Saturday, March 03, 2012

Nigerian Churches and their Universities

Only yesterday, it was in the news that Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries has completed the building of their university – Mountain Top University. This is somewhat good news for the Nigerian state, as the burgeoning youth population is in urgent need of more educational institutions to sate the desire for higher education.

It is further argued that many church-run universities are better equipped than their government counterparts. Oftentimes backed by churches with deep pockets and a sincere commitment to an improved society, no expense is spared in the bid to acquire state of the art equipment and facilities for these universities. These results have paid off, as some church-run universities are now ranked higher than many government universities.

Church-run universities are also unique from another perspective. They profess to focus on the simultaneous development of the ‘mental, spiritual, moral and physical man’ – setting themselves apart from conventional universities which have no business catering to spiritual needs of their students. However, in the long run this emphasis on spiritual training may prove to be their undoing.

Universities are training institutions in more than one way. Apart from providing academic training, students – many of whom have lived with their parents all their lives – are brought into close contact with people from various tribes and belief systems. Rooms with Christian Northerners and Moslem Southerners alike facilitate a better appreciation of the diversity that exists in Nigeria and the real world, and gives room for better integration into society. Students are exposed to the many challenges of time and finance management, and helped to see how their choices have direct effects on the quality of their lives by seeing how their choices affect their grades.

Largely, this is not the case in many church-run universities. In a bid to ensure spiritual and moral development, the administrations of these institutions have taken over the business of making personal choices for their students. Young adults who should ordinarily be left to decide how to spend their time and to take responsibility for their choices are made to live regimented lives. Students in some of these universities only have access to school-controlled phone lines; others dare not be seen talking to a lady or holding hands in public. Exit from school premises is strictly controlled, and some of them attend up to seven services a week.

This, in my opinion, defeats the very purpose of university education. University graduates are expected to know enough to hold their own in society. They must be balanced people, who can tolerate and live with people of differing faiths and belief systems. They must be responsible people, who can make informed choices and live with their consequences.

There is a need to strike a balance. The desire to provide faith-based qualitative education must be balanced with a healthy appreciation of the need to train responsible and tolerant graduates. Until this balance is reached, church-run universities will continue to contribute to the imbalance in Nigerian society.

Think on these things.

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