In spite of the cries against exorbitant tuition fees charged by church-operated schools and Universities, today’s preachers of Christ’s love in Nigeria have adamantly refused to provide qualitative education for all at affordable cost. While many are in wonderland as to why the early missionaries were able to give Nigeria 90% free quality education with only meager grants, today’s mission schools operators find it impossible to deliver quality education at affordable costs even with the generous donations, offerings and tithes that accrue to the Church. Some concerned clerics, however, said that ostentatious life styles and profiteering are the real reason for the obstinacy of today’s mission schools owners.
Prior to the arrival of European missionaries, education occupied preeminent place in traditional Nigerian settings. Then children in the vast societies that made up the country were taught about their culture, social activities, survival skills and work largely through informal process of education. Few of the societies gave a more formal teaching of society and culture
For instance, the rites of passage from youth into adulthood. The youth were expected to have attained the necessary social and survival skills as well as having a grounded knowledge in the culture. These were the foundations of education in Nigeria.
The arrival of European missionaries in the country when the missionaries brought western education in the 1840s, beginning in Lagos, Calabar and other coastal cities and schooling in English language took root in Nigeria and metamorphosed into sophistication.
Sunday Telegraph investigation revealed that the British colonial government made light of the need to develop Nigerians educationally as it only funded a few schools. It favoured a policy that merely gave grants to mission schools rather than expand the system.
The colonialist allowed the grants to missionaries as minimal education of the natives helped in the area of providing required skills to assist in its colonial administration. But the missionaries were more concerned about educating the people because their priority was to develop the people through education. That way the people can read, understand the bible, acquired news skills and embrace modernisation.
But the Federal Government’s takeover of missions schools management, widely blamed for the fall in standard of education in the country paved way for resurgence of missions schools and establishment of tertiary institutions owned by church operators in the country. However, the difference between today’s missionaries and their predecessors, in the area of handling schools, is that current missionaries charge school fees that are unaffordable to the average Nigerian.
A member of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Resurrection Parish, Lekki, who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity, lamented that the annoying thing is that members of the denominations that contributed to the building of some of the church educational institutions cannot even pay for the education of their wards in the church school which were built with their tithe and offerings.
“Can you imagine that a huge nursery primary and secondary school built by our parish is moribund today because the fees are so exorbitant that parent s took away their childrens to more affordable schools,” he disclosed. A similar story was told by Obima Osisioma, a member of the Assemblies of God Church.
He said: “My wife and I worshipped in Assemblies of God Church and were excited when we were asked to contribute towards the establishment of Evangel College in Okokomaiko. We gladly participated and our first child gained admission into the secondary school only to be laid off because we could not pay the increased fees after her first year in the school.”
The same is the case when it comes to mission owned tertiary institutions. Following the establishment of private own universities in Nigeria in 1999, most of the mega churches went into university ownership. Prominent among the faith-based universities are Covenant University, Otta, Ogun State; it was founded by the General Overseer of the Living Faith Church Worldwide, in 2002.
If you must have your ward in the university, you must be ready to pay tuition fees from about N817, 500 to N882, 5000 per session.
There is also Bowen University, Iwo Osun State, owned by The Nigerian Baptist Convention.
The fees per session ranges from N535, 000 to N1,725,000 depending on the course of one’s pursuit.
The Redeemer’s University was established in 2000in Ede, Osun State, by the revered General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch/Adeboye.
The university charged between N563,000 and N823,000 for its 2017/2018 academic session.
The Supra Diocese Board (West) of the Church of Nigeria Anglican Communion established Ajayi Crowder University also in 2005. The tuition her is between N195,600 to N670, 000 per session.
Others include Madonna University, school fees per session range from N202,500 to N925,000; Mountain Top University Established by Dr DK Olukoya, General Overseer of the Mountain of Fire Ministry, pegged its tuition fee at N520,000; Babcock University established by the Seventh Day Adventist Church in 1959 has their tuition fees between N600,000 and N992,300; Joseph Ayo Babalola University owned by the Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide charges N220,000 to N800,000.
Landmark University another private Christian university, founded by Dr David O. Oyedepo, is aimed at improving the agricultural sector of the Nigeria and Africa at large and this is why agriculture-related courses have been declared tuition-free by the founder of the school. Another is Crawford University owned by the Apostolic Faith Mission and many more.
But the church operated universities have many things in common, they tuition fees. On the positive side, however, some of the best universities in the country are run by churches.
The church owned universities parade excellent facilities, unlike the public universities where incidents of strike cripple academic activities, the church operated universities numbering about 79 are peaceful, and they can only get better.
But one question that agitates the mind of many Nigeria is; why was it possible for the early missionaries, who had access to only meager grants from colonial authorities and few foreign philanthropists, to provide 90% qualitative education for Nigeria?
Yet, with all the generous offerings, tithes, huge donations from numerous covenant partners and sponsors, today’s mission school owners, demand for the pound of flesh from any parent who wants their ward to access education in our church owned schools. Many General Overseer have always risen in defense of the over-the-sky tuition fees charge by the church owned institutions.
Variously, they don’t mince words: “If you say education is expensive, try ignorance,” they would say without sign of remorse.
In one of his defenses, during a media chat marking his birthday, Bishop Oyedepo described the provision of quality education as an expensive venture.
He said: “I’m sure we all agree that education is expensive. Education carries cost; nothing of value is free.
Our mission for years long, before we started any university or secondary school, was a bursary awarding church and we have not stopped doing that till tomorrow.”
Oyedepo said that the church was committed to providing quality education to youths, adding that many Nigerians complain about the cost of education in private universities because they have got their priorities misplaced. “Our problem most of the time is priority; an average Nigerian can spend N1million on burial but to spend N200,000 on education (is a problem), because of wrong priority.
“On a yearly basis, we have N1.5tillion that Nigerians spend on overseas universities, so people thrive on it. Nigerians spend N463billion a month on recharge cards, how much are they paying for schools fees? So it’s all a matter of priority.
This is the largest market for telephone in the world. Now, to pay N500,000, some people have only one son, they have huge business and houses all over the places, they will never pay it.”
But the founder of Southern Atlantic Polytechnic, Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State, and General Overseer of Royal House of Faith Asembly, Lekki, Pastor Bassey James, accused the operators of mission schools of being equally guilty of misplaced priorities.
According to the cleric, education should be a humanitarian service that should be targeted at developing the people. “It is very sad that our missions schools charge fees that cannot be afforded by an average Nigerian,” Pastor James pointed out.
He hinted that today’s missionaries had lost it adding that their inclination towards materialism stands in the ways of today’s missionaries and prevents them to see clearly and meet the humanitarian responsibilities to the people.
His words: “Some of the things that our Pastors and General Overseers do are not necessary such as placing ownership of private jets above the need to provide qualitative education at affordable cost for all.
It is not right that when members have contributed to the building of mission schools, their ward cannot benefit from the education offered by the schools.”
The Chancellor of Southern Atlantic Polytechnic finds a soul-mate in the Lagos regional Overseer of Motailatu Church Worldwide, Rev. James Akinadewo.
“Church without affordable education, empowerment and taking away from the street indigent and young people, is incomplete. But ostentatious lifestyle and profiteering is the real reason why today’s mission school owners have turned blind eyes to the cries of Nigerians against exorbitant tuitions fees in church owned schools,” Akinadewo said.
“Our General Overseers and mission school operators should do U-turn and do the right thing, make the school fees affordable, grant free education to those who can’t afford it, then our preaching will be complete. Jesus did not do the things we are doing in churches these days,” Rev. Akinadewo said.
“Private/mission-owned universities should not charge above N300,000 per session; but on the other hand, government should encourage supporters of private universities by not taxing such educational institutes. The should be certificate of occupancy, get into partnership with them and give the banks matching order to give facilities to the operators of private universities,” the cleric added.