Historical perspective of physical education

A review of the research activities of Nigerian physical and health educators showed that serious research work did not start in physical and health education in Nigeria until the late sixties and early seventies. Most of the early research works in these fields were mainly on the history and administration of sports and physical education in Nigeria. Recently, physical and health educators in Nigeria have shifted to more scientific aspect of sports performance, physical fitness and healthful living.

The period between 1842 and 1882 in Nigeria witnessed the introduction of western literary education by missionaries. Christian missionaries came from different churches and established educational institutions; however there was no uniform curriculum of studies and physical training had no place in the school curriculum (Ladani, 1988). Thereafter, Nigeria came into existence as a nation in 1914 through the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates and became fully independent in October 1960 as a federation with three regions (Northern, Western, and Eastern) under a constitution that provided for a parliamentary system of governance. Presently, Nigeria has a population of 162 million people (Population Reference Bureau, 2012) and is made up of 36 states and a Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Abuja with 774 constitutionally recognized Local Government Areas (LGAs) (National Population Commission, 2009).

The arrival of missionaries and colonial administrators from Britain and America brought with it some sports and games to schools and to the police and army. However, their development was largely limited to the police and military in order to improve the physical fitness of policemen and soldiers whose responsibility is to maintain law and order. The first physical education (PE) syllabus was introduced into Nigerian schools in 1918 through the adoption of a uniform curriculum for schools. This syllabus was revised in 1927 with minor modifications and finally in 1933; the last colonial syllabus of Physical Training for Schools was introduced into the country. The 1933 syllabus was concerned with the value of physical education in relation to the health of the people as a whole. In 1956, the first indigenous PE syllabus for primary schools was published by the then Western Regional Ministry of Education. PE was made compulsory by the Federal Government in all primary schools in Nigeria and most schools used the period on the time-table to teach pupils skills in individual, dual and team sports (Otinwa, 2012). Around 1954, the 1933 syllabus was abolished. It was replaced in 1955 by the Ministry of Education. Since then, PE syllabus has gone through reviews with the aim of improving quality delivery. 

The greatest pace in the development of PE and teacher preparation was set when the first university was established in 1960, that is University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Nigeria. This was the first university in Africa that commenced undergraduate programme in HPE (Ajala, Amusa & Sohi, 1990). The starting point for quality delivery of educational programmes with focus on HPE is the formulation of National Policy on Education (NPE) which was first published in 1977. This was the time in the history of Nigerian Educational system that Physical education was endorsed as an instructional subject in schools. Furthermore, it has been approved for inclusion in the school certificate curriculum. Since then, the second and third editions were published in 1981 and 1998 respectively in keeping with the dynamics of social change. The fourth edition was necessitated by some policy innovations and was published in 2004 (Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004). With this provision in the policy, PE has a foundation upon which a solid academic programme was developed. 

However, there is a gap in the implementation of quality physical education and sports in public schools. In order to make up for this gap, parents who can afford to pay high school fees enrolled their children in private schools where instruction at all levels has  been  oriented towards inculcating among other values physical, emotional, psychological and intellectual development of the child and the acquisition of competencies necessary for self- reliance as provided in the NPE.