‘Mushroom schools,’ others save Lagos N377b in five years, research claims

By ENO-ABASI SUNDAY and UJUNWA ATUEYI   |   11 November 2015   |   11:02 pm  

Private,-12-11-15With an area of 356, 861 hectares of which 75, 755 hectares are wetlands, Lagos State is the smallest state in the country. As at 2006, the state’s population, as compiled by the National Populations Commission (NPC) was 9, 013, 534, while the figure stood at 17.5 million, based on the parallel count conducted by the state government during the national census exercise.

With a growth rate of 3.2 per cent, the state today, according to government sources, has a population of over 21 million. The United Nations estimates that at its present growth rate, the state will be third largest mega city in the world by 2015 after Tokyo in Japan and Bombay in India.

Of this population, Metropolitan Lagos, an area covering 37 per cent of the land area of the state is home to over 85 per cent of the entire population. The rate of population growth is about 600, 000 per annum with a population density of about 4, 193 persons per sq. km. In the built-up areas of Metropolitan Lagos, the average density is over 20, 000 persons per square km.

With the above scenario, the state has one of the largest private education markets in the world, going by the growing population. And with its aspiration to be Africa’s model megacity, education is recognised to be central to fulfilling this aspiration, just as the private sector remains a key player in the provision of education in the state and the country at large.

In view of this, Developing Effective Private Education Nigeria (DEEPEN), a five-year programme funded by United Kingdom’s (UK) Department for International Development (DFID) is seeking for the right incentives from the state government to enable private schools improve their services.

In the main, the focus of the DEEPEN project is to facilitate a more enabling environment for private schools especially the so called unapproved schools (usually referred as ‘mushroom’ schools), and create an effective market for them to offer quality education that would ensure improved learning outcomes in private schools, particularly for children from low-income households.

Since the private sector is a major player in the state’s education scene, dominating at the pre-primary and primary levels and serving children from all levels of households, it is clear a promising education future for the state requires going beyond state schools, thus the need to create an enabling market environment for the private sector.

Research findings

Making the official presentation of the research findings on behalf of the DEEPEN team during a stakeholders forum in Lagos, the Intervention Leader, (Rules and Standards) DEEPEN, Chioma Obi-Osuji, disclosed the research areas as fiscal savings from private sector participation in the provision of education; Monitoring Learning Achievements (MLA) of children attending private schools; and situational analysis of public and private examinations in Lagos State.

Obi-Osuji explained that the research derived the unit cost of public primary and secondary schools from government yearly spending on education, and calculated the savings to government from 2010/2011 academic session to 2014/2015 academic sessions.

It also calculated the estimated future savings for the next ten years as a result of the participation of private schools.
Fiscal Savings of Private Education in Lagos State

The study, the intervention leader explained further was completed in February 2015, and considers the fiscal savings accruing to government as a result of the participation of private schools in the provision of education in the state. The fiscal savings cover the last five years and next 10 years.

To arrive at their conclusions, the DEEPEN chief said: “We assumed that government budget figures are same as expenditure; government expenditure patterns remain the same; with yearly population growth rate of 3.2 per cent. The study was largely limited by data paucity.”

She added that the data available from yearly school census report shows that, population of students in public pre-primary and primary schools (2011-2013,) is 1, 564, 974; while that of secondary is 1, 774, 923. Unit cost per government student in the year under review is N71. 301b for pre-primary and primary and N120. 936b for secondary schools. Cost per student is N45, 560 for pre-primary/primary; and N68, 136 for secondary.

For the private sector, the total number of students educated in private schools from 2010/11 academic session to 2014/15 session is 2,623,775 for pre-primary; 3,334,792 for primary; 857,934 for junior secondary and 690,954 for senior secondary schools.

The research also found out that the unit cost to government for providing education at the primary and secondary levels are N45, 560 and N68, 136 respectively. From this analysis, the estimated savings to government as a result of the existence of private schools is N377b (2010/2011-2014/15) and potentially N958b in the next 10 years.

Low and medium fee private schools charging a yearly maximum fee of N25, 000 and N50, 000 respectively account for 62 per cent of these savings. The government unit cost for primary education is 45 per cent higher than the fees of low fee private schools and within the range of medium fee private schools, the report stated.

Speaking shortly after the presentation, DEEPEN’s team leader, Dr. Gboyega Ilusanya, said, “What this (findings) actually tell us is that assuming that these children had actually attended public sector schools, they would have cost the state a staggering amount of money. The analysis in essence, showed that the private sector have saved the state N377b over the past five years.

“It further revealed that participation of unapproved schools is saving the government about N200bn and then others added up, making it N377bn. That tells us a lot of stories. It means that government needs to think differently about public-private sector collaboration. It does not imply that government should be giving money to the private sector schools, but we should be looking at the challenges they face to operate in the business environment.”

Policy direction for LASG
With the findings, the DEEPEN team and other stakeholders at the forum charged the state government to spare a thought for private sector participation in the state’s education scene.

According to Ilusanya, “We are looking at an improved public-private partnership. With the slogan of LASG, ‘Making Lagos work for all,’ government should look at private schools and the challenges they are facing in the business environment and then help them solve these challenges. I think that is the way forward for the state. If this is done, it would galvanise a lot of economic activities for Lagos.”

Programme Manager of DFID Programme on Governance for Lagos State, Ifeanyi Peters Ugwuoke, described the findings as a revelation, an eye opener and a further justification to stakeholders’ perception on the contribution of private schools to the overall educational development in the state.

“Lagos is a huge market, no doubt. The significant contribution of private sector education to it brings out a couple of issues for government to begin to ponder about. They should view the private sector education as a contributor to social development because you can imagine what would have happened if there is no private sector education in Lagos state. That would be chaos.”

National President, Association for Formidable Educational Development (AFED), Mrs. Dada Ifejola, said government should begin to commend AFED schools’ participation and other medium and low cost schools, “because we are saving government a lot of money.”

She said since education is all about providing a better future for the Nigerian child, government should rethink their orientation about private school involvement and also create ideal operating environment as obtainable in other developed climes.

Also, Executive Director, Amville School, Ilupeju, Mrs. Mosun Owo-Odusi, who spoke on the sidelines of the event, said the research findings was a confirmation that the private sector has contributed immensely to the education sector in Lagos state.

“This has now been portrayed in figures to show what we have saved government from spending if it had to cater for all children in the state. Indeed it shows that private sector participation is fruitful in the state. So, government should begin to think of creating an enabling environment for the private sector.

She advised government to harmonise the taxes, levies, fees and difficulty in the area of land and building for school owners, saying, “Some of these levies are legal and some are illegal. All these need to be simplified and harmonised.”

Evidence of learning in Lagos private schools
As a baseline to evaluate the DEEPEN programme, Education Data, Research and Evaluation (EDOREN) collected data from 358 private schools across four local government areas of the state, and assessed the learning outcomes of 2,444 pupils in the early stages of Primary Three.

EDOREN found that children in Lagos private schools were learning more than expected, even though there exists room for improvement. Overall, children performed better in literacy than numeracy; just over half of Primary Three pupils in private schools in the four areas of Lagos have mastered the Primary Two literacy curriculums, and are achieving within the range expected of Primary Three pupils.

The performance of children in low (up to N25, 000), medium (between N25, 000 and N50 000) and high fee schools (between N50 000 and N100, 000) in early Primary Three is higher than the performance of pupils in public schools at the end of Primary Two, as measured through a survey conducted by the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN).

“We found a clear wealth-related pattern in learning achievement. For both literacy and numeracy, pupils who are below the poverty line perform worse than others, and pupils who are more than a year behind the majority of their peers are more likely to be from poor households,” the group added.
Situational analysis of examinations in Lagos State
According to ESSPIN, there was a consensus on the need for a free public uniform examination; there is confidence in the credibility of the current public examination system; results of both Primary Six and Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) indicate a fall in performance across all school types; examinations appear to be a revenue source for both government and schools alike; the focus of public and association examination appear to be more on transitioning than on performance improvement; and finally, assessing learning at early stages is absent.

However, Director General, Office of Lagos State Education Quality Assurance, Dr. Ronke Soyombo, who represented the Deputy Governor, Dr. Idiat Oluranti Adebule, while commending the DEEPEN team for their onerous task, stressed that efforts were underway to review the state schools’ curriculum and some policies by the new administration.

Quote:
The research also found out that the unit cost to government for providing education at the primary and secondary levels are N45, 560 and N68, 136 respectively. From this analysis, the estimated savings to government as a result of the existence of private schools is N377b (2010/2011-2014/15) and potentially N958b in the next 10yrs.

What this (findings) actually tell us is that assuming that these children had actually attended public sector schools, they would have cost the state a staggering amount of money. The analysis in essence, showed that the private sector have saved the state N377b over the past five years

Lagos is a huge market, no doubt. The significant contribution of private sector education to it brings out a couple of issues for government to begin to ponder about. They should view the private sector education as a contributor to social development because you can imagine what would have happened if there is no private sector education in Lagos state. That would be chaos

Low and medium fee private schools charging a yearly maximum fee of N25, 000 and N50, 000 respectively account for 62 per cent of these savings. The government unit cost for primary education is 45 per cent higher than the fees of low fee private schools and within the range of medium fee private schools



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