CHRISTIAN EDUCATION AND ITS EFFECT ON YORUBA CULTURE IN NIGERIA; A METHODIST PERSPECTIVE.
This piece tends at encouraging the continued involvement of Christian organizations in the educational sector of Nigeria and also to illuminate the various ways they have affected the culture of the Yoruba people through the sector. This study gives a critique of education from a Christian perspective and suggests that the Universities and other areas of education, like other segments of Nigerian society, require personality transformation and historical Christian tenets in relation to education thus inferring that Christianity has what it takes to produce the personality changes, considering the prodigious growth of this type of Christian involvement in education since 1842.
If one should say that the seed which Methodism (the first established church in Nigeria, 1842) have planted, grown, pruned and laboured for has become a gigantic Iroko tree with valuable fruits which all and sundry rushed to for peace, rest and resort, he is not faulted because it is vivid to see what education has done to this nation and its culture even this book will not be possible if not for this education.
THE METHODIST MISSIONARY
The Methodist missionary Society played a great role in the planting and nurturing of both Christianity and Western education in Nigeria. When the three Wesleyan Missionaries viz; Reverend Thomas Birch Freeman, Mr and Mrs De Graft arrived in Nigeria via Badagry on September 24th, 1842. They started the missionary work “gospel of Christ” but there were limitations to further evangelizing the gospel one of which was communication.
Communication was the largest barrier and this could not be solved without the aid of education so they planned to establish schools with the help of the returnees from the slave trade to teach their converts. The aims were to emphasize the ability to read and write, so the curriculum was to broaden the mind of the learners. The curriculum was narrow consisting of only the 3Rs’ viz; Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic.
The first school was established by Mr and Mrs Graft in Badagry in 1842 and was named, “Nursery of the Infant Church”.
William Boyd (1961) wrote, “……the church undertook the business of education not because it regarded education as good itself, but because it found that it could not do its own proper work without giving its adherents and especially its clergy as much as formal learning as was required for the sacred writings and for the performance of religious duties…”.
And so, between September 1842 and 1900; a period of 58 years was a remarkable period of intense missionary cum Western Education activities. Methodism and the school became inseparable partners in progress and it realized the indispensability of education in the pursuit of Methodism in Nigeria.
Methodism has from her establishment in Nigeria placed a very strong emphasis on the need for Western Education, this explains her reasons for launching out in the area of educational establishments throughout the country. The church established a good number of schools from crèche through primary to secondary and tertiary institutions which have produced men and women who had contributed and are still contributing very significantly to virtually all spheres of education and human endeavours. They provided a platform for strong and moral education for Nigerians, thus there existed strict discipline, good conduct, honesty, integrity and relatively high academic standards. Hence, making her institutions a halo of responsibility and respectability.
WHAT THEY DID
The Sunday Schools for Christian education was done to encourage and disseminate morals and Bible knowledge to children, this has proved that Methodism and education are non-separable entities.
The Boarding System was introduced through the Wesleyan missionaries to monitor the pupils and to teach them other vocational trades such as Carpentry, masonry, bricklaying, printing, catering, gardening, sewing, music among others. This could be seen through the establishment of Boarding Houses in schools and the institutions of technical schools and colleges. The vocational trades are now even included in the curriculum of the schools and tertiary institutions.
Methodism through her early missionaries also started and encouraged the study of local and international languages such as English, Latin, Greek, Yoruba, Efik, Igbo, Hausa and others so as to ease the communication delinquent of the country and also deepen the evangelistic works.
Methodism started and consolidated pioneering works in the Teachers’ Training activities in Nigeria. The teachers’ college being the cradle of modern civilization in Nigerian education and established in regions like Oyo, Ogbomoso, Calabar, Sagamu et al. These is to gather more human resources for propagating the gospel and also to create employment for youths in the formal sector, thus this was the only formal sector for a very long time apart from the military and government enterprises.
They were also instrumental in the establishment of the first Printing press located in Lagos to advance the course of literacy. Notable is also their contributions to the Nigerian syllabuses and curriculum through the initiation of the 3Rs’ on which most courses and subjects in modern Nigerian Education depends.
In the 1970s’, when the Nigerian government took over the management of schools from the missions, Methodism did not relent in her efforts at ensuring that people receive sound moral instructions. She paid greater attention to chaplaincy services in public schools and other establishments. When she observed that teaching was of deplorable conditions in schools taken over by the government in terms of quality of graduates/students being turned out, she took a decision to encourage the establishment of new schools. Later, when some states governments restored mission schools to their original owners as opined that no nation can effectively handle social services without partnership with other civil and religious organizations. Thus Methodism established a University in furtherance of achieving her objective of qualitative education for all.
INFLUENCE ON YORUBA CULTURE
Christianity had also great influenced Nigerian Traditional education. The civilization of western education has an effect on the moral and cultural pieces of training, teaching and views of Nigerians, Nigerians now mix traditional education with Christian education. Hence, the emergence of songs for moral pieces of training like one in the Yoruba language which says;
Se mi lomo rere bi Samuel,
omo to gboran, to ni teriba,
omo ti ko ngbo iya re lenu,
niko se mi o, Oluwa.
It means “make me a good child like Samuel, a child that is obedient and humble, a child that does not disobeys his parents, make me O Lord”. This song portrays yet another impact of Christianity on Nigerian Education, traditionally.
Methodism has also made a great impact on the agent of socialization. Socialisation refers to a process by which the citizens are educated on the values, attitudes and beliefs. Christianity has been impacted greatly by the encouragement and establishment of the printing press to aid wide reading and literature. Also, the latter-day nationalists and nation builders in Nigeria had gone through Wesleyan or Missionary schools at one stage or the other which enable them the ability to be patriotic and to fight for independence.
Before the Europeans, Yoruba religions, education, government, family life and work all fitted together to make a satisfying way of life that everyone accepted and understood. But the introduction of Christianity religion and a European kind of education and lifestyle made things start turning in different directions and some of these effects are felt even in core Yoruba societies when men come back to them from distant European towns or schools and are sometimes unwilling to accept societal authorities and certain Yoruba norms as they did before they went away. So the Yoruba people are no longer held so strongly together in a common way of life, while a new kind of society, which would be suited to modern ways of living has not yet been formed.
Thus, the “Iroko” tree which Methodism has pruned, developed and taken care of had borne good and valuable fruits which many have plucked away and planted on their soil for further implantation. This has made the seed; the mother of all gigantic trees.
As time went by and other trees were waxing stronger, it is evident that the so-called mother of all trees have lost her value and reverence and she is currently out of competition with her offspring. Was it the law of diminishing returns that set in, was it from the lack of proper care of her old body that has made her lose out, was it the lackadaisical attitudes of her harbingers? These and so many more questions must be answered if one should examine what has become of Methodism’s Western Education but nevertheless one must not underemphasize the role played by other Christian organizations in raising the standard of education back to its feet. I will dwell on what they have done and their involvement particularly in Tertiary education before going through the various questions raised.
After various re-organizations have been suggested and carried out to give succour to the ailing tertiary education by Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration which commenced in 1999. However, the desired effect had not been realized. This gave rise to the need to establish private universities and also the Christian involvement because of the various feats achieved at the lower levels of education. The involvement of Christianity in education as seen in Nigeria, both at lower and higher levels, is a reflection of what had been going on in the antiquity of Christianity whenever and wherever it becomes ingrained. The modern university system has its etymology rooted in Christianity as remnant relics of the church in the academy. Bologna, Paris, Oxford and Cambridge were originally Christian Catechetical schools. Similarly, the best universities in the world today which are mainly in the United States of America such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia were rooted in Christianity and the European enlightenment contributed to making these universities the best (Olusegun Olawoyin, 2010). This is not also divorced from Nigeria as Christian schools have been ranked as the best over the years; the likes of Covenant University, Landmark University, and Redeemers et al. have been having a place in the top list of goodwill of Universities. This has posed a very great challenge to the government over their inability to sustain the schools established by them; the cankerworm has eaten so fattily on the public universities that little or no respect is given to their graduates.
The cosmopolitan phenomena which Nigeria has found itself are very grievous and the country is currently seating on a keg of gun powder with the candlestick in her hand. The sardonic advents of legal corruption and power outplay has not left Christianity out of the ordeal, various news had been heard about the so-called god of men dirtying their linen and enmeshing themselves in the shameful act of nation destruction, they have turned from being the nation’s whistleblower to been the trumpet blower for politicians. It is no longer news that the nation is suffering from the shackles of commercial gospel mongers who preaches nothing but their bellies however the author has decided not to be concerned about that in this chapter.
Now back to the aforementioned questions about the state of Methodism on education and culture, I began with the Christian / Methodism’s contributions as an organization, the involvement of the Church in establishing a university in Nigeria is a welcomed event. It is hoped that the Christian tenets that have been brought to bear at lower-level schools will similarly be brought to bear on the university.
But one must also consider the fact that universities are not primary and secondary schools neither are they theological seminaries. Hence, the administrators must have known that universities are very expensive to run, they must not also admit candidates more than their facilities can cope with as this will automatically defeat the drive for which the university was established. Similarly, the quality of lecturers and staff should be given uppermost concern, thus nepotism or favouritism should not be seen in recruitments. The university should not be only filled with spiritual concerns and activities because it will bring no change to the sector since most of the failed public universities are filled with uncountable fellowship and even have pastors among their staff but these have had no vivid testimony on the lips of the sector and its productivity. However individual scholarship and excellence should be emphasized without undermining the core tenets of the Christian faith.
I believe if Africa will be delivered from its current quagmire, the church has a very great role to play. So therefore one cannot underemphasize their importance to the sector.