Reflections on the Shifting Paradigm of Geography in Nigeria
Department of Geography, Federal University of Kashere, Gombe State, Nigeria
[email protected], [email protected]; +234-703 495 8087
Geography as a discipline changes in time and space from time immemorial. Its scope has shifted from being Historic to Scientific with the use of models, concepts, theories etc. It transforms from study of immediate environment to remote ones and from descriptive or predictive to quantitative. The trends of geography from being primitive to modern has reshaped it teachings and methodologies. Globalization at one time or the other plays a pivotal role on the paradigm shift of Geography as discipline from one phase to another. Geography from elementary to Universities has taken diverse dimensions which have been overtaken by evolution of Science and Technology especially in area of Information Technology. The evolution of technology redefined the development of Geography by moving from qualitative study to Science discipline. The rise of information technology has removed barrier between Geography and all other science disciplines. The background of the professional from various fields involved in study of Geography has gradually reshaping its context from being Art into Science or applied Science. The paradigm shift of Geography is recommended to make near and far things to be more related than expected presently and future. The broad based of studying Geography nowadays made it to establish itself as a subject related to Natural science, Physical science, Social science, Engineering, Arts etc. Some of these divisions are in areas such as Remote sensing, Geographical Information System (GIS), Climatology, Hydrology, Surveying, Web cartography, Geomorphology, Geology, Anthropology, Astronomy etc. Hence, the shift in the dimension has revealed disposition and attitude to the study of Geography especially at the higher level. The reintroduction of Geography as a compulsory subject in all level of education should be upheld. Geography as a course of study is expected to be a core subject in our curriculum because of its affinity to regulate wide range of man activities. In order to sustain Geography as a discipline, there is need for constant monitoring of the curriculum and the need for offering the subject at all level of education in Nigeria.
Keywords: Paradigm, Discipline, Technology, Reflections, Sustainable, Development
The term Geography was first coined by a Greek Scholar, Eratosthenese, in 276-194 BC.. The word has been derived from two roots from Greek language geo (earth) and graphos (description). Geography as a discipline is concerned with location of places and discoveries of natural phenomenon on the surface of the earth. It formed the foundation of natural and social sciences related fields by connecting the universe we are, as well as other terrestrial and celestial heavenly bodies. The multi facial nature of Geography as a discipline and as a profession is a pointer to an indispensable sphere of knowledge in the life of human being. Without an iota of doubt, geography seems to be a pivot of all disciples in practices to solve man’s problems on the surface of the earth. Its role, functions and it place to put man on the track of how to locate and directions to solve spatial problems on the planet Earth and beyond are very crucial.
The concern of Geography centered on the description and explanation of the area differentiation of the earth as a whole. It also studies diverse phenomena related to each other in different parts of the universe. Hence, the proliferation of Geography literature is a welcome idea with the diversification of different branches of knowledge of Geography. These divisions have metamorphosed into various specialization of diverse field of Geography for sustainable development of Geographical ideas in one hand and natural sciences on the other. Geography as a natural science discipline has been evolving through ages in describing the existence of man on landscape before finding its place in academic discipline. An enquiry mind propels the evolution of Geography through space and time. It was crystal clear that Geography among humanity is older than geography in academics and its origin fast track the development of man’s mental ability from one stage to another. The philosophy of Geography has been developed in the ancient time of Christian and Muslim Geographers to the Rebirth of Modern Geography by early scholars. The foremost scholar of Geography such as Anaximanda, Erastosthenes, Ptolemy, Al-Idris, Ibn Battuta (1304-1369), Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), Emmanuel Kant and host of others immensely contributed to the development of Geography with their works being substantiated by their successors. Besides, the evolution of new dimension in Geography started with works of early scholars such as Karl Ritter (1779-1859), Alexandra Von Humboldt (1769-1859), Friedrich Rastzel (1844-1904), Helen Churchil Sempel and others (Pidwirny, 2006).
Therefore, the perspective views and reflections on teaching of Geography as a discipline of study in Nigeria can be traced to foreign Geographers who might have benefitted from the work of early Geographers.
Although, the expatriates trained domestic or indigenous scholar of Geography in order to build upon laid down foundation of Geography in Nigeria. Geography as a branch of knowledge is being developed from not only as academic discipline but to produce professional, expert in various capacities and this marked the beginning of shift from descriptive idiographic approach to Nomothetics approaches with the use of scientific and empirical models.
However, Geography as a discipline in Nigerian Universities has started shifting in its techniques and pedagogical methodologies from the works of these early scholars who developed Geography as an academic subject and have written on Nigerian culture, Geology, Geomorphology, local weather observations, Population studies, Transportation, Urban and Regional Planning and host of others. Geographers in Nigeria so far have written on various aspects of the development of Geography in Nigeria specifically in the area of Hydrology, Geomorphology, Climatology, Urban and Regional Planning, Population Geography, Agro climatology, Biogeography, Models Development, Geographical theories, Statistical Geography, ICT in Geography and lots more with the practical use of scientific techniques and methodologies.
Tracing the Origin, Trend and Development of Geography in Nigeria
Geography as an academic discipline in Nigeria originated and came into limelight at the University College, Ibadan as an affiliate of the University College of London in the year 1948. In the work of Okpala (1990), the chronological advancement of Geography as a discipline from the colonial era to post civil war of 1960’s was emphasized as follows:
(i) The Colonial Era: Late 1800s to 1950s
In the second half of the 19th century, Geographical education started in Nigeria. It was among the primary school subjects essential for producing interpreters and court clerks for effective administration of the colonial government.
(ii) Preparation for Independence and the 1960s
The West African Examinations Council WAEC was formed in 1954 in order to cater for the preparation for national independence among West African colonies which is an examining body at the secondary school level at that period.
(iii) The 1970s into the 1980s
The Civil War 1967-1970 led to a rethinking of the role of education in building a united Nigeria and significant changes occurred in education. The formulation of National Policy of Nigerian Education in 1977 came up and was revised in 1981. This was done to cater for the need of Nigerian Education (Okpara, 1990).
Okpara (1990) further asserted that with a national policy formulated, each discipline planned its content and learning experiences leading to acquisition of knowledge, attitudes, and skills required for effective living in Nigeria.
Hence, there has been a tremendous radical shift in vision, mission and philosophy in order to groom and train Geographers in different capacities occasioned by the establishment of Geography as a course of study in the University College, Ibadan since 1948. The establishment of the University College, Ibadan gave rise to re-birth of knowledge of our environment and how the environment has influence on our life from time immemorial. With the existence of the University College, it leads to creation of many departments of Geography and studying geography as a discipline in many Universities as come to stay in Nigeria. It grows from a singular department of Geography in 1948 to over more than hundreds of Geography department up to date in private universities, public universities and Colleges of education in Nigeria. Ajaegbu (1981) submits that the establishment of the discipline has produced numerous scholars of Geography from only one Nigerian Assistant Lecturer in 1958 to over twenty-one Nigerian professors of Geography in 1985. It has expanded from a strictly academic discipline to one that incorporates professional programmes. The discipline of Geography grown from descriptive idiographic arts subject to a social science subject that uses scientific and analytical approaches and empirical models to explain spatial phenomenon (Ikhuoria, 1986). Alao (1978) however is of the view that the geography degree programme at the University College, Ibadan was designed for a society in which the urgent need was to produce secondary schools graduate teachers and the civil service administrators for smooth running of the community services.
Consequently, Ojo (1978) also explained that the discipline of Geography has been evolving or changing from one stage to another. He typologically classified it as follows: (i) The planning stage otherwise called the colonial period 1948-1960, (ii) The indigenization stage 1961-1970 and (iii) The consolidation stage 1971-late 1980s and (iv) The professionalism stage since the late 1980 up to date.
(i) The Planning Stage (Colonial Period) 1948-1960:
The planning stage or colonial stage was a period of the old Geography or London School of Thought, brought by the expatriates and later trained few Nigerian Geographers such as A.L. Mabogunje who was recruited as an Assistant Lecturer in 1958. Some of these indigenous Geographers were trained in different areas of specialization at the University College, Ibadan. This is encouraged in order to bridge the gap between foreign ideas being planted by the expatriate and the development of indigenous Nigerian Geography to its fullest context. The geographic philosophy on which the Ibadan programme was based was ideographic which was reflected in original essay written by graduating students and the trend of the philosophy has been changing through space and time to scientific and quantitative approach to solve spatial problems (Ojo, 1978).
(ii) The Second Stage (Indigenization Era) 1961-1970:
According to Ojo (1978), this stage was a period of drastic changes of the philosophy of the discipline of Geography as a course of study in Nigerian Universities by Nigerians Scholars. Four more universities were established in the early 1960s such as University of Ife (later OAU), University of Nigeria, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and University of Lagos, Lagos of which each runs Geography as one of their pioneer disciplines.
In 1962, the University College, Ibadan became a full-fledged university and this marked the beginning of rapid developments in the process of the indigenization of geography in Nigerian universities. At this time, many Nigerians have already acquired higher degrees in geography with Ph.D. and this qualified them to teach in various capacities such as undergraduate and postgraduate level in the university. Likewise, the influence of indigenous Geographers has started dominated. Nigerians had taken over the chairmanship of the Departments of geography in all the universities by the year 1968 with the exception of Ahmadu Bello University who still has the traces of foreign scholars.
Sada (1982) further clarified that majority of staff in all the departments of Geography were dominated by Nigerians and at this period, Afolabi Ojo was elected as the first Nigerian president of the Nigerian Geographical Association, in December, 1963. Also, at this period, there was need for reviewing the contents of the curriculum of Geography in Nigerian Universities. There was the introduction of Quantitative Geography in the programme at Ibadan in 1964 and later in the other Nigerian Universities. In 1966, the department of geography, University of Ibadan was moved to the faculty of social sciences with more emphasis on the use of Statistical Analysis (Ojo, 1987). Hence, Geography departments can be found in faculty of sciences, social sciences, Natural sciences, Environmental management in many of the Nigerian Universities.
(iii) The Third Stage (Consolidation) 1971-late 1980s:
This period is characterized with remarkable achievement in the development of Geography as a discipline in Nigerian Universities. Ojo (1978) explained that Nigerian geography during this period got into the main stream of world geography partly through geographical publications and partly through the participation of Nigerian geographers in various activities of the International Geographical Union. According to Ogundana (1978) that the professional organ, which is the Nigerian Geographical Association has grown from a membership of forty teachers in 1955 to over 500 geographers in 1980 and beyond, restructured the discipline and prepare a take-off ground for the structure of the discipline of Geography in Nigeria.
Government saw geography as a tool for effective planning of the country. The need for well trained geographers to provide the required man-power for spatial planning became necessary. Sada (1987) identified that there were a growing number of Nigerian lecturers and professors with increasing numbers of specialization in the geographic researches. Many universities were established and this increased the number of universities from 5 in 1970 to 20 in 1980 and many Colleges of Education was also established to produce geography teachers for secondary schools in Nigeria. Therefore, from the late 1980s geography experienced various course re-organization and designing new ones. As such, some of the universities changed their geography departments to be department of Geography and Regional Planning in university of Calabar, Geography and Environmental Management in University of Port Harcourt and Geography and Resource Management in Osun State University as cited in Deekor et al, (2016).
Deckor et al., (2016) further explains that a new curriculum thus came into operation, during this period. Geography assumed a scientific outlook in undertaking researches with a tilt towards professionalism. New programmes were introduced such as Geographic Information System (GIS) and remote sensing which today have become important tools in the study of geography. The Nigerian Geographical Association (NGA) has now metamorphosed into the Association of Nigerian Geographers (ANG) since 2011 with the aim of advancing the study of Geography in Nigeria. The Association of Nigeria Geographers (ANG) has both national and international recognition as a professional association for trained geographers and other persons who are interested in its objectives and functions. Its members share interests in the theory, methods and practice of geography and geographic education.
Currently, the Association has more than 1000 members from all parts of Nigeria and beyond, and represents the interests of Geographers in the country. The Association has one main journal known as the Nigerian Geographical Journal (NGJ) which is the major publication outlet of Geographers in Nigeria since the formation of the Association. The Association holds its conferences annually on different campuses across the country. This conference offers the opportunities for geographers to present their research outputs on different issues, ranging from local to global scale and on topics in the physical, human and development geography and on methodological issues and technologies such as the remote sensing and Geographical information system as cited in Deekor et al., (2016).
However, Geography in Nigeria has experienced rapid growth and changes in terms of its focus and methodology. The Nigerian school of geography started its development when geographic thought worldwide was experiencing paradigm shift and evolution in methodological approaches. Ikhuoria (1986) clarified the evolution of geography in the post 1950 period has been characterized by the following phases in Nigeria as follows:
(i) Consolidation of geographic ideas and concepts such as environmentalism and dualism.
(ii) The growth of contemporary geography with emphasis on perspectives such as environmentalism, man and physical relationships, and spatial patterns of interactions.
(iii) Paradigm shift from idiographic to nomothetic approaches.
The philosophy of Nigerian geography was consolidated and domesticated on man/physical interaction, spatial interaction, spatial patterns, the use of scientific method and quantitative techniques. The domestication and division has cut across phases and the changes is within this domesticated phases.
The Domestication of Geography as a Subject of Study in Nigeria
Primary School Geography in Nigeria:
Geography in primary school started as civic education with teaching of culture, history of early people and their social lives. Geography as a discipline used the four wall of primary level education with the view to observe, identify, describe and to measure some spatial events and with the use of four cardinal points in explaining location of places especially the North, South, East and the West of places. However, the teaching of civic in primary level metamorphosed into introduction of social studies into primary and secondary level in the 1970s.
Secondary School Geography:
Fadare (1984) was of the view that the syllabus of secondary school level was divided into four phases, namely;
(a) Elements of physical Geography
(b) Elements of Human Geography
(c) Regional Geography
(d) Map Work
In a bid for students to explore and understand their physical environment better, the aspect of local Geography was embedded in the changes that were carried out to suit the 6-3-3-4 Geography syllabus of the high school. The change in syllabus was championed by Nigerian Geographical Association. This classification made it possible for the students to gain more knowledge of their immediate environments. Geography at this category is being thought for five years in secondary school and as a separate body of knowledge for three years with the view to inculcate in students the spirits of knowing diversity of human physical environment as well as interrelation of human being with their environments.
Higher Institution Geography with Diverse Branches:
Geography in higher institution of learning in Nigeria was originated from the University College, Ibadan which was an affiliate of the University College, London in year 1948. Leigh (1971) put forward that Geography department in most early Nigerian universities was put in Faculty of Art with particular reference to Ibadan, Lagos and OAU while Ayeni (1984) explained that consequent upon Mabogunje’s introduction of requisite skills in Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Programming and Philosophy into courses in Geography at the University of Ibadan lead to a strong argue for the transfer of geography from Faculty of Arts to that of Social sciences in Akindele (1990). Hence, the root of geography as discipline in Nigeria started from the work of expatriate who later trained some Nigerian both at home and abroad. Geography as a discipline can be traced to various Faculties such as Arts, Social sciences, Sciences, Natural sciences or Environmental sciences.
Ojo (1981) in Faniran & Okuntorifa (1981) that the main purpose of the subject as contained by the department of Geography of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife was to achieve the following objectives:
(a) To get students a sound knowledge of the principles of spatial organization of a natural and human phenomenon on the surface of the Earth.
(b) To make students appreciate the cultural and distribution of natural resources and the impact of these on human activities and problems.
(c) To equip students with suitable analytical and technical skills required for tackling problems of spatial planning and development and;
(d) To enable students to specialize in areas of relevance to national development.
Therefore, the above mentioned ideas gave students vast knowledge of the subject matter and the need to cope with some challenges ahead of them in the nearest future for community development. This gave them interest to develop themselves in other areas that are related to Geography so as to augment and develop themselves as nation builders. Therefore, the status of Geography should be elevated in all spheres of its stages of development from primary to tertiary levels. In the description by Okpala (1990) where he stated that:
“In an age of emphasis on scientific and technological development, Nigeria not only stresses, but supports disciplines in science and technology. Geography as an environmental science has higher status than geography as a social science. If geography were awarded a higher status in the University, it is likely that its status in the secondary schools would change as well. Its present subject grouping with history and literature in English maintains a status quo. The status of geography needs to be clarified by the universities and the NGA should lobby to obtain science status at the secondary school level”.
The Founder and Maker of Geography as a Discipline in Nigerian Institutions
As a rule of thumb, the founders and makers of Geography in Nigeria is categorized into foreigners known as expatriates and those that have been trained by these expatriates known as indigenous Geographers or home based Geographers. Many of the work of these expatriates centered more on both philosophy and the vision of the blue print on which the Nigeria school of Geography is based. Their works immensely contributed to the development of local Nigeria Geography in term of Nigerian peoples and cultures, weather observations, Nature of basement complex of Nigeria in term of Geomorphology, Geology, Hydrology, Economics, Transportation etc. The prominent among the pioneer of Geography in Nigeria includes B. J. Garnier, K.M Barbour, B.W. Hodder, J.C. Pough, W.B. Morgan, J.R.V. Prescott, A.T. Glove, J.T. Coppock, B. Floyd and others. B.J. Garnier was the foundation of Nigeria Geography.
The work of B.J. Garnier was majorly centered on Soil management, regional geography and climatic observation of the Nigeria environment.
However, the first indigenous Professor of Geography in Nigeria trained at home and abroad was Professor A.L. Mabogunje and others. Others among the notable indigenous geographers includes A. Ojo, A.O. Adejuwon, R.K. Udo, R.A. Akinola, S.A. Agboola, G.E.K. Ofomata, B.A.Ogundana are the first class set of indigenous Geographers who has immensely contributed to the changes in the philosophy, methods and development of Geography in Nigeria. The second set of indigenous Geographers trained by the first set and some of them were trained abroad includes L.K. Jeje, N. Alao, J.O. Abiodun, H.I. Ajaegbu, P.O. Sada, O. Adejuyigbe, S.O. Onakomaiya, J.O.Oguntoyinbo, H. Faniran, Onoge, Adalemo. The above further solidified the foundation of Geography as a discipline of study in Nigeria. The third set of who also received training at home and postgraduate training abroad includes J.O. Ayoade, Areola, Adegbola, Adeniyi, Abumere, Filani, Gana, Igbozurike, Okoye, Oyebanji, Oyebande, Onyemelukwe, Onokerhoraye, Okafor, Omuta, Uyanga and others successively contributed more on the work of first and second sets of indigenous Geographers in Nigeria.
The contribution of indigenous Geographers has brought changes into the development of nation building. Its values to educational development has reshaping the philosophy of individuals that Geography is not a course of study but a discipline that is evolving through ages to shape and provide skills to solves problems on the environment we live.
Major Scope of Geography as a Discipline in Nigeria
The complexity of Geography as discipline leads to its diversification into branches of various specializations. Geography covers very vast and wide areas of scholarship and spread it tentacles into another discipline such as physical science like Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, Mathematics as well as natural science such as Anthropology, History, Sociology, Biology, Agricultural Science and others. Geography has undergone radical change and it has been taken as unique discipline that has been in existence before entering into academics. The nature of the complexity of Geography calls for specializations.
Therefore, the discipline of Geography has been broken into major branches as follows:
(1) Physical Geography
This is the branch of Geography that deals with the physical structure of earth surface of Nigeria. It covers the aspect of Soils, Vegetation, Water body, Landforms, Rock structures and others. This branch has been sub-divided into aspects of Geomorphology, Geology, Climatology, Biogeography, Soil Geography, Hydrology, Agriculture Geography, Meteorology, Medical Geography etc.
(2) Human Geography
It is branch of Geography with the study of human activities in the environment. It emphasizes on how man influences the environment through different activities especially farming and anthropogenic activities. It relates with how human being lives in the environment and how the environment affect man. It also deals with the spreads of human population in term of sex-age structure on the surface of the earth. This aspect as been sub-divided into areas such as Settlement Geography, Urban Geography, Population Geography, Political Geography, Economic Geography, Transport Geography etc.
(3) Regional Geography
This is branch of Geography that deals with the division of vast land masses into regions and environment to which each state belong. It encompasses physical setting; such as the areas of highland and lowland, Settlement; such as small and large number ethnic group of people, resources and economic activities; such as agriculture and mineral resources etc.
(4) Geoinformatic: Cartography, Remote Sensing and GIS
With the evolution of science and technology, information technology has given new dimension to design and production of map easily. The acquisition of data from satellite remote sensing makes cartographic work easier in the GIS environment. Web cartography enhances the accurate production of map within a short period of time.
Misconception about the Place of Geography as a Discipline of Scholarship in Nigeria
Where is the place of Geography as a discipline of study in Nigerian institutions of higher learning! People perception to Geography as a problem-solving discipline has made curriculum to undergone various changes or to be made as sub-division of other branches of knowledge such as surveying, Geology, Social sciences courses, Agriculture etc. Without doubt, geography as a discipline in Nigerian Universities has contributed immensely to national development and planning in one way or the other. Geography also contributed to the rebirth of knowledge in location of places. According to Adedayo (2012), he reported as follows:
The Misunderstanding and misconception of Geography has led to the problem of which faculty the discipline may be appropriately domiciled. For example, in the University of Lagos, Geography has been housed in four different Faculties; namely Arts, Science (partially), Environmental science and lately Social sciences. This may be attributed to the fact that geography is a discipline that studies the environment and its diverse components. This makes the broad nature of the discipline to fit into various faculties: some social sciences (Economic Geography, Settlement Geography, Transport Geography etc.), some in science (Hydrology and water resources, Biogeography, Climatology, Geomorphology, Soil Geography etc), some in Engineering (Remote Sensing, Cartography etc) and even some in Medicine (Medical Geography) etc.
At long run, in the uncritical attempts to make Geography relevant, little, if any progress is made on a rigorous pursuit of spatial data acquisition, mapping of area units for planning and on the recently introduced Geographical information system (GIS) for which geography is distinct. Also, Adedayo (2012) cited (Ikporukpo, 2002 in Smith, 1987) that unequal treatment and negative image of geography and its undesirable consequences as exemplified by the elimination of the discipline in a leading American University still persists in Nigeria today. Geography was abolished in Harvard University in 1984 on account of personal interest. The Discipline of Geography should be treated as subject of living and for living to sustain human endeavor in all respect.
Conclusion and Recommendations
The beauty of the diversity of the field of Geography is its unity in so far as man is the focal point of geographical study. The unity of geography can therefore be achieved in the establishment of faculties of Geographical sciences as it is the case in some universities in the developed and developing world countries. Another cursory look is the neglect of Geography in some federal Universities. Some of the recently established Federal universities are without geography programme while most of the private universities in Nigeria do not mount the Geography as if the job market is flooded with unemployed graduates! (Adedayo, 2012).
It is therefore become imperative for the Planner of educational curriculum to see Geography as a core course of study in Nigerian Institutions but not as auxiliary discipline whatsoever. Geography as foundation discipline in the University of Ibadan has produced great brain that reshape this country into a better structure in term of infrastructural development as the case study of Abuja Master Plan who has been spear headed by father of Geography in Nigeria, Professor A.L. Mabogunje. In conclusion, it is on this note that much has to be done to make Geography more Scientific than mere ordinary subject of study like other courses in our tertiary institutions. This can be done through in-service training of Geographers on the need to know how to handle and encapsulate and adopt technologies into the teaching of Geography such as the use of GIS, Remote sensing, Google map applications, Personal wearable instruments such as GPS, Total Station, and the likes to achieve the desirable goal. Also, emphasis should be laid on applied knowledge to restructure methods of teaching with the use of modern technology like computer based instrument e. g Electronic Mobile Devices such as Digital Personal Assistant (PDA), Wearable instruments, Smartphone etc. Hence, the recommendations made as follows:
1. The need for the establishment of faculty of Geography in each of higher institution of learning in Nigeria should be a priority.
2. Government should see Geography as a discipline for national development and should earmark certain percentage in her budget for Geographical research and developments.
3. The need to constantly review and update Geography curriculum is essential in a bid to catch up with changing world with the issue like Climate change, global warming etc. Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) should carry along stake holder in Geography along whenever issue related to curriculum review in Geography comes up.
4. Training of the trainers to achieve best in research and development should be fostered in order to produce Spatial scientists, professional and nation builders.
5. Promotion of indigenous knowledge of geography is essential through development models to predict such as weather condition and the likes.
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