If there is one sector of in Nigeria that has been in comatose, stunted and enmeshed in rot, it is the Nigerian educational sector. Plagued by the reoccurring abysmal performance of students in external examinations, scourge of examination malpractice, cultism, inadequate and poor quality of teachers and lecturers. Others include a rapidly declining reading culture, poor funding, and incessant disruption of academic calendar due to unending industrial actions, monstrous cultism, unprecedented extortion and corruption as well as poor infrastructures. With these myriad of problems, it has become apparent that the government alone cannot take care of education wholly. The teeming number of Nigerians yearning for higher education have outstretched the existing public universities. Hence, the idea of churches joining the fray is a welcome development but not without some reservations.
Contemporary Nigerian churches have since the last decade, invested heavily in higher education after long years of managing pre-nursery, primary and post-primary schools .The emergence of church-owned higher institution came on the heels of the influx of private ownership of universities in the country. Today, some churches in Nigeria boast of some of the best universities in the country and in sub-Saharan Africa, they are well of international standard, coupled with uninterrupted educational calendar. Indeed, most Nigerians education critics have welcomed their involvement in the educational sector, as it compliment the states and federal owned institutions in terms of meeting the teeming demand for higher education in the country.
The involvement of churches in the managing of education in the country is as old as the history of the country. It should be noted that the early churches in Nigeria provided affordable schools for Nigerians from pre-independence era to post-independence era. In fact many Nigerians were able to gain access to education because missionaries made education affordable and accessible. But come to contemporary churches, they are way off the mark. It should be noted that most of the higher institutions that the churches now pride themselves about can neither be afforded by their poor members nor the poor masses. Even when such members of the church made some contributions to the building of such universities.
The fees charged by these universities are simply far beyond the reach of average Nigerians as well as the masses, irrespective of the fact whether they are members of the church or not. For instance, Ajayi Crowther University allegedly cost ₦350, 000 per semester, same is Madonna University that cost ₦350,000 per semester, Rhema University cost between ₦313,000 – 325, 000 . Benson Idahosa cost a staggering ₦500, 000 per semester, while Covenant University cost a mind bugling ₦640, 000 per semester, so is Bowen University cost stunning ₦650, 000 per Semester. Babcock University cost ₦50, 000 per semester, so is Redeemers University which cost ₦450, 000 per semester.
This raises some ethical questions about the rationale for building such universities in the first place, as well as the motive of taxing every member of the church when they (the church members) would not be able to afford sending their wards to same schools. The last time I wrote on this issue in the Sunday Sun, I was dazed by the response I received, as even some pastors in these churches lamented their ward’s deprivation as well. There is the dire need for our churches to consider the interest of their poor members as well as those average Nigerians in their fold, when fixing such exorbitant fees. It is not fair for crying out loud. Perhaps there should be scholarship if not for everyone but for long-serving members of the church. That way they too will be reaping the benefit of their church-owned schools.
Written By Johnny Eshikena Bob