In the last nine months, the world has gone through extremely dynamic upheaval. Upheaval that has impacted the education sector in ways unprecedented. In Lagos Nigeria, the pandemic has seen many schools shut down, many teachers lose their jobs and education for many children has generally become stalled or at best stalled due to a myriad of reasons. Children in low-cost private schools especially. Recently the state government in partnership with a foremost bank in the country launched a N5billion ($13Million) intervention fund to support their return to functionality.
According to SEED, “low-cost private schools in Lagos State are commonly referred to as “private schools for the poor”, account for over 60% of the schools in the state and educate millions of the young population in the state. There are about 12,000 of such schools.” These are schools with no funding from the government but depend largely on the meager income from fees.
Even before the lock down, these schools had their unique set of challenges which largely centered on funding. When the pandemic hit, unlike most schools that were largely able to adapt to virtual teaching and learning, low-cost schools struggled to deliver lessons and keep their businesses afloat. Most of their pupils do not have access to digital tools and neither do their parents. Due to social distancing guidelines, many schools had no means whatsoever to teach and as such had to shut down for about five months.
In August when the government provided guidelines for reopening of private schools, it became quite apparent that these low-cost schools were going to struggle in terms of compliance. Not because they didn’t want to comply, but because they truly do not have the funds required to put the necessary measures in place for a safe physical re-opening.
In comes the state government with a N5billion naira fund specifically for schools in this category. According to Business Day, the Governor Babajide Sanwolu said “It is no longer debatable that the education is one of the sectors that are severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with schools and vocational learning-centres shut since March when we took the tough decisions meant to disrupt the spread of the virus. Given the incidence of the closure of schools in response to the pandemic, it would not be out of context to note that the challenges presently faced by these schools would increase significantly. With access to low-cost funding for privately owned schools and vocational training centres in the state, we are confident that this programme will help accelerate sustainable and painless return to world-class learning and skills acquisition of our young population. As a responsible Government, we are obligated to provide intervention that would enable learners in these schools’ study in line with the new normal.”
The question though is this- Is this one more white elephant project and can schools function within a flawed framework or structure? It is a laudable initiative by the government but as with past issues of sustainability of projects or initiatives, many are left with questions of the long-term effectiveness of these loans. Prior to the pandemic, low-cost schools have been in existence. Post pandemic they will still be in existence. What systemic framework or structure is being put in place to ensure their progress and growth as opposed to focusing only on seeming stop-gap solutions. Though these schools cater to a sector of society, many of such schools do not always offer the standard of education desired and need to be restructured. Their existence may also be an indicator of a failed public education system.
Written by Adeiye Oluwaseun-Sobo
- COVID-19: LASG launches N5bn support capital for low-cost private schools (2020, September 29). Retrieved October 6, 2020, from https://businessday.ng/education/article/covid-19-lasg-launches-n5bn-support-capital-for-low-cost-private-schools/
- Impact of COVID-19 on Education for Vulnerable Children (2020, April 24). Retrieved October 8, 2020, from https://www.seed.com.ng/impact-of-covid-19-on-education-for-vulnerable-children/
- Photo- Cambridge Education