Civic Education&Action Civics
Traditional civic education in Nigeria has sought to empower citizens with the knowledge, skills, and values, needed to play their required roles in public life. The methodology of traditional civic education in Nigeria is didactic; in other words it prescribes to citizens, what the ideals of their engagement with the civic space should be. Traditional civic education attempts to inculcate in the young mind, those ideas, which should ordinarily stimulate the citizen to act at all times, with the national interest at heart. This mode of socializing citizens to the process of governance, as well as getting them to be familiar with their rights and responsibilities within the nation’s space, has been effective in some contexts. This would be gleaned from the fact that it has exposed young citizens, especially at primary and secondary school level to the process of governance, the roles of citizens, their fundamental rights and responsibilities, and other themes, which have been the purview of traditional civic education.
However, the upheavals, ethnic agitations and the various dimensions of threats to national security and stability, which Nigeria has gone through, since the return to democracy in 1999, collectively point to the limitations of traditional civic education as a model for engaging and molding young citizens. Particularly, the separatist sentiments, which have led to disturbances in the South East, the low intensity conflict which manifested in form of the militancy in the oil bearing Niger Delta, and the ongoing challenge to the suzerainty of the Nigerian State, in the form of the Boko Haram insurgency, all point to serious gaps in the effectiveness of traditional civic education methods. It is therefore pertinent to interrogate these gaps, and the methodological constraints in the traditional civic education model in Nigeria, which resulted in the production of young citizens, who turned round to take up arms against their country. These gaps call for alternatives to shore up the engagements of both state and non-state civic agencies, with the goal of making them more impactful and meaningful to the citizen.
The Action Civics methodology is an innovative approach to addressing the gaps in the traditional civic education model. It seeks to make the learners in the civic education process, receptors of not only the theoretical aspects of the skills and values dissemination, but also agents, who put into practice the knowledge they get. This method is imperative because to address the civic empowerment gap, the recipients of civic education need to take the knowledge, values and skills of civic life, and put them into practice. Action civic is therefore a model that places emphasis on learning by doing. Its objectives are to:
- Prepare young citizens for their civic roles by getting them to put civic skills and values to use in real life contexts.
- Improve participation of citizens in the political process, and in civic life, through their involvement in finding sustainable solutions to the issues directly affecting them.
- Enhance citizen appreciation and understanding of the working of democratic institutions, in order to build the collective civic will.
What Action Civics Entails
Democracy, good governance and national stability are strengthened by empowering young people to be a part of solutions to problems in society. Action civics helps young people to solve problems in their communities by giving them the skills to become active in their communities, and the capacities to explore their rights and responsibilities. This methodology prepares young people for the roles as voters, candidates and equips them with the knowledge and attitude to ensure their voices are heard in the political and decision making processes. The guiding philosophy of the action civics program is that all democratic systems function most effectively when they are responsive to the practical need and desires of all citizens. One of the major root causes of dysfunction and upheavals in a democracy is that many citizens have not learnt about how to participate in the democratic and governance process. The action civics program therefore entails how citizens can get to participate in the democratic and governance processes, not just inculcating in them rote knowledge of the political process.
Through the action civics program therefore, students gain the civic knowledge, skills and motivation to address the vital issues they face. The program empowers students with the following:
- Civic knowledge: A basic understanding of democratic principles, of how the governmental process works and one’s role in the process.
- Civic skills: These are the skills needed to effectively participate in the democratic process. Young citizens must be able to think critically about an advocacy issue by identifying a goal and creating a logical plan of action to address a root cause. Skills also include persuasive oral and written communication and group collaboration. These skills are necessary to participate in the political process, as an engaged citizen.
- Civic disposition: Civic dispositions are defined as the desire of a young person to actively participate in the political process and take on the issues he/she cares about. . Read report on Action Civics by our partner: Generation Citizen.