Christian schools leading growth of private universities in Africa

Christian universities in sub-Saharan Africa are leading the growth of higher education in the region in the last 20 years, an online publication has observed.

(REUTERS / Mike Hutchings)University of Cape Town (UCT) students sing during protests demanding free tertiary education in Cape Town, South Africa, October 3, 2016.

In the 1950s, only 41 universities and 16,500 college students existed in the whole Sub-Saharan regionn of Africa. In 2010, the number of higher education institutions rose to 668 and the number of students grew to 5.2 million as the Christian population also experienced tremendous growth in the continent, The Conversation detailed.

The growth in Sub-Saharan Africa's universities happened despite cuts in state funding in the 1980s, when national budgets were heavily affected by the fall of commodity prices and the inflation of energy costs. The private sector and churches were also instrumental in filling in that funding gap.

From 2000 to 2010, the Partnership for Higher Education invested $440 million in higher education in Africa. Governments in the continent started opening doors for the establishment of private universities and technical schools.

In Nigeria, 31 out of the 61 private institutions chartered since 1999 are Christian. In Kenya, 17 out of 31 chartered private universities and those with interim authority are also Christian. These figures show that Christian higher education has been leading the rapid growth of private universities in the continent.

Protestant, Catholic and Pentecostal churches are leading efforts to build universities in Africa. These efforts are part of their aim to preserve their faith and includes the training of clergy right after they sponsor primary and secondary education.

However, the growth in Christian universities is now being challenged with the rise of secularism in Africa. Just last month, the High court in Johannesburg said that public schools can no longer promote one religion over another, Times Live reported.

The ruling was made after the Organization for Religious Education and Democracy filed a request to stop six schools from participating in 71 religious activities including those of Christian character. The court did not grant the request for prohibition, but it declared that state schools should not be allowed to favor one religion in the name of diversity.