Deterioration of Culture in Institutions of Higher Learning in Nigeria: A Challenge Facing Teacher-Education in the 21st Century

Published in International Journal of Topical Educational Issues, Faculty of Education and Extension Services, Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, Vol. 2 (No. 2), February, 2018, page347 – 358, ISSN 978-978-953-736-5.

Deterioration of Culture in Institutions of Higher Learning in Nigeria: A Challenge Facing Teacher-Education in the 21st Century

Bashir Aliyu Sallau, Ph.D.
Department of Nigerian Languages
Umaru Musa Yar’adua UniversityKatsina 


Respect for the good norms and values of any given society leads to its progress, prosperity and happy peaceful living. Many societies the world over that respects their cultural heritage today are among the proud and peaceful nations. While on the other hand, the reverse is the case on the part of those societies that neglect their cultures and replace them with alien cultures. Parents at home are the first custodians of cultural heritage which they teach their young children, then followed by teachers at school where the child is given a formal training to be a good and useful member of his family and community at large. Gradually, with the coming of foreigners and their cultures youths most especially those in Institutions of higher learning neglected our good norms and values and replaced them with alien ones that are contrary to that of the country. This leads to moral decadence, indiscipline and other social vices that resulted in breaking law and order, disrespecting elders, cultism etc. It is the intention of this paper to look into the deterioration of culture in Institutions of higher learning in Nigeria and the challenge it poses on teacher-education in the 21st Century. 


KEY WORDS: Deterioration, Culture, Youth, Institutions, Norms, Values


All communities living in what is now called Nigeria before the coming of British colonial masters had their own culture which is independent of itself. These cultures govern the running of the community and guide members on the do and don’t of each society. It was very common among most communities living in Nigeria before this time in sharing some cultural norms, values and practices with other communities in matters relating to marriage, birth and death rites. They also trained their children good moral behaviour, teaching them traditional occupations of their respective families and making them practice it for sustainable development. Moreover, parents instill in their children total and complete submission to their religious belief. They also teach them to be loyal and obedient to their leaders and elders, love and help one another and respect bond of relationship. Children were also trained to work hard, be brave and endure any kind of hardship they may encounter in future. Beside the said moral behaviors, children were also trained to be trustworthy, sense of propriety, modesty and bashfulness, etc. The belief, respect and practice of the said cultural values mentioned above and many others, contributed immensely towards the peaceful coexistence within the family itself, and between one family and the other, between one community and the other, and to an extension between one tribe and the other. It also makes the communities to progress and develop politically, economically, socially, emotionally and morally which resulted in living a peaceful and harmonious life.

As time goes on, the coming of foreigners most especially the Europeans and their introduction of western type of education into the communities, brought about political, economic, social, emotional as well as moral changes in many societies in Nigeria. It is as a result of such changes that most cultural norms and values started fading away, and in their place, alien cultures came in that resulted into loosing the good values of the past, thus making them deteriorate most especially in Institutions of higher learning where some refer to as centres of modern socialisation.

In view of the above, this paper looked into the Hausa culture in relation to good moral behaviour and its deterioration in Institutions of higher learning that are situated in Hausa land of Northern Nigeria.


Hausa Culture

Hausa culture is the embodiment of all the norms, values and practices performed by the Hausa people from birth to death and to an extension even before birth and after death. In other words, culture includes the knowledge acquired by a certain community, their belief, art, moral, law and custom. It also includes what an individual being a member of a given society is able to acquire for the progress of such society (Bunza, 2008:3, Dobie, 2009:173). In a nutshell, one can say culture is directly concerned with the complete ways of life of every society.


An Overview of Hausa Moral Behaviour

For quite a long time before the coming of Islam and colonialism into Hausa land, the Hausa people were living a happy and prosperous life. The reason behind such an achievement was as a result of the good moral behaviour they maintained and taught their younger ones, in which members in each and every community were given their rights according to the social class of the society they belong. In other words, the Hausa social class system recognizes three main categories that include; adults, youths and children. Both men and women can be found in each category. According to Hausa culture, in a place where adults gather or sit down, youth and children will never go there and sit, so also when adults are discussing on any issue youth and children would not be allowed to say a word on. On the other hand, one will never find an adult sitting in a place where youth and children sit. What usually happened was that, whenever an adult met youth or children quarrelling or in a state of misunderstanding, the adult resolve the issue for them and in some cases he may punish the offender and they must accept his judgment even if both parties did not know each other (Smith, 1957: 239).

Beside that there are certain norms, values and practices performed by the Hausa people that contributed towards the peaceful and prosperous life they enjoyed before the advent of western culture. It is as a result of neglecting them today most especially in the Institutions of higher learning, that the society faces serious social disorders such as indiscipline, laziness, examination malpractice, cultism, burglary, illegitimate pregnancies and abortions, spread of sexually transmitted diseases and host of others.

Submission to Religious Teachings

Religion in the words of Sir, James Frazer can be defined as a:

“Propitiation or conciliation of superhuman powers which are believed to control nature and man” (Radcliffe-Brown, 137).

This definition as well resembles the latest dictionary meaning of religion as forwarded in “The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English languages”, that describe religion as:

“A belief binding the spiritual nature of man to a supernatural being, as involving a feeling of independence and responsibility, together with feelings and practices which naturally flow from such a belief” (2004: 1064).

By looking and assessing the above definitions of religion one can understand that religion, either traditional, modern, divine revelation or whatever form of worship, possesses some major identified components that exist between the worshiper and his or her desired target, as such it involves devotion, faith, piety, worship etc. In Hausa belief religion involves the belief in the superiority of spirits iskoki over human beings, and those that practiced the religion believe that, if they co-operate with the spirits iskoki will protect them from their enemies and any external aggression. They will also give them health and wealth, foretell them what will happen tomorrow or a year or so to come, and many other things. It is also the belief of the Hausa people that all human beings possess spirits iskoki within their bodies, their household and the community at large. As such, they mingle and interact with them in whatever activity they are performing (Sallau, 2014: 4).

The first religion of the Hausa people was traditional religion, and then followed by Islam and in some cases Christianity. As a result of their complete and total submission to the teachings of traditional religion, the pre-Islamic, pre-colonial Hausa people did not indulge in any kind of illicit affair such as pre-marital sex, adultery or outside marital sexual relationships. In Hausa cultural tradition it is permissible for a boy friend to take his fiancée to his family’s house or he can visit her family’s house and spend the night with the girl and sleep in one room and at the same time on one bed/mat without performing any illicit affair. It is called tsarinci in Hausa language. It is believed that the boy friend will not in any circumstance torch the body of the girl knowingly or unknowingly, not even to talk of having sexual relation with the girl, if he mistakenly torched her body or attempted to seduce her and have sexual relationship with her, and the girl realized, she will go back home and tell her parents what that boy friend did to her. From then, the parents of that girl will expose the deeds of such a boy friend to the public, and he will be considered as irresponsible. This will make the society to reject him and he will not have another girl for marriage. Such a situation will force him to leave his family, community and society to another far away environment where they are not aware of what he did. This is among the abominations that made some people to leave their communities forever. On the part of the girl if she commit an illicit affair before marriage, a day before giving her out for marriage she will be asked whether she had canal knowledge with any man. If she answered yes, her dowry will be reduced and has put her family on shame. But if she had canal knowledge with a man before her marriage and refused to tell the truth, the spirit her family worshipped will expose her and at last kill her. The Hausa people termed them as lalata in Hausa language, which means ‘destruction’. If any member of a given family indulged in such an illicit affair it can lead to the destruction of that family, community and the society at large. The reason is that the spirits they worship will punish the offender and in some cases it can even affect other members of the family, community and the society he belongs (Ibrahim, 1982: 172-175).


Loyalty and Obedience to Leaders and Elders

Leaders and elders are responsible for safeguarding as well as projecting the image of their communities and societies. In Hausa tradition leadership starts from a family house gidan gandu where maigida is the head of the house. The formation of many family houses formed hamlet/village unguwa where mai’unguwa will be the ward head. Many villages form village area where village head dagaci will be appointed to lead the villages, and many village heads will form a district gunduma with district head uban kasa as the leader, as well the combination of many districts form an emirate Kasar Sarki with the emir sarki as sole leader responsible for settling disputes among various communities that form the kingdom. On the other hand it is the responsibility of the followers to abide by the rules and regulations of their kingdom so that their leaders will rule them without facing any problem (Usman, 1972:176).

Elders on the other hand are responsible for training members of their various communities the good norms and values of their respective communities. In this case an elder can settle any kind of dispute between quarrelling groups in his family/community or even outside. There are cases that will make him punish an offender even if the person was a complete stranger. By the time members of the family of the offender learn the type of punishment mated on their member, they will never question the elder, and instead they will thank him and encourage him. For example, there was a case of a woman that had misunderstanding with her husband and she left the husband’s house in anger with the intension of going to her family’s house to seek for divorce. On her way many people solicited with her to bear the situation and go back to her husband’s house but she refused. So unfortunate to her she met one elderly person that requested her to go back to her husband’s house but she refused to listen to him. At that juncture the elderly person took a cane and started beating the woman and took her back to the husband’s house. When her parents learned about the incidence, they met that elderly person in his house and thanked him for the job well done, and from that time the woman stopped that kind of attitude in fear of meeting such calamity that befell on her.


Spirit of Hard work and Endurance

There is a Hausa saying which says: “Aiki tukuru da dauriya su ne mabudin arziki”, with English translation as: “Hard work and endurance are keys to wealth”. This is true for the fact that in Hausa tradition laziness and a lazy person do not have a say in the scheme of things; as such this made the society to encourage hard work and endurance. Traditionally, the Hausa people are seasoned farmers that engage in all sectors of agricultural activities in order to have abundant food crops to feed their families and sell the remaining to neighboring communities. It is the tradition of typical Hausa people not to give their daughters in marriage to a lazy man that cannot go to the farm, instead of going to the farm he prefers to buy food. According to such a believe, that kind of a person will always leave his family without what to eat, as such they prefer to give their daughters in marriage to a hard working farmer who can supply his family with abundant food cultivated by himself. (Sallau, 2013: 27).



Respect for Traditional Crafts and Occupations

Traditional crafts and occupations were and are in some cases the backbone of the traditional economy of Hausa land. There are many crafts and traditional occupations practiced by the Hausa people that include farming and animal husbandry, wood and calabash carving, weaving, leather work, raffia work, bone setting, Hausa traditional barbing, butchering, etc. According to Hausa tradition each occupation or craft is controlled by a particular family or community and they are responsible for safeguarding and projecting the image of such craft. It is an abuse or to some extent an abomination for anybody who deliberately refuse to learn the craft of his or her family or community (Sallau, 2014: 27).


Respect for Bond of Relationship

Respect for bond of relationship is part and parcel of Hausa traditional life in which members of a family or community visit their relatives that are living in both far and near destinations. They also assist those that are in need of financial as well as any kind of assistance they may require. The respect for bond of relationship seriously contributed towards the peaceful coexistence and prosperity of the Hausa people before this time.



According to the teachings of Hausa traditional religion all followers must be trustworthy and never tell lies. As a result of a total submission to the teachings of Hausa traditional religion a typical Hausa man never tell lies in whatever circumstance he finds himself. There are situations when a Hausa man fells ill, when asked ya jiki? “How he is your body”? He will answer by telling the true situation he is feeling. If there is improvement, he will answer by saying da sauki ‘I am feeling fine or relieving’, likewise if there is no improvement he will answer by saying ba sauki ‘I am not feeling fine or not relieving’. It is the coming of Islamic religion and its acceptance by the majority of Hausa people that changed the situation, in which the new faith taught them to understand that sauki, relieve from any illness is only from Allah, as such it is improper or ungrateful to answer and say you are not relieving from the illness.  In those days and in some cases even today whenever you entrust something in the hands of a Hausa man, he will keep it and safeguard it up to the time you will require it, by the time you will receive it you will find it intact without any alteration. So also when you tell him a secret he will never disclose it to a third party, as such he will keep it within himself and nobody will hear about it. In this regard each and every member of a family or community is taught to be trustworthy and shun away from telling lies.


Sense of Propriety, Modesty and Bashfulness

In Hausa traditional setting sense of propriety, modesty and bashfulness are valued and observed in all their day to day activities most especially in cases related to the relationship between men and women. Sense of propriety, modesty and bashfulness are still playing an important role in the way Hausa women present themselves in the society. In this regard, there are certain jobs where you will hardly find a Hausa woman engages in. For example, Police Force, Military and Para-Military, and also you will hardly find a Hausa woman in a petrol filling station selling fuel and it’s like. The main reason behind such a situation is that, as far as Hausa culture is concerned, a Hausa woman is supposed to be in her husband’s house, as such engaging in such jobs will lead her to be away from her husband’s house, which is shameful on her and the entire family. There are places and situations where it is shameful for a woman to eat food or drink, so also Hausa women are not supposed to smoke cigarettes, drink bear or any intoxicant and they should not be talkative or wear shabby and tight dresses that will expose parts of their body or show sign of nudity. It is the respect of such cultural values by the Hausa women that made them to occupy a high position in Hausa cultural setting.

Now we have seen some of the Hausa moral values in brief, the next thing we will now look into is the mission of tertiary institutions in Nigeria and the results of neglecting cultural norms, values and practices.


Mission of Tertiary Education in Nigeria

Each and every higher Institution in Nigeria has its own mission it wants achieve for the development of the area the Institution is located and the nation at large. In this case the mission of most Institutions of Higher Learning in Nigeria is to produce well-grounded, sound, God fearing and entrepreneurially-minded graduates, equipped with problem-solving and other skills attuned to the demands of the 21st Century environment, who can be self-employed, and whose skills and knowledge would accelerate community development in particular and nation building in general through any kind of training that will yield a positive result (UMYU Mission and Vision). In achieving the said mission each institution set aside certain criteria, guidelines, rules and regulations governing the running of the institution. For example, there are guidelines and regulations for appointments, promotion and discipline of Academic and non-Academic staff, student admission, conducts of examinations, graduation, etc. In other words, these and others are the cultural norms, values and practices of institutions of higher learning in Nigeria.

The above said mission can never be achieved in an environment where there is no peace and order, where morale is very low and where there is no hard work and dedication is given less priority. Nowadays, these are some of the problems that are found in the institutions of higher learning and are seriously affecting teacher-education that resulted in producing half-baked graduates; as such it is a serious challenge. This issue must be explored in order to find a lasting solution to it for the educational development of our dear country. One out of many ways of solving such a problem is to review our educational policies and incorporate in them our cultural norms, values and practices. As at present these social norms have deteriorated in our institutions of higher learning.


Deterioration of Culture in Institutions of Higher Learning in Nigeria as a Challenge Facing Teacher-Education in the 21st Century

In this context deterioration of Hausa culture is referred to as the state of stagnation, decline and to some extent the collapse of Hausa cultural norms, values and practices in our institutions of higher learning. As earlier pointed out in this paper, each family/community is proud of its cultural norms, values and practices; as such they maintained them in order to attain a peaceful coexistence and sustainable development. This is the main reason that made our educational planners in outlining the missions of our institutions of higher learning to take into consideration issues that will help our societies in particular and the nation at large to develop politically, economically, socially, morally as well as emotionally. In the implementation of our planned educational system there are some impediments that hinder proper progress as well a balanced qualitative educational system in all the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. Such impediments include the negligence of our cultural heritage that leads to its deterioration in our institutions of higher learning, which is a serious challenge facing the teacher education in the 21st Century. We will now look into some aspects of Hausa moral behaviour that have been neglected that led to moral decadence in our institutions of higher learning today.

As indicated above, submission to the teachings of religion is among the moral behaviour of Hausa people before this time, but with the introduction of a new social order from Europe and America that is opposed to the old social order of submission to the teachings of religion led to destroying the biggest pillar of Hausa moral behaviour today. In this case, you will find in most of our institutions there are students that belief in one of the divine revealed religion, i.e. Islam or Christianity, but to ones dismay most of the believers are not practicing the religion as contained in the revealed books of the Holy Qur’an and Bible respectively. This act of disobedience was the genesis behind the deterioration of the remaining moral values that include breaking ties of bond of relationship, trustworthiness, respect for leaders and elders, hard work and dedication, to mention but a few.

It is very common to find in most of our institutions of higher learning some students don’t have the sense of respecting leaders and elders. In this case you will find some students respect only those lecturers that teach them a course, and in some cases once they graduate them the respect will diminish, contrary to the teachings of Hausa cultural values where such a respect must remain indefinitely. Even if some of such students maintain the respect it will be an eye service, i.e. when they are near such lecturers. But not all students are the same, there are others that up to this time maintain such teachings and give respect to whom it is due.

One other aspect of Hausa moral behaviour that has deteriorated in our institutions of higher learning is lack of hard work, dedication and endurance in both students and their teachers. It is very common to find in most of our institutions that students don’t want work hard to earn what is due for them, most students are very lazy. This leads to corruption, examination malpractice, cultism, sexual harassment, drug abuse and victimization.

v In this context, corruption refers to a situation where the lazy students will do all what they can to bribe a lecturer either in cash, material or in kind so as to award them with marks that they are not due for, to take an undue advantage.

v Examination malpractice refers to a situation where a student is found in possession of unauthorized materials related to the examinations and likely to be used during the examinations; or copying from prepared notes or from the script of a colleague during the examination; or persistently, looking over students’ shoulders in order to cheat; or impersonating another student or allow oneself to be impersonated; or assisting or attempting to assist, obtaining or attempting to obtain assistance from a student, etc (UMYU, 2014: 20).

v Cultism here refers to unauthorized secret clubs, societies and organizations that have hidden agendas and use supernatural powers obtained from evil spirits in achieving their aims. In most of our institutions of higher learning there are such organizations that recruit members within and outside the institution with the aim of taking undue advantage to enrich them, get higher marks from examinations and so on.

v Sexual harassment, assault, abuse and victimization is a situation whereby some male lecturers will use their position to persuade or force lazy female students that fail their course and request them to cooperate and satisfy their sexual desire in order to pass them. The said students for the fact that they are lazy and are not ready to work hard, endure the hardship and protect their integrity, some against their wish will give away their pride in place of marks.

 Worshipping illusion instead of facing the reality and lack of trustworthiness are also some of the moral values that have deteriorated in our institutions of higher learning today. As a matter of fact, some of the female students in our institutions attend such institutions as fashion to show that they belong to the community of such institution and maneuver their way to graduate half-baked. So also some students today are of the habit of telling lies to their lecturers most especially when they miss a test, assignment or even examinations. In this case some students can go to the extent of persuading medical Doctors to give them a false medical report that will show they were ill at the time the said test, assignment or examination was conducted. Such are the situations found in most of the institutions of higher learning in Nigeria, and it is a serious challenge facing teacher education in the 21st Century that needs an urgent action and solution for the educational development of the country.



Whatever problem a human being faces there will be suggestions that will help and bring a solution to the stated problem. In this case there are certain recommendations if followed will assist in over-coming the problems of moral behaviour that manifested in our institutions of higher learning. The recommendations are as follows:

ü There must be a complete and total review of our curriculum in which good cultural norms, values and practices of the host community the institution to be incorporated and to make it mandatory for each student to learn and practice them.

ü Students should be encouraged to be law abiding.

ü There must be a cultural orientation for all students periodically.

ü Encourage students on the habit of hard work, dedication and endurance.

ü Instill in the minds of students most especially female students sense of propriety, modesty and bashfulness.

ü Encourage students to be trustworthy and avoid telling lies.

ü Make teachers understand that they are fathers, guardians, mentors as well as role models of their students. As such they should be trustworthy and be God fearing in all their work so that their students will emulate a good moral behaviour and character from them. 


Any educational system that is faced with one or more problems will never envisage the light its planners wanted to see, and it is bound to fail. By assessing the above discussion, one will understand that as a result of deterioration of Hausa culture in institutions of higher learning that are located in predominantly Hausa states of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the educational system of such institutions is not doing well, and the same is with other states of the country. It is very clear that cultural norms, values and practices shape, protect and project the image of every family, community and society, respecting as well as upholding them will make such a society live in a peaceful coexistence within itself and with other communities. The neglect of our cultural heritage in institutions of higher learning led to many unwanted things that include corruption, examination malpractice, cultism, sexual harassment, abuse and victimization which lead to producing half-baked graduates.



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