Western Education in Nigeria ( A Case Study of the Izzi Clan)

Western Education in Nigeria ( A Case Study of the Izzi Clan) – Research Work

Western Education in Nigeria – The major aims of this research are to examine impacts of Western Education in the colonial period in Igbo society, especially in Izzi clan of Ebonyi State.

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So many enquiries have been made concerning the various effects and impacts of western education on the people of the Izzi clan. These enquiries were based on the traditional means and method of learning before the advent of the white men.

This study is an attempt to throw light on the effects and impacts of the western education on the people of Izzi clan, though before the coming of white men, the people of the clan had from time immemorial  the pattern or ways of inculcating good moral value, virtue, respect for elder, and knowledge, to their offspring’s before the advent of western education.

I also went ahead to research on the aspect of Izzi culture worth studying especially, this period of cultural enlistment, the introduction of white man’s culture into our way of life has created room for utter disregard of some authentic and useful aspect of Africa culture. It is therefore, our belief that this work will implants a wakening spirit or provide a search light or inspiration for further researches into other aspect of Africa’s way of life.

Western Education in Nigeria – Geographical Setting

The Izzi land is located on the world map between longitude 80,20’E and latitude 60,30’N. Izzi clan is located in Izzi local government area of Ebonyi state at the North-eastern edge of Igbo territory. The land is bounded by Ukele and Osopong of Cross River State in the East, Tiv and Idoma of Benue State in North; in the West, the Izzi land is bounded by Ezza-Effium, Ngbo and Ezzamgbo and in the south, the Izzi shares a common boundary with Ikwo and Ezza people.

The Izzi clan covers a land mass of about 1,988 square kilometer with a population of about 900,000 (1991 NPC). Infact 1/3 of land mass of Ebonyi State is populate by the Izzi’s and again, the population is 1/3 of population of Ebonyi State. The land mass is contiguous, extending into Benue State. Notable relief of the place is the Abakaliki hills otherwise the land is homogenously undulating with pockets of swampland that is flooded in the rains. One major River (Ebonyi River) cover the entire Izzi land from the North down to south where it empties into the Cross River. Smaller rivers or streams like the Abee, and Ngele Akpara are found in the area which form the tributaries of Ebonyi River. At the North Eastern side of Izzi land is the River Enyimu which separates the Izzi people from the Ukele’s Cross River State. This empties into Cross River (see apprendix I for the map of Izzi L.G.A).

However, the council is made up of eight large autonomous communities. These are Agbaja, Ndiebor Ezza – Inyimegu, Ndiechi Ezza – Inyimegu, Ndiegu Ezza –Inyimegu, Igbeagu, mgba-Ukwu, Ndieze Echi and Ndieze Enyim.

The Izzi land is agriculturally fertile and is either sandloamy, clayey loam or clay as found in the swampy area. Some minerals like lead, zinc, brime, gypsuim and marble are found in the area and are of economic quantity and quality. The average temperature of the place is 340c with a dual season – the rainy season (April- Novermber) and the dry season (December – March). The economic activities which is weather conditions. For example the onset of harmathan period signals the yam harvesting period.

The vegetation of Izzi land is a mix between guinea savannah and a deciduous forest though much of it has been tampered with or destroyed by the agricultural or economic activities of the Izzi man. Be that as it may, many pockets of reserved forest are found here and there and they serve a useful purpose of source of ropes and woods to communities owning the reserved forest.

Western Education in Nigeria – Origin; Migration and Settlement.

The Izzi are a sub-tribe of the Igbo people. However, their languages and customs are considerably different from the other Igbo outside Abakaliki area, probably caused by their isolated position and contact with other non-Igbo tribes through which the tribe has developed its own patterns. That they are of Igbo stock has never been disputed. They have been treated and referred to, both in history and anthropology and administratively as such because of many socio-cultural traits they share with the rest of Igbo sub-tribes.

Being one of the Igbo dialectical groups, Izzi people also face the general problem of uncertainty which surrounds Igbo history of origin. However, it was professor A. E Afigbo who first observed that the Igbo have lost all memories of their migration to this part of southern Nigeria. He went further to say that it is difficult to reconstruct the early history of a preliterate and acephalous people.

According to oral tradition, the legendary founder of Izzi was Nnodo Ekumunyi. His father was said to have been Ekuma Enyi whom the elders of Amegu, the mother town of Izzi believed is the father of Izzi and that he did not come from any other area, but originated from Amegu.

According to Echiegu (1998) there are many versions about the generalogy of Izzi people. The Izzi are the Northereasthern Ibos who speak a dialectically form of Igbo. The ancestral father of the Izzi’s is the Nwodo Ekumunyi according to him. And they have a common link with Ezza of Ezekuna, Ikwo of Nnoyo all from one father Ekumunyi include the Izhia and Ngbo clan are also believe to be brother of Izzi’s.

In other areas in Izzi, it was believed that the first Izzi people came from heaven at Amegu. By then according to them, heaven and earth were very close and Enyi came from heaven along a rope but when he did something bad, the rope fell down and he could not climb up to heaven again. That is how the first Izzi people came to live at Amegu.

Meanwhile, on the account of the dispersal from Amegu which is the cradle home of the Izzi people, there are two versions of the story. The first has it that Nnodo was sent to his own domain with his two wives, he settled at Amegu Izzi in the East. He had nine sons, namely, Inyimegu, mgbomeze, Nkaleke, Ngbaja, Unuphu, Itumo, Nwigbegu, Nwenrigba and Nwida. When they grew up, each of them was dispatched to a different locations as follows; Inyimegu to Inyimegu, mgbomeze to Ishieke, Nkaleke to Abankaleke, Ngbaja to Agbaja, Unuphu to Amachi, Itumo to Okpitumo unuphu, Nwigbegu to Igbeagu Unuphu, Nwenyigba to Enyigba and Nwida to Idah

This account further stated that their father-Enyi, gave them his daughters, each according to his own ability to marry. This marked the foundation of the communities that made up Izzi today.

Furthermore, the second account regarding the dispersal from Amegu has it that there was a strong urge from Amegu to conquer new farm lands and settlers to live in new areas. This quest for land brought Amegu Izzi into conflict with her sister tribes (Ezza) which had the same aspiration. They first encountered the Ezza. The war between Izzi and Ezza stimulated the first expansion because people fled to Ebyia, Ishieke, Enyigba and settled in these areas. Some people particularly Ikwo argued that the Enyigba were originally not Izzi but were accepted and assimilated.Iseke (Ishieke) sub-group left the Iseke community and settled more to the west which is today called Ezzamgbo. He become the founder of the Ezzamgbo clan.

 Western Education in Nigeria – Economic System.

Agriculture formed the mainstay of the economic life of the people. Some of the crops produced before the coming of the Europeans includes the following: yam, cocoayam, palmoil, edu, akidi among others.

Production was on small-scale basis. It was subsistence system of agriculture. This was largely because production was for local consumption. Land ownership was communal and private. Private land could only be acquired through inheritance.

The people also engaged in trade. As we are already aware, in all societies and at all times, there is always an element of varying needs among the people. The necessity to satisfy the varied needs gave rise to the market system. Trading activities in Izzi society was divided into two: long distance and short distance trade. Among the people of Izzi, the short distance trade predominated.

However, the fundamental means of exchange was by barter system. In the traditional societies, this system has been very effective. As time went on, a new type of currency evolved. This was the cowries shell which despite its bulk served the same purpose as our current currency.

Craft was also an important aspect of the people economic life. Among the hand craft engaged by the people of the clan includes: blacksmithing, wood carving, basket making, pottery, oil processing etc.

Western Education in Nigeria – Political System.

Politically, the traditional Izzi society presented a typical example of African democracy. It was a society where all adult male member of the society had the full and inalienable right for self expression in matters affecting the society. It was a society where the elders directed the affair of the society in accordance with the general consensus. Age was highly respected and title was necessary prerequisite for political leadership.

Democratic system of government as practiced in Izzi clan was a limited one. Limited in the sense that women had no say in the running of the system. Among the Igbo generally women were better seen than heard.

 Western Education in Nigeria – Social Life.

Like other traditional societies, the clan was a purely polygamous society. Though, polygamy is of two it was only polygyny that was practiced among the Igbo people. Polyandry is that system of marriage in which a woman could be married to more than one man at a time. Among the Izzi people, this would have been an anathema.

However, there is no social stratification in Izzi society. There are no castes or classes. The Osu concept of igbo land (slaves dedicated to shrine) is absent in Izzi. Class distinction was based on the number of wives a man had the number of littles he took, the number of his children, the number of slaves he had and the size of his yam barn.

Western Education in Nigeria – Religious Life.

The entire life of the people of Izzi was controlled by a system of beliefs. Traditional Izzi was a purely polytheistic society. All Izzi believed in the existence of the supreme being, the creator of heaven and earth and all living beings. He sends rain, gives life, yam and children. However, there is no shrine in Izzi set aside for the supreme being, or of any public worship of God directly. Rather the Izzi saw the divinities as God’s messengers. They consider what they give to the messengers as given to God himself. So, this could be regarded as an indirect worship. There are personal village, community and even tribe divinities.

All these categories of divinities are sometimes referred to as “agwa”. They are natural divinities which exist right from the creation of the world. They are not man-made and the shrine set up is only considered as the chosen place to worship the divinity, who may be believed to live in the stream, the soil, a hill, in heaven, in a tress etc. among the gods worshipped by the people of the clan includes: Mkpuma Nggaranwu at Agbenyimu for mgbalukwu community, the mkpuma shrine at Ezaegu for Ezza Inyimegu, Ophoke Onvike at Nduebor Ishiagu for Ndieze community Adumu at Anmeka as Igbeagu community shrine, Uke Agbaja located at Opherekpe Agbaja as Agbaja community shrine etc.

The shrines of the gods were normally situated at the outskirts or at the center of the village or community that owned them. These shrines were under the supervisory control of the elders called “Uke”.

Western Education in Nigeria – Traditional Educational System in Izzi Clan.

The aim of this work is to give readers an insight into the way people were acculturated into the society in which they live. It also aimed at giving the reader an opportunity of a comprehensive knowledge of traditional system of education in Izzi clan.

Education has been defined as the aggregate of all processes by which a child or young adult develops the abilities, attitudes, and other forms of behaviour which are of positive value to society in which he him. Education is meant to produce an individual who is well prepared, adapted and or integrated into the life of the community in which he finds himself. According to Babs Fafumua, the overall aim of education in old Africa was functionalism. In his view, the major function of education was to make an individual a functional and useful member of his society.

However, the above definition of education clearly points out that there was no society that had no system of education. Education is education, be it formal or informal, for the ultimate aim of education has always been the same – the evolution of acceptable member of a particular society.

Indeed, the fundamental objectives of traditional education in Izzi clan were the evolution of a person that is well adjusted into the society in which he lived. This adjustment was classified into four aspect of the life of the people – political, social economic and intellectual. So, the content of traditional education in Izzi included all disciplines that would contribute to the attainment of the educational goals in the areas mentioned above.

Character training was the most important training given to a child in Izzi right from the period of birth. When a child is born, the parents and the immediate environment had the obligation of inculcating into the child all the traditional ways of life of the Izzi people. Immediately a child learned how to speak, he was taught how to greets and respects the elders. He also learns things he should not do or say as a child.

Physical education occupied an important place in the content of traditional education in Izzi society. Dancing was a good example of physical training in traditional Izzi society. But the most interesting aspect of this was wrestling. Boys were encouraged to wrestle. It was done according to age. Wrestling  much formed an interesting part of moonlight play which characterize village life in traditional Izzi society.

Vocational training also formed the core of the traditional curriculum of the clan. This was very important because the most fundamental aim of education was the production of personalities that would be able not only to live but to make a living. This aspect of education depends mostly on the occupation of the parents of the child. But in most cases, children were sent to other members of the society to learn special vocation such as woodcarving, basket making, pottery, oil processing etc.

Farming was another type of vocation which every child in Izzi learned. This was largely because agriculture formed the bed rock of the life of the people. So, despite the fact that there were other vocations as we have seen above, every child first of all learned how to plant and harvest the food he ate.

The development of intellectual skill was another content of traditional educational training in Izzi society. The elders try to develop the child’s intellectual ability through folklores, stories and proverbs. These stories apart from teaching moral lessons have some kinds of mental or intellectual underpinning.

Moreover, the geography of the area was also taught to a child. At the age of ten, a child should be able to name all the villages in the town and located their positions. At this age too, a child was supposed to have learned the basic numerical system of the clan. He could count the cowries and be able to buy some things at appropriate prices. This counting system helped in the intellectual growth of the child.

Thus, from all indication, content of traditional education in Izzi clan was aimed at arming the child with effective weapons for successful living in the society.

This article is a part of a Project work titled: “Impact of Western Education in Nigeria (A Case Study on the Izzi Clan”

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  1. Skido Bright says:

    I need material for a project work(Topic: Traditional marriage in Izzi – A study of language use in Igbo)

  2. I need material for a project work. Topic: traditional rullers in izhi says:

    I really apreciate the writer, and I’m so glad to see something like this. GOD bless the writer in Jesus name. Amen.

  3. egbe ernest mbam-kashi says:

    This article is one of those rare efforts to give Izhi people an intellectual bearing in the global world of documented history. Yet it is very far from accuracy like the lack of knowledge occasioned mistakes of western writers. Izhi is a tribe and unique from what is known as Igbo tribe (s). Explore the philosophy, week days and stop Igbonizing the people with wrong spellings which makes proper Izhi words to lose its meaning. Nwhophe can’t be Nwofe for instance.

    • Chukwu onyibe says:

      U did a nice job, bt u cud not mention some great and influential men of those period, u failed to mention how we overcome d infidels, d otobolo and eru peoples who tried to wipe out izzi people, nice work

  4. awesome work. thanks

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