It is recorded in the Gospel of Luke that Jesus asked the following questions: “‘Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?’” (Luke 11:11, 12, NRSV).1 These rhetorical questions found in the Scriptures implicitly underscore wholistic education and have inspired the West-Central Africa Division (WAD) to center its educational activities on strengthening Adventist identity. To achieve this, the WAD Department of Education launched several initiatives to help enhance the understanding of Seventh-day Adventist identity in its schools, provide role-modeling, and grow the commitment of educators (teaching and non-teaching staff as well as parents) in order to reawaken their consciousness vis-à-vis
their sacred duty of training children and youth for eternity. The results are highlighted in the following report.
Ellen White wrote that “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Savior might be carried to the whole world! How soon might the end come—the end of suffering and sorrow and sin! How soon, in place of a possession here, with its blight of sin and pain, our children might receive their inheritance where ‘the righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell therein forever’; where ‘the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick’ and ‘the voice of weeping shall be no more heard.’”2
WAD—A Territory of Steady Educational Growth
The West-Central Africa Division includes the sub-Saharan region, stretching from the Central-African Republic to the Cabo Verde. The region encompasses one Spanish-speaking, one bilingual (French and English), two Portuguese-speaking, five English-speaking, and 13 French-speaking countries. During the past quinquennium (2015-2020), the WAD made significant steps toward strengthening Adventist identity in its educational institutions at all levels. As of December 31, 2019, the division operates 1,024 elementary schools, 158 secondary schools, eight middle-level schools, and five universities; with total enrollments of 149,238; 49,639; 2,801; and 20,534 respectively. At the end of the previous quinquennium (2010-2015), the corresponding enrollments were 153,917; 45,321; 1,949; and 15,543. This shows a decrease of three percent in elementary schools, and an increase of nine percent, 31 percent, and 24 percent in secondary schools, middle-level institutions, and universities, respectively.
While the increase at the secondary, middle level (postsecondary―specifically, vocational institutions), and university levels is mainly due to high demand and the expansion of facilities, the decrease at the elementary level is mainly due to the closure of some schools because of either standards below or not in harmony with required education regulations of the church or government or insecurity in insurgency-infested areas.
Within the context of educating for eternity, the division has placed the main emphasis on strengthening elementary schools to ensure Bible-based character formation. Consequently, by God’s grace, despite the decrease in the total number of students, 95 primary schools were added during the 2015-2019 period.3 Most of the educational activities sponsored by the division were geared toward the integration of faith and learning, faith and teaching, and faith and service at all educational levels. This was achieved through advisories in all the unions (as well as selected countries wherever the need was identified), accreditation visits at all levels, and assessment of the institutional operations vis-à-vis the policies and procedures of the church.
Integration of Faith and Learning
From 2015 to 2019, many faith-integration programs (commonly called “Weeks of Spiritual Emphasis”) were conducted at all levels of education, several of which resulted in baptisms of both students and teachers. From 2015 to 2019, 926 were baptized in primary schools, 4,533 in secondary schools, 141 in middle-level institutions, and 4,651 in universities—a total of 10,251 individuals won to Christ. Spirit of Prophecy and Revelation seminars were also held in some schools. Remarkable results have been seen at Ile-Ife Adventist Secondary School, where the many young people from public universities who come every year to do student teaching are required to enroll in a Spirit of Prophecy/Revelation seminar course.
Integration of Faith and Teaching
Congresses were held for primary- and secondary-school teachers and leaders to familiarize them with Christian classroom dynamics, emphasizing the integration of faith and teaching. Teachers were involved in practical exercises that would help them function as spiritual leaders who provide nurturing care in the classroom learning environment. More than 500 teachers have participated in the congresses. At the university level, faculty orientation sessions, colloquiums, and faith-integration conferences were organized in all five institutions. These programs have had a positive impact on the commitment and performance of teachers in the division. Throughout the WAD, more than 20 new academic programs were authorized by both the church and national ministries for higher education. Additionally, in October 2018, the World Branding Awards Certificate was conferred on Babcock University, Nigeria, as the brand of the year.
Integration of Faith and Service
During this past quinquennium, some WAD institutions enrolled non-teaching workers in integration-of-faith-and-service conferences, which helped the participants to realize that they are more of a network of God’s servants than a hierarchy of bosses and subordinates; channels of blessings to one another, not chains of command. These conferences reaffirmed the value of each worker and the interdependence required at all levels. Apart from our school workers, the division department of education was often called upon to lead retreats on integrating faith and service in non-school settings. Among these reflections were the integration of faith and financial management at the WAD treasurers’ retreat in 2017, the integration of faith and auditing at the retreat for the Trans Africa Area of the General Conference Auditing Service in Dal Es Salaam in 2019, and integration of faith and learning for Adventist students in public schools and universities in Ghana at their 2019 annual congress.
WAD universities have started unprecedented collaborations with one another in the areas of faculty and staff development and exchange, as well as sharing other resources such as electronic library, office, and laboratory equipment, etc. The older institutions—especially Babcock University in Nigeria and Valley View University in Ghana―are now assisting the younger ones in upgrading their faculty at a very modest cost or free. This networking is being augmented by the recent creation of the Pan-African Association of Adventist Universities and Colleges (PAAUC), whose goal is to network all Adventist universities and colleges in Africa to share library resources, to create faculty exchanges, and to ensure standardized institutional operation and governance in light of the Adventist philosophy of education.
Challenges and Opportunities
Because almost 50 percent of the countries in WAD are part of the 10/40 Window,4 our territory faces great challenges and limited witnessing opportunities. The ongoing religion-based insurgencies, poverty, and high school dropout rates create problems for value-based education, especially Christian education, which is becoming the target of Islamic terrorist groups. On the other hand, values-based education seems to be the answer to the major challenges of the sub-region, as Adventist schools are very much welcomed even in places such as Guinea, Gambia, northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, and Niger, where the traditional church has had difficulty settling and expanding.
The Future Looks Brighter Than the Present
With the entire educational system of the West-Central Africa Division being streamlined and revamped, the future will be characterized by more schools, more Adventist learners and teachers, and more wholistic performance by both learners and educators. Workers in our schools are now being encouraged through regularized employment status as denominational employees, certification in Adventist philosophy of education, professional ranking and promotion, as well as an improved working environment. Many primary school construction projects are in progress, and several secondary schools are either being renovated or expanded.
The increasing demand for Adventist higher education is also compelling the existing universities to expand their infrastructure and open new learning centers and campuses. Plans are advancing to start new universities, especially in the French- and Portuguese-speaking countries. We project that at least two universities—one Francophone (French-speaking) and one Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) will be opened within the next quinquennium. In collaboration with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) and Maranatha Volunteers International, the division department of education will give more attention to the 10/40 Window countries where the Islamic culture is predominant and education seems to be the most effective and viable Christian witnessing strategy.
To God be the glory for His leading and blessings upon the Adventist Church’s worldwide educational leadership, who have been an invaluable source of inspiration, guidance, and counseling all the way.
Publishing Note: Due to the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic and the twice-postponed General Conference session, this quinquennial issue was delayed. Reports in this issue cover the 2015-2020 quinquennium.
Juvénal Balisasa, “Adventist Education: Training Ground for God’s End-time Army,” The Journal of Adventist Education 83:4 (2021): 70-73.
NOTES AND REFERENCES
- Matthew 7:9-11, New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Ellen G. White, Education (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press, 1903), 271.
- The total number of students decreased as a result of schools that were closed due to low standards or financial challenges. Those students were lost to other schools (either public or private). The newly established 95 schools could not enroll enough students in their first year to compensate for the large numbers we lost through the closure of schools.
- The 10/40 Window, located between 10- and 40-degrees north latitude, includes countries in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. These countries are predominantly Islamic in culture with limited to no opportunities for the gospel to penetrate. Some countries in this region also experience high poverty and socio-economic challenges. For more information, see Global Mission: https://gm.adventistmission.org/the-1040-window.