Privatisation of Public Education Provision in Lagos State

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The twitter thread below got me thinking on the future of public education in Lagos state and this blog post is my short response to it.

They are using private funding to build the schools. After the completion, the state government will start paying…it’s like investors are coming in to build the school and come back for payment later. It’s like investing in something, giving you a contract to build schools, the government doesn’t have the money right now. Go and source for the money and get paid later.
Hon. Niyi Oyemade (the chairman of the Lagos State House of Assembly’s Committee on Education, 2001)

I guess two decades is more than enough to judge the political will of a political party on any major public issue in any society? Well, my assumption is that you would agree with me with a resounding YES. This rhetorical question is based on the policy direction that the ruling party in Lagos state, APC (that evolved from AD and ACN), has been taking since it came into office in 1999 under the leadership of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. In its early days, the leadership of the party embarked on constructing ‘millennium schools’ but by the end of the 8-year tenure of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the Lagos state government had already reduced, significantly, the number of schools under its ownership by returning missionary schools back to their founders while the government refused to establish new public schools that is commensurate in number to the returned ones.

You can read ‘Leap Of Faith: The Return Of Faith Based Schools To Their Founders By Lagos State Government’ for my view on the issue of returned faith-based schools.

This is the underlying rationale and philosophy behind adopt a school. We worked with those who have done it successfully before while we maintain more of our regulatory roles. What adopt a school has done now is to expand the possibility for corporate organization in a structured manner to intervene.

By the time the government of Babatunde Raji Fashola (SAN) came into office, the government of Lagos had embarked on a PPP model of ‘adopt-a-school program’ – a model in which private businesses are allowed to contribute to the rebuilding and renovation of public schools along with opportunities to contribute to the provision of their educational facilities and materials. Also, the government encouraged the mass involvement of NGOs in the provision of public education.

Parents tend to feel that the schools provide value for the fees that they must pay, however there are serious equity implications from this set of circumstances. As was shown earlier in the paper, some government schools are experiencing year-on-year declines in enrolments, with the remaining children being most likely the most disadvantaged.
Dr Joanna Harma

Fast forward to 2019 which marked almost twenty (20) years of successive and uninterrupted running of the affairs of Lagos state by the same political party, the government of Akinwunmi Ambode – the incumbent governor of Lagos state – is leaving behind a legacy of having a heavily private driven and provided education sector in the state. For instance, the government went into partnership with Bridge Academy – an international private provider of ‘low-fees’ education to children and young people in poor communities at the primary and secondary school levels – The expansion and partnership were announced at a joint conference with the Lagos State Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget.

Unfortunately, the state government is embarking on its large-scale private sector led education system despite the fact that there are well established evidence – locally and internationally – that an education system that is private provision driven would only lead to more social inequalities, particularly for children and young people from disadvantaged communities and socioeconomic backgrounds. For more insights, please read Private responses to state failure: the growth in private education (and why) in Lagos, Nigeria (PDF) by Dr. Joanna Harma.

In United State, they have different categories of schools and that has helped to address the previous challenges they had in education. It will be unfair for parents sending their children to different schools furnished with different standard of facilities to pay same fees. This is a huge economy that we cannot get rid. We have to accommodate them and that is what we are saying.
Babajide Sanwo-Olu (APC gubernatorial candidate)

Lastly, as the 2019 gubernatorial election approaches, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the gubernatorial candidate of the ruling party – APC – has given out a hint on his policy direction on the provision of public education at the compulsory education level (primary and secondary) in the state, and it seems to be tailored towards the voucher system in the US. My view is that it would only lead to more inequalities in the society, but I hope I am proven wrong.

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