education Curriculum. However, adapting such educational materials to the Nigerian local context is essential for fostering a sense of ownership and ensuring easy implementation of this new curriculum,” said Dr. Lateef Olagunju, Secretary General, National Commission for UNESCO, Nigeria.
This collaborative effort, led by the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Education, the Nigerian National Commission for UNESCO, and the Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, received technical support from UNESCO teams in Paris and Abuja, as well as support from the key IPHGE partner – the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). Earlier in 2023, the Nigerian team honed their project plan at a week-long workshop on Holocaust and genocide education offered by USHMM in Washington, D.C.
To support and inspire the development of similar initiatives across the continent, UNESCO has recently published a policy brief on strengthening genocide prevention through education in Africa. It outlines recommendations for policy-makers on what to consider when including an education component to peacebuilding and genocide prevention efforts. The Nigerian team will use them alongside UNESCO and the United Nations specialized guide for African teachers. These resources will equip educators with knowledge, teaching principles and concrete pedagogies to design lessons about complex histories and navigate related classroom discussions.