Private Schools: Citadel of learning or business centres?
The development brought about the proliferation of private schools across the country. The situation has even made governments to return schools to former owners, while attempts are being made by the government to privatize government-owned schools. Today, private schools are at every nooks and crannies of the country with Lagos State leading the pack.
With 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. The question is; is private schools citadel of learning or business centres?