By: Sam Ibok
A few months ago, the media was awash with the report that the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries (MFM) has completed its university Mountain Top University. This is somewhat cheery news for Nigeria, especially the Christian population. The burgeoning youth population is in urgent need of more institutions to satisfy the desire to acquire tertiary education.
It is often argued that many faith-based universities are better equipped than public institutions. Backed by churches with deep pockets and sincere commitment to improving the society, no expense is spared in the bid to acquire state-of-the-art equipment and facilities for the universities. The efforts have paid off as some universities are now ranked higher than many government-owned schools.
Faith-based universities are also unique from another perspective. They profess to focus on the simultaneous development of the mental, spiritual, moral and physical make up of students setting themselves apart from secular universities, which have no business catering for spiritual needs of their students.
However, in the long run, this emphasis on spiritual training may prove to be their undoing. Public universities are training schools in moral and mutual respect. Apart from providing academic training, students many of whom have lived with their parents all their lives are brought in close contact with people from diverse backgrounds and belief systems.
Sharing rooms and bunks with Christian northerners and Muslim southerners, for instance, facilitate a better appreciation of the diversity that exists in Nigeria. It creates room for respect and integration of people with strict backgrounds into society.
Students in public schools are exposed to the many challenges of time and finance management, which help them to see how their choices directly affect the quality of their lives and how their choices affect their grades.
However, this, to a large extent, is not the case in many faith-based universities. In a bid to ensure spiritual and moral development, the administrators 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 life.
Students in some of these universities only have access to school-controlled phone lines; they do not dare to be seen talking to ladies 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 have learned some wisdom by themselves in order to live independently in society. They must be balanced people, who can tolerate and live with people of different backgrounds and beliefs. They must be responsible people, who can make informed choices and live with the 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, faith-based institutions will continue to contribute to the imbalance in the society.