As the UK’s High Commissioner in Nigeria, I would like to welcome you all to the 8th annual conference of the Association of Private Educators in Nigeria. I am delighted to be here with you today to discuss the crucially important issue of Education in Nigeria given the need for all of us – Government, Development Partners and the private sector – to invest more in human capital if Nigeria is to reach its full potential and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The key question for me from a development partner perspective are why private sector investment in education? Should we not be supporting the public sector to continue to provide services that have been dominated by government? The answer to these questions lies in the growing trend of private sector education in Africa, the growing population in sub-Saharan Africa and lessons and evidence from supporting a hybrid system that supports both the public and the private sectors. According to the recent ‘Business of Education in Africa’ report: “21% of African children and young people are already being educated in the private sector, with this percentage likely to rise to one in four by 2021”. Also the research notes that despite the progress by sub-Saharan Africa since the Millennium Development Goals, 30 million children in SSA are not receiving any form of schooling, and tertiary education is capacity constrained. Specifically in Nigeria, we have the highest number of out of school children in the world with over 11 million children out of school. This challenge is compounded by a worsening fiscal squeeze, underinvestment in education and a population that is estimated to reach 450 million by 2050.
The challenges in the Education sector in Nigeria are enormous and public sector investment alone cannot meet the current demand. According to recent statistics on private sector education in Nigeria, 40% of pupils are attending private schools. And in some states of the federation, that figure for private provision of education is even higher. DFID’s experience, working in the Education sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, shows that supporting the public sector alone is not sufficient to address the problems of access and quality education. This is why the UK government recognises the absolute importance of supporting children and young people to gain a decent education in Nigeria through a hybrid system. In Nigeria, the bulk of our funding is on supporting the public sector to strengthen systems and improve schools. Some of these programmes have included:
· Education Sector Support Programme: The core results were systems building and school improvement in over 16,000 public primary schools in 6 states, benefitting 6.5m Nigerian children.
· Girls’ Education Project: To enable one million additional girls to gain access to better education in five Northern states by 2020. Currently working with nearly 3,000 public primary schools and 1,000 Integrated Quranic schools.
· Teacher Development Programme: To train 62,000 teachers and 4,000 student teachers in maths, science and English, using mobile technology. Also provides teachers with support and ongoing coaching in classrooms at Federal level and in 5 states.
DFID also invests heavily in Nigeria through the Global Partnership for Education and the Girls Education Challenge Fund complementing our direct bilateral support.
As mentioned earlier, the UK Government recognises the importance of a mixed system that also supports the public sector. In Lagos State where it is estimated that there are 18,000 private schools and 1,600 public schools, we have taken pragmatic steps to support opportunities in the private sector through our Developing Effective Private Sector Education Nigeria (DEEPEN) programme. DEEPEN is an innovative programme that uses the making markets work for the poor approach, to build the regulatory and quality assurance capacity of government and supporting the low cost education market in Lagos. DEEPEN comprises four workstreams – rules and standards, finance, school improvement services and information - which were designed to stimulate and strengthen a private market in low cost education for the poorest people in Lagos. The programme works with government, private school associations, financial institutions, community based groups, the media and parent associations.
Since the inception of DEEPEN programme in 2013, it has achieved some impressive results that include:
1. 1,666 schools have had access to school improvement services (teacher training and capacity development)
2. 455 (453 low cost) schools reviewed and commenced school improvement as a result of the pilot Graded Assessment of Private Schools supported by DEEPEN
3. 1723 schools have gained access to affordable financial services and products, as a result of support to school associations and financial institutions
4. At least 432 low-cost school owners supported to understand their tax rights and liabilities to avoid illegal and multiple tax payments
5. 373 schools have received training by service providers on business improvements related to improved business planning and financial management
The DEEPEN programme also includes an Innovation component that supported Bridge international Academies and a Challenge Fund to support innovative business models. Through the UK Government’s support, Bridge Academies has setup 23 new academies in poor areas in Lagos State with 203 teachers and 23 academy managers employed and 6,530 students enrolled.
Let’s not forget the crucial work also of the British Council and the vital role they play in the Education sector in Nigeria through programmes such as Connecting Classrooms. This multi-country programme, running from 2015-18, aims to build the capacity of teachers and school leaders to support them to integrate core skills such as creativity, critical thinking, digital literacy and collaboration into the curriculum. Last year 3500 teachers and 437 school leaders were trained through Connecting Classrooms in government and private schools in Lagos and FCT. This year they are reaching schools in Oyo, Kano and Rivers State.
However, the sustainability and success of this approach is not only dependent on private sector investors seizing opportunities, but also on the commitment of the state and the participation of non-state actors. Our experience in Lagos has shown that government commitment to improving the regulatory environment is critical to de-risking low cost private schools, unlocking the blockages to access to finance and investment in the learning environment. The time therefore has come for the Federal and sub-national governments to clearly articulate their policy on private sector education and provide the necessary regulation for businesses to thrive. On our part as a key partner for Nigeria, the UK Government remains committed to brokering partnerships between state and non-state actors and supporting improvements in the learning outcomes of children in Nigeria.
I know that the secondary and tertiary education system in Nigeria who once seen as a jewel of Africa’ crown. It’s sad that that is no longer the case. And although I should not complain about Nigerian parent sending their off springs to excellent British schools and universities, in many ways I would be happier if they did not feel this is necessary. I know Association of Private Educators in Nigeria is doing great work to help rebuild an education system of which Nigeria can be proud. The UK is standing ready to be a partner with you in this noble endeavour.
Finally let me thank Association of Private Educators in Nigeria and the conference committee for all their hard work in organising this event. I look forward to engaging and hearing more about the crucial work of Association of Private Educators in Nigeria.