For many years, many Christian parents in our country, appeared to be facing a dilemma. The dilemma was whether to send their children to public schools or not. The reason then was not far-fetched as public schools were rife with myriads of problems that were of both academic and moral dimensions.
At the tertiary levels, strikes were evidently common that students were forced to spend up to six years on a four-year degree programmes in the universities. This was as a result of frequent adjustments of academic calendars in order to make up for lost academic period.
On the other hand, the collective moral rectitude of most of the students, from pre secondary through post secondary levels, was literarily rotten. As a result of cult activities, the lives of many promising youths and teenagers were cut short by axe and gun wielding students. Also, female undergraduates and female students in secondary schools seemingly started prostituting themselves instead of concentrating their studies.
However, when the news of the approval by National Universities Commission (NUC) of Christian-owned Universities started filtering into the ears of helpless parents, their hopes were raised. They were excited and hopeful because they erroneously believed that being Christian-owned universities, the fees to be charged would be affordable After all, who does not know that Christians are wont to be merciful and considerate?. Who would not think so given what Christianity is all about, and the backgrounds of the various General Overseers and Senior Pastors behind these universities. Worse still, media reportage on some of these universities that have been operating for some time now has indicated that they are not protected from the moral decay that public tertiary institutions are characterized with.
But alas! by the time these universities came into operation, it dawned on most parents, especially those who are members of the churches that established these universities that “khaki is not leather”. The tuition fees charged at these universities seemingly developed wings and soared away from the majority of the parents in the country. In some cases, their tuition fees soared above what most public universities charged with hundreds of Naira. What a hypocrisy!
One of the churches whose presence can be seen virtually on every street in Lagos could neither extend scholarship to her members or subsidize the fees for her members.
Some of these Christian universities charge fees as high as between N400,000 and N650,000 per session. If I may ask, is education only for the rich? Or is education for sale? There is no denying the fact many a youth would have loved going through our Christian-owned universities for the acquisition of knowledge, particularly now that admission is becoming difficult to secure under the auspices of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, but for the financial constraint that stands as a barrier on the way of achieving such ambition.
It may be arguable that the cost of establishing a university and smoothly running it in order to maintain a qualitative standard is colossal. However, comparative analysis would reveal that the cost of establishing either a nursery school, primary school or secondary are also as high as some them charges up to N250,000. There is no denying the fact the fees charged at these levels are equally exorbitant that many parents, who are in most cases members of the churches that run these schools are by each passing academic term going on their knees amid cascading tear drops to plead that they should be given more time to enable them commence making part payments which are more often than not turned down. Again, the difficult time Nigerians are facing makes it almost impossible for most parents to be able to foot the bills charged by Christian-owned schools.
Without any iota of exaggeration, it is obvious that many parents who have for years been in difficulties are not earning up to N400,000 per annum. Even if they do, salary is not solely meant for education, not to talk of sponsoring only a child among other equally brilliant children.
I strongly believe that decision makers in Christian educational institutions are true Christians who understand and believe the word of God more than many of us.
They should try and make a downward review of their fees. In the word of God, as written in 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 2, elderly or senior Christians were encouraged to “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.” It may not be expedient to comment on the foregoing biblical injunction but when done, it would, no doubt, throw more light on this piece.
Many Nigerians sentimentally and rhetorically abuse the saying that “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance” in their unbridled efforts to drive home the point that education is indispensable in the life of a man and the society in which he finds himself.
At this juncture, it would be expedient to say that in 2014, the founder of the Living Faith Church, Bishop David Oyedepo, briefed the press on why schools owned by churches charge high tuition fees. He stated that the provision of quality education was an expensive venture. The highly revered Pastor said this while he was then addressing journalists in Ota, Ogun State, at a media chat ahead of his 60th birthday that came up on September 27, 2014. He said Private universities owned by churches in the country have been criticized for being too exorbitant for average church member to afford.
The pastor then maintained that the church was set to providing quality education to the youths, adding that many Nigerians had got their priorities misplaced hence they complained about the cost of education in private universities.
He said “Our problem most of the time is priority; an average Nigerian can spend N1m on burial but to spend N200,000 on education (is a problem), because of wrong priority.
“On a yearly basis, we have N1.5trn that Nigerians spend on overseas universities, so people thrive on it. Nigerians spend N463bn 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”. A dispassionate analysis of the cleric’s explanation would show that the target students of the universities, Covenant University and Landmark University, which are under the management of the Living Faith Church, are unarguably the children of the rich. They are neither the children of bricklayers nor carpenters. The reason for this cannot be farfetched as the hundreds of thousands and millions of naira he allegedly mentioned as what Nigerians spent to the detriment of education cannot be spent by these category of Nigerians.
Personally, I am not against the hackneyed aphorism that “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”, but its rampant and blatant usage in our present society where the vast majority wallow in abject poverty is quite uncharitable.
The bitter truth is that many indigent youths hail from poor family backgrounds. Most of their families cannot boast of three square meals, not to talk of giving them university education. The majority of those in our universities and polytechnics are those whose families are struggling to survive.
Many of these families cannot even send their children to Christian-owned educational institutions because of the outrageous fees these institutions charge. In my opinion, it would be more of service to God and humanity if members of decision makers in Christian schools should sit down again and look into this issue of soaring tuition fees in Christian-owned universities. Sincerely speaking, the huge fees do not speak well of the Christian faith.
Agreed that churches are not expected to run charitable organizations but they should also not engage in profiteering. If Christians behind private institutions of learning cannot think out of the box in bringing school fees down and making it affordable to parents, is it the heathen that would do that? In my own calculation, some of this churches can boast of at least one million numbers of worshipers. If the number are tasked, so to say, to make voluntary contribution of N100 per month, it would go a long way in subsidizing the tuition fees that are charged in some of these unaffordable Christian institutions.
Lastly, I am using this medium to urge some of our pastors that float institutions of learning to find a way of addressing this issue of exorbitant tuition fees in Christian owned-schools. It will enable parents of brilliant students who cannot afford the current huge fees to send their children to schools to learn.
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