REVELALING: Private schools thriving despite falling short of government’s approval
In this report, freelance journalist, Abiose Adelaja Adams, visited some low cost private schools in Ijede and Gberigbe, both under the Ikorodu local government area of Lagos State, and finds that the schools are making children literate, despite deplorable standards, unapproved by the government.

Nursery one pupils of Sam Tony Schools, chorused a response as their teacher chanted the alphabets in a sing song. With glee faces they afterwards sang a song, For learning is better than silver and gold. The school located at a suburb, in Elepe, off Ijede road, one of the burgeoning settlements of Lagos, is a makeshift. According to the proprietress, they were ejected from their property due to a land dispute and has for several months, been using the church auditorium of the Methodist Church.

Inside the hall which doubles as school as well as for church services, the classes, kindergarten (KG) 1 and 2, nursery1 and 2 are demarcated by a wooden plank, while children in reception and creche are hosted in the church store. Tuition for a child at this school is N5000 per term, while textbooks and notebook costs 4000. Uniform and sports’wear, N3000, making a total of N12,000. The pupils are undoubtedly from low income homes but the idea of literacy seem to pull out the string of a hopeful tomorow in them, making totally oblivious of their condition.
According to the Office of Education Quality Assurance of Lagos State, for a school to be government approved, it must have to meet eight basic criteria. Some of which are; type of building structure, physical structure, number of classrooms, quality of teacher, health and sanitation, type of playground, teaching records and beautification of school compound.

On Building structure, a school is expected to be purpose-built with an approved building plan. It should have certificate of occupancy.
This Sam Tony school has none of this, neither does it have a sickbay, bed, first aid box, nor head teacher office not to talk of desirable lab and an ICT suite with internet service, as expantiated by the standards.

Furthermore, there is no water and hand basins, no waste bins nor any poster on hygiene.
Ms. Abigail Akinsoto, school owner, who speaks with this website says, “I am telling you that Omo onile (land sellers) sold our land and ejected us, how can we have classrooms, we are just managing this place until we find another place.” According to her, the school is 12 years old. ” We have produced students, who are now in Gberigbe Community Secondary schools, ” she adds.

Fenced by barb wire
Yet another school in a village, called Oko-Ito at the outskirts of Gberigbe, is Ufus Divine Kids. Fenced by barb wire and constructed with wood and tapouline, this reporter finds that this school is the only one in a village of up to 3000 people until 3 other private school opened in 2014 . It competes with the government school, United African primary school, but more parents prefer to send their wards there. Asking why this is so, the daughter of the school owner, who was seen holding a pupil’s hand and helping him to hold the pencil to write letter ‘a’, says, “Since the government does not have nursery section, we take the children here and they stay with us till they graduate.”
“Our school fee is not much. Everything is about N11,000 she says, and you can pay in monthly installments,” she adds.
Oko-Ito is a resource poor community where its inhabitants live in mud huts. The village linking three sister villages has no single government hospital, but only one government primary school.

Nevertheless, parents ensure their children school in private schools rather than government.
This school has no playground, the children play with sand and also learn writing their first alphabets by writing on the sand. Both Sam Tony and Ufus Divine Schools, does not have forms or any literature about the school. Details about the school is given orally. Both said there is a high rate of default of fees by parents.

Still on government approval criteria, schools must have a functional interactive boards in classrooms, every class to have a reading corner, a maximum of 25 pupils with ratio one adult to eight children, one qualified teacher with a teaching assistant.
These schools have less than the minimum eigth toilets required by the state government, food vendors have no certificate of medical fitness as required and no adequate provisions for physically challenged people.

The teacher seen at both schools are what is called’ school cert’ holder. Expectedly, teachers should be National Certificate in Education (NCE) holder, but these teachers can only be teaching assistants by required standards.

House next door
The peculiar thing at Saphir Private School, located at Omitoro, a suburb off Ijede road, that the home of the proprietor is just located a yard away from the two school blocks seen in the premises, giving the impression its a family business.

The school uses a montessori methods which aids speedy reading.
“At nursery 2, that is 5 year-olds, all my pupils are already reading. They are literate,” boasts the proprietor, Mrs. E. Ojolo.
“However how parents don’t pay on time. In fact most of the time, payment of school fees is in installments and is based on relationship,” she says.

The school is not government approved as well.
An initiative by the British government’s Department For International Deveopment (DFID), in a project tagged DEEPEN- developing effective Private Education in Nigeria, in a survey in 2010 found that private schools grow at the rate of 1000 schools per year and most are fraught with challenges, similar to those facing the afore-mentioned schools.

Particularly in Ikorodu, it found that there are 1000 private schools in Ikorodu compared to 10 public. Listing why most of these schools can’t meet up to the standard, the team lead of DEEPEN, Stephen Bayley says,
‘The approval processes are strenous, there is poor regulatory framework, poor financial support to these schools from financial institution, poor rules and standards on the part of government for instance, heavy taxation, high teacher training services, weak academic leaders and poor quality assurance for school improvement.”

Government approval versus literacy
Ms. Solape Akodu is currently a JSS3 student of Federal Government Girls College Sagamu. She graduated from Hadex Nursery and Primary school, Ijede, where her mother was a teacher.

“Going by the government approval, this school does not meet up, yet their pupils sit for State Common Entrance and come out tops,” says Mr. Akodu,the girl’s father.

Also Oluchi Gregory is currently an SS1 student of Lagos State Model College, Igbo Okuta, Ikorodu. She graduated from Saphir Private School and according to Mrs Ojolo, she is doing great.

The United Nations Children Education Fund, UNICEF, recently found that about 10.5 million Nigerian children are out of school. The implication of this is multiple social burden such as Illiteracy, crime, early marriage, unemployment and terrorism.
Thus these schools bridge these gap.

DEEPEN, however believes that for ever success story, there are many other bad turn outs. It believes that the standards can be raised thus improving the lives of 1.5 million boys and girls enrolled in these schools.