LivingStone International University is a dream that has been a long time in the making. And it is important to remind ourselves why we put so much time, energy, funding, and focus into this extremely large and expensive education project. I suggest our answers to these questions find root in three general areas of thought:
• The Historical, Philosophical and Christian Perspective
• The Current Practical Reality in Uganda
• Our Intended Spiritual Impact
The Historical, Philosophical and Christian Perspective
The need for education, both individually and nationally, has been proven throughout history and addressed by many famous leaders. A nation that does not emphasize the education of its people will not last and cannot prosper.
Marcus Tullius Cicero said, “What greater or better gift can we offer the nation [republic] than to teach and instruct our youth?” Cicero clearly understood that a nation cannot be established and maintained on ignorance. A strong and prosperous nation cannot just happen. It takes pre-determined effort.
For Christians, wisdom should be more prized than silver and gold and rubies (Proverbs 3:14-15). The Bible encourages everyone to earnestly seek wisdom no matter what the cost. The reason for this is explained. “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established” (Proverbs 24:3). Finally, the Bible attributes great power to the educated. “A wise man attacks the city of the mighty and pulls down the stronghold in which they trust” (Proverbs 21:22). “Wisdom makes one wise man more powerful than ten rulers in a city” (Ecclesiastes 7:19). Consider the power of education as practiced by godly people. “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
Wisdom through education is foundational to the development and prosperity of any individual, his house, his city, and his nation. Ignorance and the neglect of education bring ruin. Moral education brings prosperity, strength, and honor. We believe Biblically grounded education is an extremely important key to any nation’s future and to a positive Christian influence within that nation.
The Current Practical Reality in Uganda
The least difficult part to justify of our rationale for a university is the critical need of higher education within the country of Uganda and East Africa in general. In a recent article in the New Vision entitled “Uganda’s Limping Universities” Conan Businge and Carol Natukunda wrote the following:
“As the sun sets, a swarm of students storm lecture rooms, scrambling for seats. Ten minutes later, the room becomes packed, leaving many of them standing. From the day program, to private evening lectures, that is how far Makerere University has come to accommodate thousands of students. The same picture is reflected in other universities.
Higher education state minister Gabriel Opio says 4,000 students will be admitted to public universities on government sponsorship. In addition, all 25 universities together have the capacity to admit [only] 30,000 on private sponsorship. [The total number of students able to attend any university in Uganda is only 34,000.] Out of the 53,720 candidates [A Level students] who passed [in 2006], over 19,700 students will [not] be admitted. Those who miss university education have the option of doing diploma courses, but these [tertiary institutions] can absorb only a small fraction. State-owned technical and vocational institutes and teacher education colleges can only admit 2,000 students“.
Universities have worked to increase their capacity, but the number of students not being admitted continues to grow tremendously since this article was written.
A.B.K Kasozi, former Executive Director for National Council for Higher Education wrote:
“The expansion of enrollment has triggered a number of challenges. First, there has been an unprecedented emergence of many new institutions of higher learning including university and non-university ones. From one university institution in 1987, the country now has twenty seven private and public universities, some of which are less than glorified high schools”.
Even with the increase in universities, no matter how poor they are, they are still unable to enroll the massive number of students seeking university studies.
In the same report, Kasozi also notes the geographical inequalities for student enrollment. He writes, “Most students come from the Central Region (34.4%), and Western Region (30.5%). The Eastern Region (18%) and the larger Northern Region (17%) make up only one third of all university students meaning students studying around Mbale have a smaller chance of entering university studies. Kasozi concludes, “Higher education must overcome this regional inequality by affirmative action.”
The Intended Spiritual Impact
Some would argue that university development should be left in the hands of world governing bodies such as the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, or the Organization for African Unity. Or, national governments should be responsible for the education of their people. Should the church commit itself to developing higher education? We believe the answer is emphatically, “Yes!”
For the greatest impact on the nation’s culture, Christians must live and work in the cities. To do this, they must be superbly educated and trained to qualify for the most influential jobs available in the nation. A Christian university education is a must for any nation to have an influential Christian movement.
The Mbale Mission Team determined a few years ago that it was time to call for a new focus and a re-adjustment of our mission values and goals. Let me state clearly for all what has driven us to begin LivingStone International University. It is time to learn from Church history – Jesus, Paul, and the first century apostles and disciples – that we must seriously target the cities (and the most influential people in them) without excluding the rural areas.
It is time for us to plan strategically and long-term to educate and train Christian men and women for the most influential jobs available. It is time we first educate then disciple Christians on how to integrate their faith and values into the work place.
We began LIU with a deep sense of belief that God was directing and blessing our efforts. We still believe that. We do not see a university as just another institution of higher education. We see it as an extremely important and strategic tool for training Christians to become the most influential part of society.
We want to see future Presidents, cabinet ministers, government leaders, media personalities, authors, businessmen, and artists who boldly profess their faith in Christ before the masses. And we want them to come from our university.
We see this university as a mission tool to transform the entire nation. We want our churches and church leaders to be known as the most educated leaders in the country.
Many challenges face us during this time, but we are not fearful of the future. In fact, we remain as committed to LIU and its future as ever before. Our budgets increase each year, our obstacles are being identified and addressed giving us a chance to remove everything that would hinder our growth. We currently are strategically searching for the best, most qualified person to step in and lead LIU as the first official Vice Chancellor (we have only had “acting” Vice Chancellors so far). Our board is more active and learning how to protect LIU’s vision and mission.
We are moving forward, though not without difficulties. The students can be a big part of making LIU great. They can help us with enrolling other students, and they can graduate and go out and make a difference in the workplace. Your performance will reflect not only on you but also on LIU. Make us LIU proud. And in the process build an Alumni that will promote and support LIU to Uganda and beyond.
LivingStone International University