After over 20 years of planning a university to cater for its majority poor rural members, the Church of Christ in Nations (COCIN) has finally gotten federal approval.
Named after its British founder, Dr. Hermann Karl Wilhelm Kumm, the University was billed to start in 2006, but was prevented by infrastructural and technical challenges. Management of the Church also objected to starting on a temporary site, like many of its contemporaries, thus delaying approval.
Several times, Officials from the National Universities Commission were in Jos to supervise infrastructural development at the site toward recommending licensing. But the finances for the facility which sits on over 50hectares of land in Vwang District of Jos South Area were largely contributed by poor Church members.
In 2013, a launch was held to raise funds for the project, estimated to cost over N2billion. However, not up to 1/4 of it was raised. Many groups and individuals donated structures to the university, including the Plateau State Government which donated a library.
Nevertheless, most of the projects were not started or completed in time. For instance, the Girls hostel built by the women fellowship of the church took years to complete due to shortage of finances, largely gotten through membership levies and contributions.
The Library built by the Plateau State Government was also first announced by the former Governor of the State, Jonah Jang but not started due to finance shortages. The present Governor, Simon Lalong only learnt about the pledge and started work on the site after being notified at a General Council meeting of the Church in 2019.
Before the 2013 endowment fund launch, Churches were taxed and the given levies shared to members, most of whom took years to relief, with many still owing. The Church itself started the project while pursuing many financially demanding tasks elsewhere.
For instance, the Church opened many foreign missions worth billions of naira, started a microfinance bank and upgraded many of its worship centers during this period. At the same time, it lost thousands of investments to violent attacks in the Northeast and North Central Nigeria in addition to millions of members and pastors killed and/or displaced, most of whom it had to raise money to cater for.
The Karl Kumm University project therefore suffered delays with two of its founders, Rev. Dr. Alexander Lar and Rev. Luther Chishak, both former Presidents of the Church passing before it was half completed. The Church however did not deter in meeting its obligations toward securing Government approval, despite internal and external opposition.
Search for VC
With a formidable technical team led by former University of Jos Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ochapa Onazi, the Church shuttled Jos and Abuja, nearly on a weekly basis, amending and proposing new ideas to fulfill its goal.
Prof. Onazi, one of the best products of the Church’s Boys Secondary school Gindiri, Plateau State, along with some other top academics guided the Church, providing networks and expertise in actualizing the vision. By faith, they started the search for a substantive Vice and Pro-Chancellors for the University last year.
Onazi’s Committee listed 22 serving Professors of COCIN background for the post of the Vice Chancellor and five others for the post of Pro-Chancellor. Among qualities sought for the VC post were at least 10 years professorial experience with local and international publications, varsity development and administrative experience among others.
The Pro-Chancellor, according to the committee’s official records was expected to be a “respected Christian leader” with “good education” and varsity administrative experience. No Official announcement has been made but as of last December, the committee had sent its final recommendations to the Church.
With the approval of the University the the Federal Executive Council last Wednesday, the Chancellors are expected to be announced alongside calls for admission any moment.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the establishment of Karl Kum University Vom Jos South LGA and Association of National Accountants of Nigeria (ANAN) University Kwall Bassa LGA both in Plateau State along with 18 others in the country.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu told newsmen after the virtual Federal Executive Council Meeting presided over by President Mohammadu Buhari at the Presidential villa. The approved Universities will soon get their provisional licenses from the National University Commission (NUC) renewable after 3 years, said the Minister.
Excitement in Plateau
The Plateau State Government after its State Executive Council meeting on Wednesday commended the Federal Government for approving the two universities in the State.
The State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mr. Dan Manjang, said it was a sign of greater things in the State.
Senator Istifanus Gyang of Plateau North has also said the two private Universities and a Federal Polytechnic approved in Plateau state “will expand and widen the space and scope for students intake by partly addressing the twin issues of availability and accessibility.”
In a press statement through his spokesman, Musa Ashoms, Gyang said investment in University education by private bodies, “the first ever in the state”, will raise the bar in academic excellence and generate employment.
“Education remains the greatest and safest inheritance parents can bequeath to children therefore, investing in their educational upbringing should be prioritized,” he said.
Fear of high tuition
One of the main oppositions faced by the Church in actualizing the dream of setting up the university is the fear of high tuition fees. Many low income earners believe that just as it is in many Faith based Universities, the fees for the University might be too high for the common man.
Undoubtedly, the University cannot be accredited by NUC with only visiting Professors; and the allowances of one Professor could gulp the Church’s revenue. Thus, salaries and allowances, utilities and related expenses would have to be financed from student fees.
But how is that attainable with the challenge posed by covid-19 which requires that only few students should be admitted until there are enough structures to accomodate large crowds with adequate spacing? Only high fees are believed to be the way out.
However, before starting the University, the Church carried out thorough research to identify alternative revenue sources, and concluded long before covid-19 that it would only admit a few hunded students for a start.
While that would mean high competition, likely restricted to top performing candidates, the goal of the University is to maintain the high educational standards started from its world class Boys and Girls Secondary schools, as well as COCIN Comprehensive Secondary School, all in Gindiri. This would ultimately attract partnerships from overseas and other quarters to sustain the University without exerting pressure on family finances.
As of the last three years, records show that the Church had pegged student fees between N100,000 and N150,000 depending on course of study, which is about the lowest charged by any private university in Nigeria.
It is however not clear if that includes feeding and accommodation. But even if it doesn’t, the Church has made it clear that the University was designed to provide sound academic and moral training akin to those obtained overseas, at affordable rates.