DEEPEN seeks financial support for private schools
Begins pilot grading scheme at Ojo LGA
The need to introduce education trust fund that would cater to the financial needs of private schools in the country, particularly those in low-income areas, was the major discourse at ‘Financing Education in Nigeria’ forum organised by Developing Effective Private Education in Nigeria (DEEPEN), a programme funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and focused on improving learning outcomes in private schools, especially for children from low-income households.
In attendance were representations from First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) Plc, Sterling Bank, Accion Micro Finance Bank, and many other financial institutions who brainstormed on how private schools could benefit from various funding, loaning systems and other financial products. They argued that Universal Basic Education Counterpart Fund, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and other funding programmes in the country were designed for the benefit of public schools without consideration for private schools that are catering for the needs of a large number of Nigerian children.
They further argued that private schools, which serves over 25 percent of Nigerian pupils, with 57 per cent in Lagos, were also important in providing quality education, thus the need for government to include them in its financial plans.
Deputy Team Leader, DEEPEN, Chioma Obi-Osuji, regretted that low-income private schools found it difficult to acquire loans to fund their schools due to rigorous approval terms by the Ministry of Education.
According to her, “The major obstacle private schools have to cross is landed property. The ministry says the schools have to own their own land to gain approval. But Lagos State is congested and so acquiring land is not just difficult but expensive and these are schools that charge below N25,000. And government has not budged on this rule. DEEPEN, in collaboration with the Lagos State government, has started a five-star grading system for private schools in Ojo Local Government Area of the state.
“The grading system has already started and it has its pilot in Ojo, such that schools with limited facilities are two-star; adequately facilitated schools are three-star; four-star schools have very good facilities and management system; while the five-star schools are comparable to national and international standards.”
While highlighting the plight of private schools in the country, DEEPEN’s Finance Intervention Lead, Nadia Weigh, said, “It is a vicious cycle. There is high chance of default in paying fees by parents in all the grades of schools. Now these schools are unapproved because they don’t have land. Land is expensive so they can’t get it. But the banks won’t give them loans because they are not approved.
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