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One of the intriguing questions: is what would have been the nature of Nigerian education and health care system if the Christian missions had not come to Nigeria in 1842 and thereafter. According to Babalola, the greatest contribution of the missionaries in Nigeria was in the field of education. The first known school in Nigeria was established by Mr. and Mrs. De graft of the Methodist Mission in Badagary and was named “Nursery of the infant church”.
Mission schools became most successful in the past. Religious organizations also did their best providing and establishment of Health care centre and social amenities. Verkuyl, in 1987 stated that in the nineteenth century, medical doctors accompanied missionary personnel who were constantly threatened with fatal infections and sickness.
The missions indeed engaged in humanitarian services in the past without ambition of making gains. It is worthy to express today that schools and health care services were established by the missions. The question is what is happening today?
The missions such as the Methodist, the Catholic, the Anglican, the Baptist in course of their missionary activities also contributed immensely to the development of the rural communities in terms of opening of roads, establishment of schools, and health centres to take care of the rural dwellers. Today, Nigeria would be not had been a nation, if the missioners had not come.
Thus, many young adults were encouraged to embrace education especially reading and writing. The missions had imparted meaningfully to human capacity development. It is on record today, that many Christina organizations are out for profit making instead of creating an enabling environment for the poor to survive together with the rich in the society. Are the missions gone into extinction? It is unfortunate that people always flashback to observe the contributions of the missions in Nation Building and good character development. The missions had led a solid foundation for national development.
The present crop of missions should imbibe the faith of our fathers, who suffered in chains, and yet did not stop the good work. The political and economic development was a result of the effort and contributions of the missions. The independence of Nigeria in 1960 was made possible by those who embraced education. The contributions of the missions in Nigeria can never be over emphasized. It is an indelible mark that no one can erase. Apart from the sole propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Christian missions should support the down-trodden in the society.
In this dispensation, the religious organizations or the missions should strive and do more to improve on what the foreign missionaries had done. Today, almost all the missions are controlled or led by indigenous people of Nigeria. There are many Christian organizations in Nigeria today. But the fear is that what are their contributions to nation building? If the churches, in Nigeria have common ideology on the aspect of nation building, Nigeria will go beyond this state.
It is time for the Christian missions in Nigeria to sustain the effort of the heroes past and established free schools and health centres in Nigeria for the people. James 2:17-18, says, even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea a man may say, thou hast faith, and I have works; show me thy faith without thy works and I will show thee my faith by my works. ###
Frank Eneawaji Ogwuonuonu