Civics is the study of the great theoretical and practical aspects of citizenship, its rights and duties; the duties of citizens to each other as members of a political body and to the government. It includes the study of civil law and civil code, and the study of government with attention to the role of citizens in the operation and oversight of government. Civics is all about the study of good citizenship and proper membership in a community. It helps citizens understand the civic affairs and their duties and rights.
Civics education is important to the young generation. While studying schools, civics education is very important. It teaches students the environment they live including the political structures, the geographic locations, and the history of that community, cultures and everything that relates to them. It builds the spirit of the students, and it helps finding answers to questions that may occur in their mind. Things like the names of the regions and the capital cities, what the national anthem and the national flag represent, the national heroes, and etcetera are easily understood by civics education.
There is strong relationship between civics education and citizenship. Without civics education, one cannot understand the value of the country. Without civics education, one cannot think to serve the country honestly and devote his/her life to the country.
Does our education system encourage civics education? Let us explore this with concrete examples. The different curriculums and syllabuses, which are copied from other countries, destroyed our civilization. Many graduates of our local institutions do not know simple questions about the country. This is the result of lack or poor civics education in our education institutions.
The private owned institutions are not ready to promote civics education. These institutions are profit oriented and they do not think of the long-term effect of the books they teach. They may be funded by Arabian agency and directs them to teach the curriculum they sorted to them. They rely on it since they are making money out of it.
The government role is the most important role that failed to promote civics education. The government did not set a standard curriculum to the educational institutions in the country. They did not make orientation programs through the media or local authorities. They also failed to help people understand the importance of the public properties and public places. They also failed to establish public schools that give free primary education to those unable to pay the school fee although Turkey decorated some education centers recently, and the former minister of human development and public services established “go to schools” program, which is not progressing well.
The consequences of our poor civics education
Our poor civics education has resulted the average educated youth who do not know more about the country, prolonged civil war, political insecurity, and lack of sense of patriotism.
First, the average youth who got the chance to learn do not know much about the country. We have seen many students at all levels of education that are not able to answer simple questions about the country. For example, one of the authors asked his friend who was studying a university in Mogadishu the name of the capital city of Bakool region. The student started to think about the answer of that simple question, and finally he said, “I don’t know”! We have also seen many young and educated Somalis who do not care about the interest of the nation, and instead of that, they prefer to chase their own individual interests. The reason is that they were not taught civics courses in the educational institutions.
Second, the civil war was also a result of poor civics education. Since the destruction of the former Siad Barre regime in 1991, the country was suffering endless wars among local groups serving their individual interests. The war has made a chaotic situation in the country, and many public and private properties were destroyed by the war. According to the view of many Somalis, the absence of the spirit of citizenship was one of the reasons generated the civil war.
Third, lack of civics education has also affected the political and security situation of the country. Those students who were ignorant about their country and its value have failed to make themselves far away from the political conflicts of the country. If you do not have ability to differentiate the right from the wrong, the badness from the goodness, then you become a tool of the ongoing problems. Most of gunmen who participate in the conflicts and the unnecessary wars going on the country today are youth majority.
Finally, many people do not know their responsibilities as citizens of the country. One real example is the story about a man that one of the authors met in one of Mogadishu’s popular streets. He was working in a restaurant located besides the Street. He took some wastes from the restaurant and dropped it in the street. When one of the authors of this article came to the place, he told the restaurant owner to stop doing this again. He also advised to keep the street clean and hygiene. However, the surprise was what he replied. He said, “I don’t care about the street. It is for all the people, but the restaurant is for me. I have to take care of my private property in order to get profit.” This is the mentality and the thinking of our Somali society today.
In conclusion, we believe that lack of civics education cost us many problems. The education system at all levels should take their roles and responsibilities to produce a quality and good citizen that we can rely on to lead the country. The government should also try to unify the school curriculums, and emphasize adding civics courses to the curriculums. The government should also promote public awareness through media programs and other communication means. The students of today are the leaders of tomorrow, and if we do not teach them the country they will lead, they will buy the country and be part of the ongoing and prolonged problems.
Written by Mahad Abdullahi and Mohamed Abdullahi Dhaley