Concept of Religious Education
Progressives (George Albert Coe)
Reconstrctionists (Harrison Elliott)
Education (Max Weber)
meaning of socialization
in Anglo-American Literature
in German Literature
education as intentional religious Socialization (Educative Vision of John H.
of Faith: Context of Religious Education
Religious Learning or Faith Acquisition
Three ways of
Speaking People of Eastern
and Socialization in Igboland
Family as the Pivot of Igbo Traditional Education
Individual: Subject of Education
of the Missionaries
of Christianity (Religious Education) in Igbo culture.
and Dialectical Role
and Substitutive Role
7.0 Criticism and Evaluation.
The concepts of “religious education” and “socialization” look very
simple at first sight but upon exploration, becomes very difficult and
tactical. Many Educationists have propounded theories and hypotheses with
regard to the above concepts and each one sees the different concept from a
particular bias and societal orientation. However for religious education to be
really effective in any given culture or society, it is necessary to have
alongside a clear educative vision, one formulated to meet the needs of the
culture or society in question. The church in Igboland is more traditional,
family centered, faith sharing and community-oriented. Religious education and
socialization operative in the western world according to the various schools
of thought cannot adequately serve the catechetical needs of the Igbo speaking
people of Nigeria. The reason being that the meaning of religious education varies from
place to place. This fact is affirmed by G. Moran as he writes, “In the U.K,
there is a defined meaning to the term “Religious Education”, a meaning almost
completely at variance with the use of the same term in the U.S. Religious
Education in the U.K. usually means a subject in the curriculum of the state
school; in the U.S., Religious Education never means that.”
Going further he asserts, “Religious Education” can mean many things in the U.S., but one thing it dose not mean is a subject taught in the state
therefore believes that if a fully developed theory of religious education ever
comes to birth in the English Language, it will probably be in Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or Canada. For, “in those Countries many people combine their own experience
with literature from both the U.S. and the U.K."
I therefore intend in this paper to cite some examples of the hypotheses
propounded by some religious Educators and Sociologists on these two basic
concepts in order to have a fair treatment of the issue as it relates to the
Igbo speaking people of Nigeria. More so, to take a critical analysis of the Igbo themselves in the
Pre-western period, and the aftermath of Western colonization and missionary
activities; the result of which will lead to a formulation and re-formulation,
adaptation and re-adaptation of the concept of religious education and
socialization in Igboland. This paper cannot claim to have exhausted the issue
at stake; rather it lays bare some basic truths on the issue as well as
suggesting ways to improving the lives of the people through conscious raising
and inculturated religious education and socialization.
1.1 The concept of religious education
thrust of the literature in religious education for the past decades has been
solely concerned with the personal, or with what professional educational
literature calls the psychological foundations.
Since the 1950s, we have benefited from a number of significant and formative
books having to do with development and growth, interpersonal relations, and
spiritual formation. Allen Moore believes that religious education since the
turn of the twentieth century has shared with progressive education a social
agenda and that has included issues such as racial inclusiveness, peace and
justice, improved international relations.
Thus religious education should be grounded in sociological and social-ethical
1.1.1 The Progressives (George Albert
social theory of religious education is grounded in the works of George Albert
Coe and the other Progressive theorists who provided the first systematic theory of
religious education written from a sociological point of view. Coe’s concern
led him to address some issues like peace and justice, the rights of the poor
and radically oppressed, the rights of labor, and the causes of economic
justice. He was less vocal on the issue of women liberation and the protection
of the natural order although one might guess that they would be the central
concerns of his day. Coe and others who followed him believed that religious
education has a special responsibility to name social evil and to participate
actively in the radical reconstruction of the social order. Persons are not
realized apart from the realization of a new social order. More so, persons
were fully realized by participating in the community. Just as society teaches
individuals, individuals should help to improve the society through education.
Coe believes that the function of religious education is to create the kind of
social groupings that can expand into a new democratic order. The goal is to
manifest the kind of cooperative living that would model what society could
1.1.2 The Reconstructionists (Harrison
Elliott who succeeded Coe believed that the nature of the self makes evident
the importance of a social theory of education. He understood that the goal of religious
education was the transformation of “individual striving” into “cooperative
Elliott’s social process of education is summarized in the following order:
The focus must
be on social problems,
solutions must be considered,
be genuinely understood,
dealing with facts is basic,
Use of church
history, bible life and teaching of Jesus to develop a Christian perspective,
Christian perspective in light of current situation,
proposed solution in terms of action,
and evaluate the results.
is a social institution, which must function in interaction with other basic
institutions of society, the role of education is to begin to reconstruct
itself at the time that it participates in the fundamental reform of other
social institutions. Educational reconstruction begins, for instance by
addressing such issues as:
(the question of what is learned and how knowledge is shared),
(the question of who makes decisions about who is educated and how they are
question of how society is organized in order to educate).
The aim of the Reconstructionists
is the reform and the remaking of the social order and the basic institutions of
society. It also serves to regulate sexual activities of persons, procreation
and nurturing of the young. They talk about learning as social
self-realization. It is difficult to make a clear-cut distinction between the
Progressives and the Reconstructionists as regards their views on religious
education. Suffice it to say that both views are interwoven, with one
emphasizing the priority of the individual over the society and the other, on
the importance of social reconstruction of society.
1.1.3 The Liberals (Paulo Freire)
education developed largely out of the Latin American historical experience
where poverty and oppression are the major social realities. Conflict between
the social classes is a major source of content in liberation education and the
methods of social analysis, political change and social praxis contribute to
learning. All liberation education is ethical in the sense that the meaning of
justice is understood and implemented within the context of a concrete social
or historic situation. Education is basically understood as doing justice
rather than learning about the theories or principles of a just order.
Liberation education is therefore primarily political action education. Freire
believes that individuals regardless of their social plight have the ability to
probe critically their social reality, understand the conditions that control
their lives and deal with these conditions in a transforming way. For him
education is a practice of and a means to restore dignity to people. Freire
pedagogical methods were developed first in Brazil with persons who were extremely poor, illiterate and politically
disenfranchised. Knowledge of their political welfare becomes the educational
praxis. More so, photographs of the daily life of the peasants helped to
sharpen their perception as to what is going on around them and to stimulate
what he calls “generative themes” or the “powerful symbols of the contradiction
of their lives.” Liberation education is based on the belief
that persons are motivated by visions and by a consciousness that they have a
role of self-determination. There are some concepts in human existence that
needs no explanations. Those who live with them know them. It is only when
profound and enriching questions are asked about a real situation that ethical
decisions can be made for that situation and education can begin to take place.
1.1.4 Lifestyle Education (Max Weber)
introduced the concept of lifestyle into sociological literature by defining
lifestyle as a subculture of people who are formed around a shared way of life
based upon commonly held values and commitments. This model of religious
education shares some similar concept and assumptions with liberation education
especially the influence of Paulo Freire. Lifestyle education focuses on the
values and assumptions that influence how people live their public and private
lives. The focus is on transforming the personal awareness of persons in the
social context. In religious education, conscientization is often translated as
conscious raising to denote a process of apprehending one’s reality and a
vision of what one might become as a “liberated person”. Education has often
defined what actions are appropriate for a woman and what roles are permissible.
Women are socialized by family, school and other social institutions to take
their place in the home as wife, mother and volunteer in the domestic functions
of society especially school, church and child-serving programs such as
scouting and other nurturing agencies. Only with conscious-raising enterprises
have women come to protest the definition and the place of women in society and
to assume public and political roles in our society. The consequence has been
the need to change attitude and social order of work, family and politics.
as a concept in human development looks very simple to understand but extremely
difficult in the actual analysis. This is because, the process that go into the
becoming of personality are complex and numerous, both known and unknown. There
exists concept confusion about socialization, hence Brezinka asserts, “the term
socialization has gone through a variety of shifts in meaning over the years,
as the theoretical foundations of different socialization theories have been
criticized and revised, but it’s popularity continues unabated”.
Socialization as a concept can be applied to different fields of study-
sociology, political science, education, religion etc. The same is true in
theory formulations like religious sociology, professional sociology etc. We
also speak of socialization techniques, socialization institutions,
socialization program, and objects of socialization, socialization personnel,
agents of socialization and so on. All these terms stem from texts, which are
regarded as contributions to socialization research. A very quick definition of
socialization will be on the one hand referring to an inner process through
which people become “social”. On the other hand, to external process in
peoples’ environment through which they are “made social.” Included in these
external processes is education. However, it is important to analyze the term
“socialization” from its etymological viewpoint.
2.1 Etymological Analysis
a concept derives from the stem “social” which goes back to the Latin
“socialis” related to “socius’ and “societas.”
The substantive “socius” means: comrade, participant, “societas” means:
society, community, cooperative, connection to others. The adjective “socialis”
means: belonging to comrades, sociable, social, concerning society. Many senses
are associated with the English word “social”, from which the word
“socialization” and “to socialize” have been formed. Socialization as a term
belonging to the study of society dates back to the nineteenth century,
although the various meanings have been changed over the time. In social texts,
it refers on the one hand, to “any behavior or attitude that is influenced by
past or present experience of the behavior of other people direct or indirect,
or that is oriented consciously or unconsciously toward other people”, and, on
the other hand, to every “action directed in some sense toward the welfare
either of a whole society or it’s less privileged members.”
affirms that the word “sozial” was first adopted into Germany towards the end of the eighteenth century. However it became
widespread only after the mid-nineteenth century. The commonly encountered
meanings are the following:
together, community, relevant to human,
social life as an essential attribute of man or animals,
relevant to the relation between persons,
the situation, position or economic circumstances of a person in society,
qualities or modes of behavior which persons possess who, with respect to
accepted norms, are recognized as completely adequate members of their group,
community, useful to the community, obligated to the community, showing regard
for others, relevant to the common good,
the advancement of lower social classes, economically weak and dependent groups
of persons; relevant to protecting the interest of workers and the improvement
of their condition,
benevolent, helpful, protective of those in need of protection, helpful to the
2.2 Sociological meaning of Socialization
The term was
employed in connection with the most general question of sociology: “How do
groups arise?” or “how is society possible?” Brezinka citing different authors
attempts at various notions of the term socialization. Simmel believes that the
construction of a societal unity out of individual is achieved by socialization
process. Fraz Oppenheimer, a leading German Sociologist used the word
“socialization” as the animation of groups through the creation of values,
norms, and institutions such as law, religion and customs. Rudoff Lochner, a
German Pedagogue who attempted to develop empirical theories of education also
employed the term as a synonym for the process of forming groups, the formation
of community, the binding of persons to one another.
2.3 Socialization in Anglo-American
defined socialization as the whole process by which an individual born with behavioral
potentialities of enormously wide range is led to develop actual behavior,
which is confined within a much narrower range.
together with Irvin sees socialization as the whole process by which an
individual develops, through transaction with other people, his specific
patterns of socially relevant behavior and experience.
Elkin defined socialization as the process by which we learn the ways of a
given society or social group so that we can function within it. This definition
favors very much the learning process.
sees socialization as acquisition of learning. The individual acquires the
culture of his group through learning. It is also a process by which society
creates persons suitable to carry out its functional requirements.
2.4 Socialization in German Literature
Claessens sees socialization as a process of transmitting and receiving
sociological contents. He calls this a comprehensive process of value
transmission between society and individual or a process of handing down
Neidhardt defines socialization as the transmission or transfer of behavioral
dispositions by Socializers to Socializands.
Mollenhauer holds that socialization comprehends all learning processes whose
result constitutes a human organism as a member of a society.
3.0 Religious Education
as Intentional Religious
Socialization (Religious Educative Vision of
John H. Westerhoff)
Having seen the different schools of thought as regards
religious education and the views of Sociologists and others who have attempted
a definition on the concept “socialization”, we shall now attempt a combination
of the two concepts in the educative vision of John Westerhoff. He hails from
the United States of American, member and pastor of the Episcopalian church, a
well- known pastoral theologian and the professor of religious education at Duke University Divinity School, Durham. His esteemed personality is reflected in his many writings which
includes more than twenty books and articles on different subjects like
religious education, liturgy, theology, spirituality and so on. He reflects and
writes on religious education from a pastoral point of view rather than a
scholastic or scientific one, which makes him a more pastoral religious
educationist than a scholastic one. As a basis for his educative foundation, he
analyses the two sets of thinking regarding education. He holds that two groups
of educationist abound. The Environmentalists who place importance on nurture
(B. Skinner, E. Durkheim), and the Maturationists, who place importance on
nature (J. Dewey, J. Piaget and L. Kohlberg). The Environmentalists are more
interested in socialization, while the Maturationists focus more on
development. Westerhoff believes that the developmental concept of education is
important to the understanding of education from the point of view of
Basically, Westerhoff’s educative vision is based on the
socialization point of view, as he has his theological vision from the
liberation point of view. He thinks socialization is the best concept to
understanding religious education at it’s best. He however distinguishes
between religious education and socialization. The latter according to him
includes education, but education is a distinctive aspect of it. He holds that
education refers to all intentional efforts made by persons or groups to aid
individuals in acquiring the knowledge, skill and disposition that make them
more or less able and acceptable members of the society. Hence he considers
education as intentional socialization or holistic socialization process. It is
from this basic vision that he accepts religious education as religious
3.1 Community of Faith: The Context of
The community of
faith consists in:
persons who share a common story and vision
A group of
A group of
three generations: past, present and future
A group which
has a corporate life
Eucharist, the means of Christian initial and nurturing.
3.2 Means of Religious Learning or Faith
symbolic sharing - the way of
expressing or celebrating the faith and faith-experience of a community through
symbols. Ritual means the rites of a community, which binds the past, the
present and the future.
and behavioral shaping - the
life actions of the community of faith in the individual and corporate level
have an immense power to convert people to Christian faith. Our individual and
corporate actions in the society make a lot of influence in the society. As a
community of faith we engage in three levels of actions: personal,
interpersonal and social.
telling - could be in form of
question/answer, talking and listening about faith as the way to share verbally
our faith with others. The content of the verbal sharing is the story of a
3.3 Personality Types
of persons. They are logical
and systematic and their thinking aspects predominate the other. They insist on
objective analysis and principled decision-making.
of persons. They are more
emotional and sentiment oriented. Concerning them Westerhoff writes, “typically
they are idealists rather than realists, who in a parish seek small, caring
groups and desire more emotion and intimacy in worship”.
types of persons. Active and
action oriented people who care more on the actions and changes. In the parish,
they are found in-groups concerned for social involvement and action. They seek
to make worship more related to daily life and they want their parish to be an
example in society.
types of persons. They give
importance to the imagination for knowledge. In most cases they are intuitive
visionaries and contemplatives. They are most concerned with the illumination
of the heart through emptying techniques. Contemplative prayer leading to
mystical union with God is natural for Delta persons.
3.4 Three Ways of Learning
experiential way. Gotten by
participating in the faith, through art, symbols, myths and rituals.
reflective way. Centered on
reflection on the experiences of life and made in the light of community’s
story. This way of learning helps more for the individualization or
personalization of faith and way of life.
integrating way. Action
centered way of learning done through practice or training on how to live and
how to decide in moments of life.
3.5 Concerns of Religious Education
Tradition. We live in a community that is in interaction
with a living tradition. Westerhoff believes that the tradition we Christians
bear as a faith community is essential and primarily a story of God’s mighty
deeds and actions in history.
Persons. It is the human person that has the ability of
thinking, feeling and willing. Westerhoff believes also that a religious
education program should be concerned about all the three aspects of man,
namely, thinking, feeling, and willing. Otherwise, such an education will not
Society: Religious education should be concerned about
society and it’s problems. Sometimes, the church education, which should
maintain the tradition or keep up the faith of the persons, forgets to give due
attention to social dimension. The church is not called to be a replica of the
society in the world; instead she is called to be a counter- cultural or
witnessing community in this world through her words and deeds.
this section, Westerhoff believes that proclamation (kerygma) and the
incorporation (didache) of the Christian gospel tradition have been
central to the church’s pastoral ministry since the beginning of the Christian
era. Notwithstanding the crisis of the present, he believes that, “the church
in each age needs to be faithful to both the Christian tradition and it’s
historic situation. An understanding of our fore parents’ attempts to be
faithful is essential if we are to do likewise.”
Having reached this stage in this presentation, it is
simply obvious that some reactions are necessary which I have put in the form
of discussion questions:
What are the
end products of education and socialization?
exist without the other at least implicitly?
Which of the
two concepts takes priority in the becoming of persons and society?
were used before the introduction of these two concepts and what was the state
of affairs by then?
concepts in the present dispensation helping us to becoming ourselves after the
mind of God in our society or something else in the same society?
4.0 The Igbo Speaking People of Eastern Nigeria
I intend here
to situate the Igbo
geographically in Nigeria without going into elaborate analysis of their make-up save for the
demand of this paper. The Igbo occupy to the River Niger the whole of Onitsha and Owerri Provinces and parts of Rivers and Ogoja provinces. To the West of the Niger they occupy Asaba division in Benin Province and Aboh division in Delta Province. The neighbors of the Igbo to the north are the Igala and the Tiv, to
the east the Ekoi, to the south the Ibibio, the Ijaw and the Ogoni, and to the
west the Bini and the Isoko. A great percentage lives to the east of the Niger, and less than 40% to the west of the Great River. However the Igbo are found all over Nigeria. Igboland is thickly populated especially in Owerri, Okigwe, Orlu, Onitsha, Awka, Enugu and Port Harcourt areas. It is important to note here that “Igbo” as a term, has an
alternative “Ibo” being the equivalent used by foreigners because of the
difficulty in pronouncing the Igbo double consonant “gb”.
4.1 Education in Igboland
I wish to state clearly here that the word “Education”, as
understood by the Igbo covers both the learning process and the socialization
aspect. The one word for both is “ọzụzụ”
which entails the formation of the complete person in the society. In
traditional Igboland, education was a very informal affair, a matter mostly for
families and lineage. It consisted essentially in the process of turning little
Igbo into adult Igbo. The idea was not to make them into anything their fathers
and mothers were not or had not already become. They were not to be turned into
specialists of any out-of- the ordinary kind. They did not have to train to
become Engineers, Novelists, Economists’ etc. All they had to do was to become
adults in the approved manner. And this was in fact substantially enough. For a
manner of speaking, the traditional Igbo was at the same time all of these
things and none of them. He literally had to be all things to himself, but was
required to perform in all nothing more than the standard of his peers.
Educating him was simply teaching him to become himself in terms of acquiring
the ability to survive in his environment in terms of inculturating him into
the way of life bequeathed to him by his ancestors and sanctioned by his god.
Education of this sort could not be a matter of formal schooling for there
could be no deferred application of knowledge acquired beforehand in the
abstract. Every aspect, every manifestation and every practical demonstrated
notion of the traditional Igbo community was automatically part of its
Hence when we talk of Igbo traditional education, we refer essentially to the
normal process of upbringing in traditional Igboland, to the most usual ways in
which Igbo youths were inducted into their cultural and material heritage.
4.1.1 The Family as the Pivot of Igbo
This begins with a sketch of the family as a functional unit
in tradition settings in Igboland. The various patterns of family organization,
which exist in traditional settings, reflect the prevailing socio-economic
conditions. Polygamy for instance is an economic institution developed to meet
the demand of a hoe and labor-intensive agricultural economy. Shortage of
farmland in a densely populated area and infertile soil in some areas are some
of the factors that led to a diverse economy. The various occupations included
black smiting, woodcarving, salt making, pot making, cotton spinning, poultry,
rearing of sheep, goats etc. With the exception of the "Aros" who
were primarily traders, all others in Igboland were basically farmers. To date,
agriculture is still the mainstay of Igbo economy even though the average
hectarage cultivated by each farmer is small.
Decent in Igboland is mostly patrilineal where individuals
trace their origins from the father’s kin group, incorporating children into
their father’s lineage. In patrilineages, the woman leaves her natal village
and moves into the man’s home. Wealth is technically her husband’s. The
husband’s position in relation to family wealth strengthens the patrilocal
The oldest member of the extended family holds and shares out family land, for
cultivation, to all adult male children. Any member of the lineage can opt to
lease his land for a period of cultivation after which the ownership reverts to
The traditional extended family known in Igbo as
“Ezi-na-Ulo”, is an enlarged extended unit consisting of the man, his wife or
wives, their married sons and their wives and children, and also their
unmarried daughters and sons. Bonds of mutual rights and obligation unite
these. The traditional nuclear or elementary family, that is the man, his wife
or wives and children though functioning autonomously in the management of
specific family affairs is a dependent conjugal unit embedded in the extended
family. The extended family and the kin group carry out more encompassing
function than the elementary family unit. The Igbo extended family with its
emphasis on kin and de-emphasis of husband and wife ties differs from the
nuclear or conjugal families of Euro-American societies with their emphasis on
the conjugal tie. Some factors interplay with others to bring about the large
number of children born into extended families; the premier factor is
agricultural occupation, which supports large families because the children
become direct producers in the economy. Secondly, with no program of social
security outside the family, children in Igbo families are entitled to parental
support. In return to parents’ support, children in Igbo extended families are
morally bound to care for their aging parents.
4.1.2 Education and Religion
The most fundamental characteristic of Igbo culture is
that it is so interwoven and rooted in religion that one can say that the Igbo
have a religious culture or a cultural religion. From this religious source
every aspect of the culture bears a religious imprint. Hence it is difficult to
place a dichotomy between the sacred and the profane in Igbo culture. An
interesting comparison can be made between the Igbo world outlook and the
biblical Old Testament outlook. In the Old Testament, the divine and the
mundane are so intricately intertwined and penetrate one another in such a way
that each turning point of history is interpreted as a divine intervention, and
the handwork of the most high is seen everywhere. It is just the same in Igbo
culture. It is difficult to think of an ambient that is completely mundane
without a religious implication. Of course, one would expect such, because in
societies, which have not been secularized to any considerable degree, worldly
activities such as work, government, learning etc. are surrounded by religious
observances. There is no sector of Igbo culture that has posed serious problem
to ethnologists, anthropologists and Christian missionaries as the Igbo
traditional religion. Igbo traditional religion defies any easy classification
and definition. It is easy from the foregoing to view the family ideally as a
teacher who gives the child the initial impetus to learning, who serves as a
constant model to the child, who observes the child; who influences the learner
directly or indirectly by giving examples, and who is conscious of the
situation. The child/learner on the other hand, ideally observes listens,
imitate, performs some complex tasks, asks clarifying questions and waits for
solutions. The extent to which the family succeeds as a teacher is the extent
the Igbo society achieves it’s ultimate objective of a stable social order. And
where the family fails, it surely reflects on the society in general. That is,
if education as a tool is under the control of the people, it improves the
quality of their lives.
The Igbo word for education, which involves every other
kind of learning, is “ọzụzụ,” which comes from the verb root
“izu” and evokes the sense of:
with food, ideas, values and insights.
pointing out/showing things, facts, truths; demonstrating.
sending on errands, sending messages, communicating.
beating, knocking; beating into correct shape, straightening out what is bent
or crooked. Hence, by derivation, flogging into shape, re-teaching.
watching over carefully.
counseling unto right knowledge, and decisions.
with a note of.
The ọzụzụ idiom may evoke more than the
senses enumerated above. However one who willingly gets exposed to all these
dimensions of ọzụzụ
and allows them to influence him will definitely end up as “onye azuru nke
oma”- “one who is perfectly formed”. ọzụzụ
may therefore be seen as a comprehensive process of training entailing many
specific actions geared to producing the well-formed person. My description of ọzụzụ above is more an
analytical approach. But in a religious world-view like that of the Igbo,
talking of ọzụzụ
without reference to the spirit world does not really make sense. The community
was constantly aware of living in a spirit-charged world. Thus, traditional
Igbo ọzụzụ both on the community and
individual levels came heavily to be influenced by spirituality.
4.1.3 The Igbo Community
In the Igbo context it was the community or the “umunna”
as a whole, which was the primary and principal recipient or subject of ọzụzụ. Since the Umunna
was simultaneously oriented to the spirit world and to its human members, the ọzụzụ of the umunna
or community had a twofold goal:
To win and
retain the goodwill and favor of the divinities,
solidarity and peace among the umunna.
4.1.4 The “Dibia”
There is no
other single individual as the Dibia in winning the goodwill and favor of the
divinities and spirits and in promoting the solidarity and peace of the Igbo
community. There are basically three types of Dibia:
Dibia ọgwụ (Medicine man).
A particular Dibia may combine in himself the three types. In any of
these cases, the Dibia derives his calling from the divinity “Agwu” who is
credited with the ability to reveal to some individuals (the Dibia) the secrets
of the invisible and visible world for the welfare of the community. In the
three types of Dibia, we see three crucial needs that had to be met in a
spirit-filled and capricious community:
The need to
ascertain the will of the spirits especially in problem situations, to find out
who and what were responsible for the problem. And to find out what spiritual
measures had to be taken to solve the problem and to prevent its re-occurrence.
The need of
the community to perform the rituals, sacrifices and ceremonies, which would nourish
the bond between the community and the divinities and thereby promote
solidarity and peace among members of the community. The ritualization of yam
and the process surrounding it’s planting and harvesting taught the community
to acknowledge the singular importance of yam in it’s continued existence and
the need for hard work on every one’s part.
The need to
protect the members of the community from spiritual and physical molestation
and machinations of all kinds. While the “Dibia Ọgwụ”
(the medicine man) employed divinatory means in the healing process, he also
succeeded in spreading within the community a vast knowledge of various herbs
and their medical uses. Hence like the diviner and the priest, the medicine man
contributed to winning the favor of the gods and promoting the solidarity of
4.1.5 The “Ọfọ”
The “Ọfọ” symbol appears to be
the pre-eminent factor in winning the goodwill and favor of the divinities, in
promoting the solidarity and peace of the “Umunna”, and in shaping the
community. Mythically convinced as a chip of the primal tree that grows in
God’s compound, the Ọfọ is revered everywhere among the Igbo
as a sacred object which condenses or mediates in a mysterious way the cosmic
power, truth, justice and moral uprightness collectively represented and upheld
by the Supreme Being, the divinities, the ancestors and myriad spirit forces.
the Ọfọ into any
setting is to proclaim that nothing short of truth, justice and moral
uprightness is demanded of the audience. To fail to uphold these values is to
provoke the wrath of, and the destructive potency associated with the Ọfọ.
4.1.6 The Igbo Individual, Subject of
process: it is important to note here that
whereas we have understood the individual as being subsumed in the group
solidarity, each person is created with a “chi”- a personal and unique presence
of God, to which each person must respond personally and around which one must
shape his personality and life. So a personal sense of accountability for what
one makes of one’s life is built into the Igbo person right from the onset.
Hence inasmuch as the Umunna aims at winning and retaining the goodwill
and favor of the great divinities and at promoting the solidarity and peace of
the community, it leaves room for the emergence, growth and fulfillment of the
individual. Thus a well brought up individual (onye azuru azu) possesses the
Onye aka ya dị ọcha- honest, upright person.
aka- generous in helping.
ike ọrụ na-agakwa ozi- hardworking man willing to serve.
ntị n’ala- observant and watchful person.
omenala na iwu ọha- tradition respecting and abiding person.
A person who has the above characteristics is regarded as
“ezigbo mmadụ” (well- behaved person) as
opposed to “onye nzuzu” (a fool) and “anụ ọhia” (animal).
4.2 Socialization in Igboland
The traditional system of education prepares the
individual to graduate from dependence (childhood) to independence (youth and
adventure) then to interdependence (maturity and responsibility). At every
stage in the realization of these objectives of traditional education, the
individual is progressively integrated into the society, socially,
economically, politically and religiously.
shape, make and sound quality of instruments were strategies for political,
religious and social education. One instrument for instance could embody
visual-aural knowledge about Kingship while another offered implicit knowledge
about religious practices and reverence.
This is a very
important aspect of socialization. Who danced in what situation, how people are
related in various dance situation, the use of the parts of the body as
significant icons in dance motion, the application of energy in dance, dance
formation, dance-learning, dance presentation and dance borrowing. All these
were specialized and symbolic processes of socialization in Igbo traditional
society. The sex, age and human attainment of who was qualified to participate
in what dance offered general knowledge in social, historic, moral and cultural
development of a society.
Folk drama, like
music, was an explicit process of imparting knowledge on any subject or social-
political issue among the Igbo. Drama was used to record and recast traditional
knowledge of historical, religious, social and political significance.
4.2.4 Moonlight Play
Igbo society was a rural society that depended exclusively on the sun and moon
for the lighting needs of its members. As peasant farmers, they were during the
day engaged in various agricultural pursuits and at night, they relaxed with
plays and story telling. Each community has a main arena for moonlight play.
This is usually a large area of open ground, often covered with fine sand.
Besides the main arena, each compound is a mini arena as long as it can
accommodate players. On a typical moon night, young people including children
gather in their respective compounds and begin to play. As the night
progresses, the youth and some children find their way to the main Village Square. The more daring may go from their village arena to another one
better known for its activities.
Other forms of
socialization include Naming ceremony, Masquerading, Marketing, Age grade
meetings, Funerals etc. Under this
system, the role of education and socialization were to harmonize and inculcate
in a very practical way the values and skills necessary for daily living.
People were organized into age sets, which had determinate positions and roles
in the order of the community. Education was thus not a preparation for life,
but life itself.
5.0 The Influence of the Missionaries
missionary expeditions, so many Christian groups and religious congregations
found their way into the frontiers of Igboland. It is interesting to note that
the first group to arrive in Igboland was the Anglican Mission who, through the
cooperation of the British Colonial movements and settlement in Igboland,
occupied the very heart of Igboland. It
was only after several decades that the first Catholic Missionaries arrived on
the River Niger in 1885. They were the
society of African Missions, who settled on the West Bank of the Niger, and the Holy Ghost Fathers who occupied the eastern part. With their arrival began the first stage of
the adventurous enterprise of the missionary strategy in Igbo land. No sooner had they settled down, than they
set themselves to till the ground for the planting of the seed of
Christianity. They employed many methods
to win converts. These methods include
the rescuing and buying over of slaves; the care of the sick and the destitute;
the distribution of charity and most especially through the establishment of
schools. Of course, it is understandable
that they made a quick progress, since people were quick in identifying with
the Missionaries, whom they considered to be good to them, and who protected
them and were interested in their welfare.
Suffice it to summarize the work of the early missionaries as follows:
certain evil practices leading to the coinage of the word ‘ukamaka’ (which
means “the Church is good, kind, merciful and helpful) which people gave to
The bulk of
the first converts were drawn from the poor, the needy and the rejected, the
mothers of twins, women accused of witchcraft, those suffering from diseases
such as leprosy which were seen as abominable.
of schools, thanks to Bishop Shanahan, who more than any other, laid the
foundation of Christianity in Igboland.
The Church in Igboland is seen as the veritable fruits of his ingenuity.
Motivated by his
wide concept of education which arrived at training people not only to read the
bible in the vernacular, but also with an orientation to personal improvement
both spiritually and materially, Bishop Shanahan made education his principal
education, the missionaries employed yet another method in maintaining their
converts. They tried to create a new
cultural environment for their converts.
The intention of the missionaries was to build Christianity on a
completely new non-cultural foundation – a form of a Christian village around
the Church and the Rectory. The more
people embraced the Christian faith, the more they were induced to build a hut
for themselves in the village and thus to cut themselves off as far as possible
from pagan influences. With this method,
the Christians were separated and segregated from their kit and kin who were
traditionalists in order not to be ensnared into traditional religious
practices. This strategy, however,
succeeded in estranging the Christians from their traditional culture and
thereby paved a way for the consequences which one observes among Christians in
Igboland today and which have greatly informed Religious Education among the
6.0 Expected Role of Christianity
(Religious Education) in Igbo Culture
In the preceding section, some elements in Igbo culture
have been discovered to be good and beautiful.
One should expect that these elements be recognized as a solid base on
which to build on. The complicated but important elements, as one expects,
should naturally prove difficult, and therefore demand a thorough but careful
study and purification. There are no doubts that there exist other cultural
elements that are so obnoxious and inhuman and which naturally attract a
straightforward rejection and distinction.
6.1 Positive and Dialectical Role
There are some elements in Igbo culture that fall within
the good and beautiful elements of culture. These include: social structure, traditional
political framework, associations, hospitality, the concept of the Supreme God,
deep sense of the sacred, Igbo nomenclature, recreational elements, Igbo moral
sensitivity etc. Their positive values
arise from the fact that they have no obstacles whatsoever, as well as from the
strategic value they have among the Igbo. Christianity (Religious Education) is
expected to employ these elements for the purpose of internalizing the faith.
The linguistic elements, for instance, provide such
features as proverbs, folklore and poetic symbols in conveying important
values. It is noteworthy that any
serious discussion among the Igbo that is bereft of these linguistic features
is considered unimportant, equivalent in value only with children’s
rabbles. It would be very important for
Christianity to enunciate the Christian doctrines making adequate use of the
linguistic features. This would be a
vivid expression of the doctrines within the categories of thought of the
Igbo. The various dogmas of faith would
have a big chance if they were to be transmitted by means of the linguistic
The Igbo social structure with a strong family base is a
wonderful strategy to utilize.
Concerning this Basden had to remark “…a missionary has a unique
opportunity of becoming acquainted with village life, for, from the very nature
of things the soundest policy is for him to live in the closest communion with
the people whom he seeks to influence.
The social structure furnishes one with easy access into the life of the
people. Even the village squares –“ama”
as they are called are the rallying points of the people; hence they can be
profitably employed. Would these squares not serve as catechism centers, since
people would not be lacking there at any time of the day. The use of such traditional contexts could
have overwhelming influence on the people, and dispose them to feel at home
with the faith. This is true because all important matters and decisions are
discussed in those places.
It has been seen that there is no distinction between the
Igbo concept of the Supreme Being and the Christian idea of God as the Supreme
Being. The only aspect that is lacking
is the Trinitarian mystery, but then, the belief in the deities and spirits is
already a predisposition to accepting the Trinitarian doctrine. The Igbo are already in tune with the
mysterious world. Hence, the Igbo sense
of the sacred should be a rich potential, which Christianity should recognize
in building up the spiritual life of the Igbo Christians.
The Igbo nomenclature is not haphazardly given; they are
primarily expressions of the divine attributes, hence they are
theological. What could be more divine
than names expressing divine attributes? (Chibueze – God is king; Chinedu – God
leads; Chinenye –God is the giver etc.) These expressions are merged with the
peculiar historical records of the family.
Employing such names as baptismal names would not only be singing the
praise and glory of God, but would even promote the consciousness of the
divine-human relationship and interaction within the family.
The same attitude of dialogue and purification is expected
of Christianity with regard to the recreational elements; Festivals, music and
dancing play very important roles in any culture. Christianity should try to
make it conducive for Igbo Christians to join their kit and kin in those
moments of enjoyment and relaxation. Even though false worship, use of charms
and superstition at times characterize these concepts, yet purification of
these through dialogue could have lasting effects. One would not expect an attitude of
segregation, which would only succeed in warding off Christians from these
exercises. It must be accepted that if Christians
are kept off these community celebrations, they are as it were, psychologically
knocked -off since inwardly they feel a strong natural attraction to mix with
their kit and kin. Christianity is
expected to uphold this symbol within any community rather than destroy it. It is all the more so among Igbo communities,
where staying together in every aspect of life is a distinguishing and
6.2 Corrective and Substitutive Role
There are some cultural elements in Igbo
culture that are mixed with so many false worship and superstition. Christianity has therefore the enormous task
of purifying these elements because inasmuch as they are not intrinsically bad,
so many superstitious practices and rituals, which thereby render them
contaminated and incompatible with the faith, surround them. These elements ought not to be ignored by
Christianity, since they play very important roles in the traditional system.
In order to sieve out the superstitious elements, a distinction has to be made
to find out the essential aspects of the element in question. It is not these
aspects that need purification or purging but the rituals surrounding these
practices, which ought to be replaced by Christian rituals in their stead.
Another dimension of the supposed role
of Christianity in Igbo culture is to fight against inhuman practices that have
been exposed in the culture, for instance, dedicating human beings to certain
idols, etc. The early Missionaries did a lot in this regard in terms of search
for, recovering, restoring and rehabilitation such people.
6.3 Extraordinary Role
There are some basic values that are glaringly lacking in
Igbo culture and which distinguish Christianity from other religions. To these, Christianity should supply. Although, the Igbo are very friendly and
hospitable, yet they have a profound hatred for their enemies. Vengeance and
‘lex talionis’ is their guiding code of conduct with regard to enemies. It is expected that Christianity should impart
and teach the virtues of forgiveness and charity towards enemies in Igbo
culture. This role of Christianity ought
to be considered as very important and therefore urgent. If Christianity makes
use of the positive elements for the consolidation of the faith – engrafting
and incarnating Christian principles within the cultural framework of the Igbo,
there will be a strong hope of a lasting Christianity in Igboland.
7.0 Criticism and Evaluation
As a preamble
to this section, I must confess and truly so that we from the Igboland of
Nigeria must ever remain grateful for the gift of the Christian faith from God
through the instrumentality of the Western Missionaries. However with the birth and increase of
indigenous priests and owing to the retirement of a good number of these
Missionaries, the administration of the Church fell into the hands of
indigenous clergy. As faithful stewards
of western education, they represented their masters to the core- maintaining
the same standard. It is common knowledge that the world in which we live is
dynamic and so are human beings. Many
philosophers too have described man as a bundle of possibilities, meaning that
man changes with time and situations. A
cursory look at the entire system in Igboland suggests a “lacuna”, caused not
by cultural differences but by adherence to what was taught and “handed down”.
The clergy as products of the catholicity age followed the conservative way of
of the Mass in Latin with all the particularities surrounding it. Moral
theology was taught from the manuals and many other things done according to
specified ways. With the Second Vatican Council, the experiences of people were
being addressed. It made provision for
particular circumstances in which the people live, leading to a breakdown of
the age of catholicity. Latin was no longer mandatory and there is now the need
to use the vernacular and to bring in local customs into the church. Paul VI believed and preached that our work
is not to establish a particular way, a particular solution to problem, rather,
we are to recommend so that people from other cultural background and different
situations can bring in their best. His, to a large extent, explains the new
trend of consciousness in the church today: theology of liberation,
contextualization, inculturation, feminist theology, pluralism and so on. A move in the area of social economy leads us
to globalization, which is characterized by communication magnet, by fax, by
internet, by the breakdown of national boundaries, the era of multinational
companies etc. what is happening in the Nigerian Church today? There is a clash between the authority that
is struggling to maintain the modern idea and the new way of the progressives
in a sense. The Nigerian Church operates on the level of modernity understood as a conservative way
of doing things. The climate of
postmodernity is an issue in Europe and yet to be in Africa. The confusion stems from the
fact that inasmuch as the Nigerian church maintains the conservative way doing
things, there are the influences of communication media. More so, there are patches of people having
this postmodern mentality especially those in contact with the western
world. It is definitely under this
condition that the discussion on religious education and socialization in Nigeria becomes vital. It calls for
collective reflection and I will begin this reflection by positing some
questions that can raise our consciousness in these matters.
What is the
immediate task of the religious educator to bringing to equilibrium the new
trend of consciousness and the demands of religious education and
content of religious education and socialization in any given society be the
synthesis of various cultures or inborn reflections of that particular culture?
results of religious education and socialization directed to the universal good
of citizens or to the inhabitants of the particular culture from where these
Many Christians find themselves living in two completely different
communities: the Christian community and the traditional one. Thus they feel themselves bound together by
two seemingly opposing solid forces. They try to play their parts independently
in these two camps, for they seem to see nothing in common between them. The
Christian faith remains on top of the Igbo Christians as a sort of
blanket. Christianity was presented to
them in such a way that its acceptance meant for the Igbo a total abandonment
of their traditional way of life, culture and religion. As a result, Christians find themselves at
crossroads when they are confronted with real cultural problems and situations
that demand their reaction as the people of a particular race and culture, as
definitely these situations are bound to come up. This was a fundamental
mistake. Professor Chinua Achebe, in the
borrowed lines of W.B. Yeats, laments the situation, which he sees as:
and turning in the widening gyre.
falcon cannot bear the falconer;
fall apart, the center cannot hold;
anarchy is loosed upon the world.
Christians simply find themselves suspended between two
systems – one being a western oriented way of life, whose social and cultural
values clothed the Christianity brought to the Igbo; the other being an Igbo Traditional
world of values. In between these two
camps are the Igbo Christians, groping this time, in one camp and at another
time in the other.
While recognizing the uniqueness and prime of place of the
eventual speech of God in Christ one is convinced that for Christianity to have
a meaning and relevance and be able to command a complete control of a person,
it cannot come so superficially and in a totally alien way, unconnected with
the Word of God spoken to a people’s ancestors through creation, and which has
found a certain response manifested in an ambiguous approach. This is the truth
recognized and proclaimed by the Church in
"Ad Gentes" as
“seeds of the Word, which lie hidden among them”.
The Igbo have a certain self-understanding, a view of their world and of their
place within it, a life style that was their own making and in which they felt
at home, a religious attitude that responded to their experience of
transcendence and that satisfied their expectations of the transcendent in the
Immanent. It is therefore the task of
indigenous clergy to develop from the Igbo cultural originality a theology that
is authentically Christian.
The argument finds a perfect resonance in Evangelii Nuntiadi, where Pope Paul VI
spells out the implications of the work of evangelization:
Evangelization loses much of its
force and effectiveness if it does not take into consideration the actual
people to whom it is addressed, if it does not use their language, their signs,
their symbols, if it does not answer the questions they ask, and if it does not
have an impact on their concrete life.
A preferred option will be a synthesis of the various
schools of thought mentioned earlier in this paper. The Progressives for their
concern in addressing issues like peace and justice, the rights of the poor and
radically oppressed, the rights of labor and women liberation among others. The
Reconstructionists who believe that the social nature of the self makes evident
the importance of a social theory of education. The Liberals, who hold that
individuals, regardless of their social plight have the ability to probe
critically their social reality, understand the conditions that control their
lives and deal with these conditions in a transforming way. To advocate for a
practical theology of religious education that is focused on helping a faith
community to think critically about the social order and to form responsible
actions that will suit the social situation is necessary. A practical theology of religious education
that will solve some basic problems and help to clarify the discipline of
religious education. In the first place, all the members of the religious
community should be involved and should participate in the educational enterprise. It is
true that the Catholic Church in Igboland explore the various organs in the
Church (Catholic Fathers, Catholic Women, Catholic Boys and Girls, pious
associations, quiz competitions, seminars and conferences) to propagate the
faith, yet a lot more has to be done. All members and not just the work of
religious leaders should share the theological reflection or content of education.
Useful innovations coming both from the Christians and the culture should be
welcomed and not dismissed because they are not found in the “Church Manual”.
Finally, religious education should not only be concerned with the catholic
environment but should have an ecumenical dimension. An emphasis on
Christianity would be the beginning of an inter-religious conversation rather
than a supra-religious survey. Christianity should not always be at center
stage, but it is usually one of the key players.
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