Nigeria has over 140 private universities which came on board due to several reasons which can be considered genuine except for some pit falls which have begun to raise dust. For while some of them are run by notable individuals and organizations, some are faith-based.
Reasons given for the establishment of most of the institutions has to do with incessant strike actions by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, the case of brain drain as many of the best brains are known to have left the shores of the country for greener pastures in foreign lands, lack of, or none availability of laboratory equipments and even if they exist, they are outdated and cannot compete with present challenges of the present era, corruption in the sector as noted by the NUC executive secretary, Prof Julius Okojie, who has chosen to fight institutions for studying courses that are yet to be accredited by the commission and also the executive secretary of TETFund, Prof Mamood Yakubu who has noted from investigations that the offices of many vice chancellors have become ‘giant bureaucracies as most of the workers are employed without proper scrutiny as enshrined in the law’ and the list is just endless.
The idea was welcomed by most Nigerians who believed that the public institutions were over stretched beyond capacity and the institutions were not just enough to attend to the needs of millions of Nigerians who sit for the UMTE and now the post-UMTE and cannot get admitted, not for any fault of theirs, but for the fact that the institutions cannot absorb all of them at once even if they have passed creditably well.
As good as the reasons may be, investigations and unfolding occurrences have proven that the Nigerian masses are yet to breathe a sigh of relief and cannot therefore say ‘uhuru’ has come, as the once upon a time private universities which were more or less the most outstanding option for parents who could not afford to send their children and wards abroad for studies have become intimidating due to the tuition fees which is ridiculously high.
Further investigations have revealed that even faith-based institutions have joined in the band wagon of exorbitant school fees under the guise that education is expensive. Some stakeholders spoken to have expressed the feeling that despite their tithe and offerings, they cannot send their children to even universities that are owned by the churches they attend.
It is on record that most churches today especially the pentecostals have devised various means to make money for their own personal benefits. The lucrative business in town for churches is the establishment of universities which should be a place of learning for poor children who find it difficult to gain admission into public institutions like Lagos State University (LASU) where students are expected to pay a sum of N250.000.00 to N300.000.00. At least, they get huge amount of money from tithe, offering and other donations, yet they build universities with exorbitant tuition fees.
Mind boggling questions have continued to arise concerning the on-going trend which one can authoritatively say has come to stay. These include questions like ‘Is there hope for the common man?’, ‘Must churches which are seen as hospitals also join the world in reaping us off?’ and several others that are still bound to arise.
Without sounding too apprehensive, the tuition fee for Bowen University owned by the Baptist Church is N650.000. Covenant University owned by Canan Land Church popularly known as Living Faith aka Winners Chapel pays N640, 000, Benson Idahosa tagged theirs to N500, 000, Babcock University - N450, 000, Redeemers University - N375, 000 while Ajayi Crowther University owned by the Anglican Church pays N350, 000. Others owned by individuals and corporate bodies take as much as N1.5 million which clearly reveals that public interest in not the crux for why the institutions were established in the first place.
Talking about standard and ranking compared to other tertiary institutions within and outside the country judging from the high tuition, one cannot help but wonder as none of them has been mentioned amongst the first 500 in the world. At this juncture, one is bound to ask if there is sense in the high tuition and why a bench mark cannot be set for private universities.
A telephone interview with a senior personnel at the NUC reveals that ‘there is hardly anything the commission can do in terms of tuition fees as there are so many around and individuals can chose to opt for the cheaper ones.’ The individual also revealed that ‘apart from imparting knowledge into students who patronise the institutions, Nigerians must understand that the business undertone cannot be swept underneath the carpet.’
To this end, it is obvious that the schools are not meant for the less privileged children. Who then should they look up to when government has failed and churches who should be of help are not there to assist?