How missionary schools can Operate, make profit and be accessible to ordinary Nigerians
• ‘They Should Not Be Regarded And Respected As Christian Leaders, But Christian Businessmen’
• Soul-winning And Raising An Educated Work-force Were The Reasons The Missionaries Had In Mind, While Our Present Day Churches Have Other Targets’
• ‘Catholic Educational Institutions Still Run Scholarship Schemes To Enable Those Who Cannot Pay’
• ‘It Is Not Possible To Set Up A School With Tithes And Offerings’
When the Christian missionaries came to the continent, one of the inducements used to lure Africans was education, which was made freely available. As time went on, the schools became popular, due largely to their high academic and moral standards, which were some of the distinguishing qualities that set them apart, aside the little or no school fees. Today, schools operated by religious bodies are among the most expensive in the country. Thus, they have gone out of reach of average church members and the public. Many people are now wondering why this should be so. Are schools belonging to religious bodies supposed to be this expensive? What happened to their sense of charity? Is it possible for missionary schools to make profit and still be accessible to ordinary Nigerians? CHRIS IREKAMBA reports.
‘Universities Are Not Built With Tithes And Offerings’
(Apostle Anselm Madubuko, General Overseer, Revival Assembly, Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos)
I DON’T think they were set up for the purpose of charity. Two, it is not compulsory, as it is for those that can afford it. It just like you have Harvard, apart from the good schools. Schools are business ventures, because they pay salaries and other things to maintain them. It is not a charity organisation, and that is the way I look at it. It is not possible to set up a school with tithes and offerings. Forget it!
How much are tithes and offerings? That is the propaganda that people are carrying about. Universities are not built with tithes and offerings. It is optional. If you go to those schools human beings are there. What if loan was taken from the bank to build the schools? Or is it because they are attached to a church? Will the bank tell them, ‘Oh, forget the interest because it is a church?’ It is advisable to check out how those schools were started.
‘Churches Involved Are Running ‘Private’ Schools Not ‘Mission Schools’
(Rev. Yomi Kasali, Senior Pastor, Foundation of Truth Assembly, Lagos)
ON the subject of high fees being charged by mission schools, especially tertiary institutions owned by churches in Nigeria, my views are in three folds:Firstly, there is an assumption out there that schools run by churches are automatically mission schools. Yes, that should be the ideal situation, but I’m very convinced that those churches are running ‘private’ schools and not ‘mission schools.’ Therefore, they are simply capitalists running businesses, with the sole aim of making profit, and not just breaking even. They should not be regarded and respected as Christian leaders, but Christian businessmen.
Secondly, the expectation of lower school fees emanated from the seed capital to start these schools. The general belief is that the schools were set up by tithes, donations and offerings of the members, as a ‘mission’ project to support education. The leaders were said to have taken this projects to the pulpits to raise funds for the same. And though many people have made these assertions, but I can’t comment on it because of lack of proof. But if that were the case, then the people (donors and stakeholders) should demand for accountability. However, that will never happen in our very traditional society, where we perceive our leaders as gods.
Thirdly, the notion that the cost of education is high and hence, we should charge higher school fees is very non-humanitarian. Churches are meant to be charitable institutions, and not profitable ones. So, I totally disagree with that notion.
Breaking even in business and profiteering are two different things. They may say the schools are trying to break even, and not for profiteering. And many may believe that, but ‘missions schools’ are not supposed to break even at all cost, but just educate the populace by all means.
What the churches should do is to either start the schools, run them for a few years, and then hand them over to people to run, as purely private schools without interfering in the operations; or continue to run them as charity, by lowering the school fees and using tithes, donations and offerings of the stakeholders, which was used to start them, to sustain the schools. I am of the view that some of the leaders haven’t been totally sincere with their flock and we have unfortunately lost our greatest assets: Trust and Integrity, as Christian leaders.
‘Church Is On Rescue Mission Where Govt Has Failed’
(The MOST Rev. (Dr.) Michael Olusina Fape, Archbishop, Ecclesiastical Province of Lagos Bishop of Remo, Church of Nigeria, Anglican Communion, Sagamu, Ogun State)
THERE is no doubt that the subject of mission schools and fees charged by the operators has become a much debated issue in the public domain; and has refused to fizzle out very quickly.
The history of education cannot be written in this country without mention of the important role played by the Church. In fact, education was central to the mission of the missionaries, who brought Christianity in the 19th century. It is true that those mission schools (primary schools, secondary schools and Teachers training colleges) were established and provided affordable education. However, while education in those years was affordable and almost free, the funds were provided through mission partners overseas. So, while it would seem as if education was cheap or free, somebody or organisation somewhere was providing the resources, making sacrifices.
Life is dynamic, and so also is education. What the missions were doing then, the Church is still doing now. What should have been the primary responsibility of the government has been neglected, and now the Church is on a rescue mission in our educational sector. Today, the society is criticising the Church for high fees charged in the mission schools. However, education is not cheap, and if quality education is to be acquired, it will come at a cost. For good education, there is need to provide conducive environment, with good infrastructures and capable teachers. The cost of all these add up to determine the fees charged in mission schools.
While mission schools should not be established primarily for profit making, it is also important to note that they must not become a liability. In the schools established by the Diocese of Remo, there are various ways we give back to our members. We give consideration to our qualified members by employing them for teaching and non-teaching purposes. Scholarships and rebate in school fees are also given to deserving students.
As recession stares us in the face, the cost of running the school and provision of amenities is also affected. In all, missions or Churches must run the schools established by them with the fear of God (Proverbs 8:13). When the fear of God is the foundation of whatever the Church ventures into, God’s name will be glorified without any reproach to the Church in its social interaction with the society.
Mission Education Should Be Poor-friendly’
(The Rt. Rev. (Dr.) Isaac Ayo Olawuyi, Bishop, Diocese of Lagos Mainland, Methodist Church Nigeria)
THE first missionary churches that came to Nigeria in 18th and 19th century namely: Methodist, Anglican, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic and Baptist Churches introduced education along with the gospel. So, through them, schools were established, which were known as missionary schools. Most of these schools were established primarily to promote the missionary work and to enlighten the people to be able to read and write, especially the Bible. Beyond this, the missionary schools were meant to provide Western education, as well.
The church, as at that time, charged no or little fees, as most of the expenses were borne by the church. The church had no intention to make profit from the schools. Many that could not afford paying for their school fees were sponsored by missionaries. And of course, many present religious and political leaders were beneficiaries of the mission schools.
Presently, however, there are hues and cries, agonising complaints and sorrows issuing from church members over the school fees being charged by so many private church universities, which have gone far above the reach of poor church members. The question is: should mission schools be for commercial or mission purpose? Should it be far above the reach of church members, thereby becoming exclusive private universities for the rich and well-to-do members of the society? How does the church raise funds to establish the school? Is it through the church and its members? If it is through the contributions of church members by way of tithes and offerings, should school fees become so high and unaffordable to the contributors?
In spite of the fact that the cost of establishing and running a school is unspeakably high, we must understand that Church schools are meant for missionary purposes, as well as, for entrenching the Kingdom of Christ in the world. Through missionary schools, many people got converted and became followers of Christ. Other reasons for establishing church private school are to inculcate moral values in the students, and help them to imbibe Christian values and discipline. It is expected that students from these schools become good examples in everything pertaining to the society. So, we must not allow love of profit to blindfold us to the detriment of the gospel we preach.
In the running of a school, there will always be financial involvements in varying degrees, but the fact stands that mission schools should be a non-profit venture. The church can engage in other assorted business ventures, but going by the history of Christian missionaries in the Country since 1842, church schools must remain for mission purposes. Therefore, mission schools and universities fees should be poor-friendly; rather than being places, where only the children of the rich can go.
‘For Some, It’s An Avenue To Fund Church Work, While Others See It As Profit-maximising Venture’
(Rev. Francis Ejiroghene Waive, General Overseer, Fresh Anointing Missionary Ministries Inc./Senior Pastor, Church of the Anointing, Warri, Delta State)
THERE is no gainsaying that fees charged by schools operated by churches, irrespective of denominations in Nigeria today are rather prohibitive. Some people make the mistake of comparing these schools with the mission schools that some of us attended years ago. The difference really is in the motive of establishment of these schools. Issues, such as, evangelism, soul-winning and raising an educated work-force were the reasons the missionaries had in mind, while our present day churches have other targets. For some, it’s an additional avenue to fund church work, but for many, it is a capitalist profit-maximising venture clothed in the garb of religion. Thus, conscience and even commonsense are thrown to the winds.
Having said this, I must, however, admit that the cost of providing quality education, particularly at the tertiary level, is quite high. At the primary and secondary level, it beats the imagination the reason for the exorbitant fees charged. I had the opportunity of serving in the ‘Project Implementation Committee’ (PIC) of a private university in this country, working closely with the promoter and with the Nigeria Universities Commission’s (NUC) SCOPU. I also have the privilege of serving on the Board of Trustees (BOT) of a Private University. To meet the NUC’s stringent standards and do the extra to attract students cost quite a lot of money, this is minus the maintenance and running costs. But a University is not a project that should earn a profit in a short while. Indeed, universities are registered in such a way that they are ‘Limited by Guarantee.’
Any church organisation starting a school should do it for posterity and not as a money-spinning venture. Our eyes must not be on monetary returns on our investments, but on our contribution to societal well-being. Every child deserves quality education, including children of the poor. Indeed, education is a crucial part of eradicating poverty and superstitious beliefs. Any church organisation that does not contribute to educating the masses is failing in its mandate. A reduction in fees, which will result in an increase in student intake, will not hurt any church funded institution, except for few professional courses like medicine that can’t be crowded for quality impact and output. Mission schools must operate at cost plus a marginal mark-up. At this rate, the fees will not be outrageous, as we have today and children of the poor will be able to benefit. After all, none of us chose our parents.
‘Churches Have To Be Compassionate With The Poor And Underprivileged’
(Most Rev. (Dr.) Emmanuel A. Badejo, Bishop, Catholic Diocese of Oyo)
DIFFERENT Churches have different visions and reasons for investing in education. The Catholic Church, given her track record in this sector, has always seen the provision of holistic education as a part of her missionary mandate to “go and teach”. Financial profit has never been the primary motivation. However, good education comes at a cost. Infrastructure is costly, teachers have to be well paid and good administration is expensive. There were some buffers in the missionary days, which helped to keep the cost of education down. Priests, nuns and Church officials worked in the schools for little or no remunerations. There were government subsidies, grant-in-aids and foreign aid. Teachers saw their job more as a vocation than a career and were prepared to work for minimum pay. These buffers no longer exist and the bulk of the cost of education is today transferred to the beneficiaries in school fees. Nonetheless, Catholic Churches today still raise funds to subsidize their educational projects and keep the school fees reasonable.
Generally, it seems that some Church educational institutions are deliberately priced beyond the poor and ordinary people depending on the initial motivation of the proprietors of such schools. This is left for the general public to judge. For the Catholic Church, service to society and compassion are the overriding objectives. Catholic educational institutions still run scholarship schemes to enable those who cannot pay even their reasonable fees to get a shot at good Catholic educational primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The Nigerian society today has many beneficiaries of that gesture.There simply needs to be some way of curbing the excesses in the amount of fees demanded by some schools or universities in Nigeria.
Are there not schools in Nigeria where fees have to be paid in foreign currency?
To solve the problem, government needs to give some support to Churches with proven integrity in education and somehow regulate those schools without stifling genuine investors. Churches too have to be compassionate with the poor and underprivileged and price their services accordingly. Our current conditions really demand it!
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