The Pretence Of Western Religion And Education In Nigeria: A Sociological Perspective
Academic Leadership - Online Journal,
Vol. 8 No. 3 (2007): Vol-8-Issue-3-March-2007
The introduction of Western (Christian) Religion into Nigeria was the first step in the process of
introducing the whole of Western pattern of life in Nigeria. This dates back to the 15th century when the
Portuguese Merchants and adventurers came into contact with Nigeria in 1472. From the activities of
the missionaries some schools were opened which was why Ezewu (1990) described the Western
Religion and Western Education as twins.
The main aim of the missionary education was to reach Christianity and thus convert all those who
came within the four walls of the mission house. The British colonial Missions set up norms of religious
education that progressively colonized the converts. Religious education primarily meant carrying out
civic duties which enabled Nigerians to adopt the Western culture at the expense of their own.
Prior to the coming of Western religions and education, Nigerians were very religious and also
functional in their education. They acknowledged the presence of God in whatever they did. Their
religion therefore cut across their entire lives in farming, fishing, dancing festivals, eating, travelling etc.
Virtues such as honesty, truthfulness, love for one another, morality were highly prized. On the other
hand their kind of education was not seen as the ability to read and write. It meant to prepare the
individual to live a meaningful life by being useful to them and contribute effectively to the development
of the entire society Fafunwa (1976) described this type of education as functional because the child
develops his abilities, attitudes and other forms of behaviour which are of positive value of the society.
Idowu (1965) and Kosemani (1992) had argued that Western religion is after all a European institution
which has no beneficial relevance for Africans but imposed upon them as engine of colonial policy for
the purpose of promoting European domination on Africans. As the saying goes, it is possible what you
do not possess. The missionaries failed to set up true moral values since their morality was
bureaucratic rather than Christocentric. Christianity did not sufficiently penetrate into Nigeria religiosity
primarily because it simply imposed on them a set of rules to be observed. The credibility of these
comments is obvious from the fact that religion and education by the missionaries created some
distrust and also dichotomy in the lives of the Christian converts. Consequently the motives for
accepting Christianity more often than not had nothing to do with the content of religion. Hence Rodney
(1982) concluded that to the Africans, the church as a promoter of education was more attractive than
the church as a dispenser of religion and morality. Even at that, the education offered in the mission
schools was more dysfunctional than functional. Hence it can be argued that both the religious activities
and the education of the missionaries are a mere pretence.