In Nigeria, where the average annual income is less than $2,500 U.S., paying for a child’s education is daunting. With a new secondary school that opened in September, however, The United Methodist Church’s Central Nigeria Conference is turning impossibility into possibility.
The government provides six years of free primary education for children beginning at age 6. But formal education for many children ends after primary school because their families cannot afford the expense. Without a sponsor to assist with the cost, many students drop out of school and farm to earn money for future education.
In response to this situation, the Central Nigeria Conference recently established the Guinter Memorial Secondary School, located temporarily in the conference headquarters in Gwaten-Bambur in Taraba State.
Students, ages 10 to 12, come from public primary schools within the conference. Twenty-five students — 15 boys and 10 girls — have enrolled. The school has a capacity of 50 students, so the admission process is ongoing.
Eventually, Guinter Memorial will transition into a boarding school, provided adequate funds become available. Urgent needs are a permanent site, construction of two blocks of two classrooms each, dormitories, computers and a well-equipped library. Income sources include meager fees collected from students’ parents, church fundraising and donations.
Students pursue agricultural science, basic science, business, Christian religion, civics, English language, information and communication technology, mathematics, physical and health education, security education (focusing on personal safety) and social studies. These courses prepare them for senior secondary education.
The Rev. Eli Sule Yakku, administrative assistant to Bishop John Wesley Yohanna, said the school was established to bring education close to the people, especially those who cannot afford to send their children to government or private boarding schools.
“I recall when Christian schools were in existence,” Yakku said. “The standard of education was higher” because the teachers were well qualified. Because Christianity cannot be taught in government schools, “the conference decided to open its own secondary school that will produce … students that would be efficient and faithful to serve their communities and the society at large.”
The school’s goals are:
- to teach students to meet contemporary challenges of Nigeria and the world;
- to develop Christian faith;
- to achieve excellent performance in West African Senior School Certificate and (Nigeria) National Examinations Council examinations;
- to promote mutual understanding and tolerance among people from various ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds;
- to encourage patriotism and national unity; and
- to provide a model for secondary education in Nigeria.
“If you want a child to be educated,” said the Rev. George Bakari, conference evangelism director, “train him when he is young and provide him with all the necessary needs.”
Conference lay leader Ibrahim John Godwin said, “No society can develop without education. No higher institution can develop without the solid background of primary and secondary education. No amount of material … can lead to your success apart from education, so I am calling on the community to embrace the newly established secondary school so that we can build a vibrant society.”
For newly hired principal Luka Shehu, the secondary school was a dream come true. “I was highly delighted,” he said, “when invited … to pilot the modalities necessary for the takeoff, as well appointing me to stand as the pioneer manager of the school.”
The Rev. Ahijo S. Tanko, a parent, said, “The opening of the secondary school … has alleviated the suffering of some parents sending their children to distant areas for schooling.”
“I am telling people that my school is the best in all academics, spiritually and morally,” commented student Albert Amin. “I am now a changed person academically.”
He noted that when he attended government schools, teachers showed little concern for his challenges. At the new school, he said, “Our teachers always give us homework that will keep us busy at home, instead of running around.
“I am advising parents to bring their children to Guinter Memorial Secondary School to have a solid foundation of academic background.”
Fidelis is a communicator for the Central Nigeria Conference.