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The New Frontier: Educating the Nation

 The New Frontier: Educating the Nation

By Mitiku Adisu

Many institutions of higher learning today trace their origin to monasteries and churches. Vanderbilt University to United Methodist Church, Princeton to Presbyterian Church, Oxford to St. Frideswide's nunnery, and so on. In Ethiopia, Protestant and Catholic churches were responsible for introducing and advancing modern education--especially in those areas inhabited by marginal populations. It is with great pleasure, therefore, that we welcome the proposed university by Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (ECMY) whose mission we are told is "to create ethical citizens ... and agents of development for their country." This could not have come at a better time. And it is worth mentioning here that ECMY has over the years taken the lead in promoting national literacy, community development, theological studies, indigenous leadership, and now university education.

It was only a few months ago that similar announcement was made about the "first" Catholic university in Ethiopia. Though training focus for the two institutions will differ the fact that these and similar agencies are church-run is significant. First, trainees in those institutions will certainly be exposed to values that transcend the temporal. More importantly, the search for truth will be applied to all of life (not just to the intellect) and will be shaped and informed by the life and teachings of Jesus who, we hold and share, is the Truth.

However, a venture of this import can not be without a set of challenges. First, the fact that the two institutions are based in the capital Addis Ababa could be a setback. Future plans must, therefore, envisage setting up critical and relevant departments or satellite classes in outlying regions. Second, it must be spelt out that educational ministries are first and foremost to Jesus and should not necessarily be tied to any particular group or denomination; the beneficence of Jesus are for everyone regardless. Third, it is dishonorable to run a Christian university without enlisting a qualified and committed faculty and/or without establishing a system to upgrade their skills.

The two institutions must also contend with problems of educational quality and training in employable skills. One way to stem the tide of the educated unemployed is to link with structures already in place with the view to ultimately influencing the job market.
Creating "ethical citizen" is easier said than lived by. Education is increasingly becoming a commodity to a point where diploma holders are neither gainfully trained nor generate new ideas. Most remain impervious to their civic duties thus perpetuating institutional corruption. A Christian education worth its salt should primarily ennoble the human person--because each person is created in the image of God--and train one to search for truth wherever that search may lead. Real transformation must equip one to scale 'walls that divide,' to reflect the Kingdom of God here on earth.
It is unfortunate that many Ethiopians (and those in developing countries) are being shortchanged by sharks for whom providing educational services have become a synonym for the bottom line. We hope and pray these two universities, by God's grace, are able to make a real difference.

Copyright 2014 by The Ethiopian Church Journal
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