Attitudes of Undergraduate Youths toward Democratic Values – Implication for Social Studies

Attitudes of Undergraduate Youths toward Democratic Values - Implication for Social Studies
Attitudes of Undergraduate Youths toward Democratic Values - Implication for Social Studies

Attitudes of Undergraduate Youths toward Democratic Values – Implication for Social Studies


This study examined the attitudes of undergraduate youths toward democratic values: implication for social studies. Research questions and hypotheses guided the study. The survey research design was adopted in the study. The researcher adopted the simple random sampling (srs.) method to determine the sample size. The population of the study consisted of all the undergraduates students in all the tertiary institutions in the study area. A total sample size of 600 respondents was selected from the research population which comprise of 150 each from the four tertiary institutions in the study area using the convenient sampling method. The responses were analysed using the frequency tables, which provided answers to the research questions. The hypothesis test was conducted using the Chi-Square statistical tool, SPSS v.23.

 The findings of the study revealed that, Youths hold the values of respect and tolerance in high esteem why discharging their civic duties. Youths hold in high regard the virtues of equality and the rule of law as a necessary tool for effective civil participation. Youths hold in high regard the value of one-man-one vote during civic practices (why exercising their franchise). Youths hold in high esteem the virtues of honesty and patriotism why carrying out their civic duties, etc. Based on the finding of this study, the following conclusions were made: virtues of respect and tolerance while indulging in/carrying out political activities is not really high virtues of honesty and patriotism while discharging their civic duties, transparency and following due process in their civic practices among university youths  provision of justice for every citizens in our democracy, equality of every citizens in our democracy is very important  principle of one-man-one vote in the political process, freedom of action in the democratic process is also important.


Attitudes of Undergraduate Youths toward Democratic Values – Implication for Social Studies




1.1       Background to the Study

It is known that developmental level of countries shows parallelism with the democratic attitudes of individuals. According to Gomleksiz (2011), democracy is “a form of lifestyle and government based on human rights and freedoms in which majority has right to establish a policy, and minority has right to participate in and criticize”. However, the sustainability of democracy can only be ensured in societies composed of individuals who accept democracy as a behavioral pattern and can bring democratic principles to their lives.

Family and school are two important institutions in the development and socialization of individuals. Democracy, a lifestyle as much as it is a form of government, begins to be learned in the family by the democratic attitudes of parents. The task of passing it on to the new generations and helping them acquire democratic values is the mission of schools, namely teachers. If it is desired to raise individuals who believe in and live democracy, it is necessary that their educational environment especially their classroom is governed democratically and they experience democracy in the classroom (Demirtaş, 2014).

Davies as cited by Karahan et al (2016) also associates the development of democratic life culture to the democratic educational systems .  Nevertheless, citizens are the hearts and soul of democracy and hence there must be active and informed involvement of the people at all levels of governance as willing participants in defining and maintaining their democracy.  The youths of any society are a potential force to reckon with in that society, Nigeria not exempted.  They constitute a large chunks of the decision making groups in the society.  The Nigerian youths form the bulk of the citizens which is the decision making groups in our democracy.  Youths must not be onlookers but the driving force behind democracy and their participation must not be limited to elections only, but a continuing engagement with the process of democratic governance. 

Knowledge and appreciation of democracy as a political system and form of civic life requires an understanding of the basic concept of democracy (Patrick, 2003). The word democracy is derived from the Greek words δῆμος (dêmos) or ‘people’ and κράτος (kratos) meaning ‘power’ or ‘rule’. Hence, ‘democracy’ δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) can be defined simply as ‘rule of the people’ (Wikipedia, 2014) or, as defined by Weale (2006), ‘it is the rule of the citizen’ (p.20) that is ‘necessarily tied to the nation-state’ (p.21). In other words, it is a system where the population of a society controls the government. Understanding the concept of ‘democracy’, however, is more complex and demanding than merely defining a word.

Building on the earliest origins of the word, the concept of democracy as ‘popular self-government’ rests on the principle that the people as a whole are considered the foundation of political life and the common citizen has a voice in politics (Bahmueller, 1992). The people are the ultimate source of authority, their interests and welfare are the principal targets of government, and their rights are the foundation of justice, the ultimate standard of the good society (Patrick, 2002). Thus, liberty is the fundamental precondition for the very concept of self-government, which embraces both individual and collective aspects of self-rule.

As noticed democracies are built on the belief that people should be free, should have choices and opportunities, and should work together to make each other’s lives better. A commitment to democracy potentially affects and transforms all aspects of human life, especially those that pertain to the relationships of persons in any community. These may include the workplace, the school, the arts, the family, other personal relationships, and even the mentality of a people. Hence, the concept of citizenship is a key to the comprehension of what democracy is and how it works. This concept links belonging and governing; the two are synonymous because in a democracy all citizens are equal members of the polity (QCA 1998; Osler 2003), which means that there are no classes of citizenship, no second class citizens. As stated earlier, citizens are the ultimate source of the authority of their government.

Furthermore, for democracy to succeed, citizens must be active, not passive, because the success or failure of the government is their collective responsibility.  The citizens must ensure that they shape the government of their choosing. The youths can individually, collectively and through various civil society groups get mobilized and involved in citizenship and governance by joining political parties and contesting elective offices wherein they can influence government policies and programmes. NOA (2016) To participate well in democratic activities, the youths must possess a good grapse of democratic values which will aid, guide and direct their conducts in the discharge of their civic responsibilities.  In line with this, NOA(2016) asserts that: “For democracy to be sustained, it is essential that citizenry possess the requisite skills, demonstrate the values, and display the behaviours that accord democracy”.  That is democracy is nurtured and sustained only when democratic values are rooted in the minds and actions of citizens (NOA, 2016).

Ojo in Iyoha, Aghayere and Oviasuyi (2013) advanced that “it is required at the level of both elites and the youths that attitude and behaviour supportive of democratic consolidation be appropriately developed”.  Thus, it is crystally clear that the possession of democratic values is not only essential for youths to participate in democracy but are essential for them to participate well and positively. CIVITAS (1991) and Avaro (2011) defined democratic values “as the fundamental beliefs and constitutional principles which guide the democratic government put in place in a particular society”.  They are ethos that regulate the extend, level and involvement of participants in a democracy.  CIVITAS and Avaro went ahead to identify and itemize life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, the common good, justice, equality, diversity, truth, popular sovereignty and patriotism as fundamental beliefs.  And rule of law, separation of powers, representative government, check and balances, individual rights, freedom of religion, federalism and civil control of military as constitutional principles, both making up the American core democratic values. Most of these core democratic values identified by CIVTAS and Avaro were derived from the speeches of American presidents, chiefly by Thomas Jefferson. Here in Nigeria, it need to be pointed out that there is no unanimous agreement as to what constitute our democratic values or that there is no single document that contain such values as in the case of the U.S and other older democracies. What we can distill as our democratic values are excerpts from our constitution, speeches of past leaders and governments and writings contained in some available literature. 

A thorough search and comparison of findings with that of the U.S core democratic values. The researcher concludes that the following values of happy life, freedom, equality(one-man-one vote), justice, toleration of diversity, unity(national integration), national loyalty(as against sectional loyalty), rule of law, separation of powers, checks and balances, transparency, patriotism, dignity of human person, representative government, self-reliance, due process, electoral credibility(citizens vote must count), common good(acting in the best interest), popular consent, supremacy of the people, toleration of opposition and legitimacy are Nigeria’s core democratic values. While the underlisted values of honesty, discipline, integrity, dignity of labour, humaneness, mutual respect, orderliness etc. should remain simply as democratic values or civic values or traits that make democracy possible (FGN, 1999; Ojo in Iyoha et al, 2003; NERDC, 2005 & Nnamdi, 2009). So the decision of the youths to participate or not to participate depends on their awareness adherence and internationalization of these democratic values and this has serious consequences on democracy and the general polity.  And it is in turn determined by the factors of or the interplay of political culture, civic or citizenship education and the political experiences of the society in question. 

Ojo in Iyoha, et al (2013) advanced that “the lack of development of democratic attitude (values) is one major obstacle that has mar democratic consolidation in Nigeria.  Thus, it is the obstacle to youths positive participation in our democracy”.  However, Nigerian youths have contributed immensely to the growth and development of their various communities and the country in general.  Their struggle and move have always been a sacrificial one which outcomes are not only their selfish interest alone but for the generality of the people (Aghayere in Iyoha, et al, 2003).

Aghayere (2017) further asserts that, Nigerian youths, particularly Nigerian students, have been known for their active participation in nation building.  Their sustained struggles and agitation against colonial exploitation and domination of the political system, amongst others, paved the way for the termination of colonial rule and attainment of independence. The youths also played important roles of facilitating the democratization of Nigeria (demilitarization of Nigeria).  Their selfless activities largely contributed to the enthronement of democratic rule that culminated in the 1979 and 1983 civilian rule in Nigeria.   Therefore, this study aims to examine the attitudes of undergraduate youths toward democratic values: implication for social studies.


Attitudes of Undergraduate Youths toward Democratic Values – Implication for Social Studies


1.2       Statement of the Problem

Within the broad topic of the nexus of higher education and democracy in Africa, students’ and student leaders’ political attitudes towards democracy and student involvement in university governance are the focus of this study. From experience with youths during elections and others civic activities, the extent to which youths are aware of, understand and/or have internalized these values is not certain. There is apprehension when one takes a cursory look at the undemocratic attitudes, level of incivility prevalence among our youths and the ultimate manifestation of negative behaviours in our democracy. With the above scenario, what can we say about the present attitude of Nigerian youths toward democratic values? How much does social studies have to offer in promoting these values in the youths? The above questions motivate the aims of carrying out this study.

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