By: Dare Akogun

The inability of the La­gos State Government to match growing demand for quality and affordable educa­tion with human resource and infrastructural development, is taking its toll on the state’s free and compulsory education from primary to junior and senior secondary schools.

Lagos State, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria, nay West Africa often prides as the model of excellence in the provi­sion of education in Africa, by providing high quality educa­tion, accessible to all learners through effective and efficient management of resources for the attainment of self-reliance and socio-economic develop­ment.

Sadly, these lofty dream is just written in black and white without implementation as it’s an open secret that increasing number of parents prefers low-cost private schools to meet their wards educational demand to going to the free public schools, due to array of reasons.

Concerned about low qual­ity and access to learning in public schools and deterred by high costs in approved private schools in the state, parents are withdrawing their children from public schools in prefer­ence to low-cost unapproved schools in densely populated ar­eas and slums.

In 2013, the United Kingdom Department for International Development, DFID launched an intervention for the Develop­ing Effective Private Education Nigeria, DEEPEN, with a five year plan to create a vibrant and dynamic market for private edu­cation in low-cost schools across Lagos.

In a research conducted by DEEPEN across the state it was discovered that there are about 18, 000 private schools cater­ing for the requirements from pre-school to senior secondary school.

It was also discovered that these schools categorised under low-paying with tuitions rang­ing from N0 to N25,000 per year, N25,001 to N50,000 for medium-cost and N50,001 to N100,000 high cost private schools respectively.

The findings also revealed that these schools are currently catering for about 1.4 million school children as against the 1.1 million being served by the public schools which stand currently at 1,600.

With these findings at least 55 per cent of schoolchildren in Lagos and still counting, have left government (public) schools for unapproved schools in low-resource settlements despite the state government’s free educa­tion.

Quality of education contin­ues to be an important consid­eration in parents’ choice of school. On average, perceptions of the quality of learning and teachers’ performance were similar across all the sites.

Overall, parents perceived that the quality of learning and teachers’ performance was higher in private schools than in government schools.

Findings by this reporter show that proliferation of low-cost illegal schools and esca­lating insecurity in informal settlements are gradually erod­ing confidence in public schools. The study conducted in Lagos Island area of the state, also brought out the socio-cultural trends that determine how par­ents make decisions on quality of education they want for their children by sending their wards to private schools than the gov­ernment own despite visible disadvantages of these so-called schools.

These choices are determined and not limited to the “cheap-is-expensive” mantra, parents and guardians in poor economic set­tings invest in their children’s future as they give the often overcrowded and overly under-resourced government-aided schools a wide berth.

Parents frequently said that ‘over population’ in government schools was largely to blame for the low standards in govern­ment schools.

Parents used the expres­sion ‘over population’ to refer to both the huge size of gov­ernment schools and, in some cases, their overcrowded con­ditions.

Related concerns were insuf­ficient classrooms and short­ages of teachers.

Over population can also be said to be blamed for poor learning conditions as analysts believed that an over populated class is too intimidating for young children and, in some schools, it made the environ­ment unsafe for the younger ones.

Parents often responded to questions about why they pre­ferred private schools by say­ing that the teachers ‘know how to teach’. In contrast, claims were made about government school teachers with parents frequently saying the teachers did not care about the children rather they concentrated more on making extra money from the sales of wares to their col­leagues.

It’s surprising that despite DEEPEN’s survey which re­vealed that most low-cost pri­vate school teachers are not qualified teachers, parents who patronize them are not bothered about such claim. Rather they are interested in the attention the teachers give to their wards.

Also parents who mostly cannot afford formal private schools, prefer unapproved low-cost schools in informal settle­ments because the student-book ratio according to them is even and teaching is relatively stu­dent-based.

This, it was discovered, was informed by some factors promi­nently of whom is security and well-being of their children and availability of ‘Early Childhood Development Component’ clos­est to their work place and shops as the case may be, which most public schools lack.

A trader who deals on lace material in Balogun Market and have two children in a school lo­cated in the market noted that she choose the school based on the proximity to her shop.

“I don’t need to worry about going to pick my child after clos­ing hour. I stay in Ikorodu but the school is just a stone throw to my shop. So it enables me to concentrate on my market , while the child gets the needed education,” she stated.

She also said that she decided to take her child to the school because of the medium of com­munication, which is mostly English language which enables the children to communicate ef­fectively.

Analysts are of the view that more of such private schools should be encouraged as alter­native for those who cannot af­ford those expensive ones but the government should check­mate exploitation by checking the excesses of the proprietors.

Schools are also advised to introduce and emphasize on de­bating competition right from class four to encourage teachers to work hard in teaching their pupils how to read and express themselves using good spoken English. This would help over­come inferiority complex and improve speech and reading skills.

Source: National Mirror