13th October, 2011
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 universities or not. The reason then was not far-fetched as public universities were rife with myriads of problems that were of both academic and moral dimensions.
Strikes were evidently common that students were forced to spend up to six years on a four-year degree programmes. 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 was literarily rotten. As a result of cult activities, the lives of many promising youths were cut short by axe and gun wielding students. Also, female undergraduates seemingly turned their hostels to brothels.
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. 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.
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 â€œkhaki is not leatherâ€. 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 quadrupled what ost public universities charged. What a shame!
One of the churches whose presence can be seen virtually on every street in Lagos could neither extend scholarship to her members or subsidise 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, but for the financial constraint that stands as a barrier on the way of achieving such ambition.
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 universities.
Going by the approved minimum wage that generated hullabaloo across the nation some few months ago, it is obvious that many parents 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 all the members of the Board of Trustees of these universities 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 told to â€œFeed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being Lords over Godâ€™s heritage, but being examples to the flockâ€. 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 â€œIf you think education is expensive, try ignoranceâ€ 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.
Some few days ago, a lady employed this aphorism to spice her argument for increase in fees in our private universities during a phone-in programme aired by a broadcast station. Personally, I am not against this hackneyed aphorism per se, 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 universities because of the outrageous fees these universities charge. In my opinion, it would be more of service to God and humanity if members of the Boards of Trustees of these universities 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 organisations 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?
Lastly, I am using this medium to urge the National Universities Commission (NUC) to find a way of addressing this issue of exorbitant tuition fees in Christian-owned universities and other private universities. It will enable parents of brilliant students who cannot afford the current huge fees to send their children to higher institutions of learning.
â€¢ Asabor writes from Lagos