Wednesday, 6th December 2023

Proliferation of mushroom private schools in Lagos

By Tobi Awodipe
08 October 2016   |   3:52 am
The whole space is just a three-bedroom flat that was converted to a school. They hold morning assembly in the sitting room area (which also serves as the principal’s office and general waiting place).
 A private school without name or conducive environment for learning in Ijegun area of Lagos State PHOTOS: CHIAMAKA JACOBS

A private school without name or conducive environment for learning in Ijegun area of Lagos State PHOTOS: CHIAMAKA JACOBS

High Rise Nursery and Primary School is situated in Ikate, Surulere, nestled on the first floor of a two-storey building. When it is not a school, it also functions as a church on weeknights and weekends and any other time the proprietor deems fit. It serves as a tutorial centre in between as well.

The whole space is just a three-bedroom flat that was converted to a school. They hold morning assembly in the sitting room area (which also serves as the principal’s office and general waiting place).

When the students are on break, they play on the corridor infront of the school. This is not peculiar to this school, as this has sadly become the norm in many private and pubic schools in Lagos State.

Private schools are springing up like weeds in every corner, with many claiming to be ‘international’ schools or offering ‘Montessori’ curriculum/education, which is seldom the case. Several people have attributed this phenomenon to the economic problems occasioned by the recent recession in the country and the erroneous belief that the worst private school is better than government-owned schools.

Most of the schools visited by The Guardian operate in flats, rooms or worse still, wooden sheds haphazardly put together with inscription ‘Government Approved’ brazenly stamped in front, almost like a paradoxical sign that would make anyone wonder which arm of government approved the illegality.

Most of these private schools have no compound, no fields, no laboratories of any kind. Morning assembly is held in the passage and sports wears are just worn on certain days without any real sports or play ground.

Mr. John (surname withheld) is the proprietor of Morning Glory Private Schools in Ikorodu. The school recently closed down for reason that government was taxing them heavily and arbitrarily.

According to him: “For you to run a school successfully, you have to have mystical powers as it is a tough business. Competition is too much as there are too many schools and if you are not ‘strong’, you cannot survive.

“This is affecting us badly and government is not helping matters at all. They tax us outrageously, coupled with other overheads. We are barely making ends meet. With all the excess and sometimes, fraudulent taxation, how are we to survive? It is part of the reason we keep increasing fees.”

When told that he was making use of barely qualified teachers to begin with, he said they were qualified enough for primary school level. Most of the teachers were secondary school leavers or waiting for admissions into higher institutions. The most qualified teacher barely managed to pass NCE. He said to get qualified and good teachers was hard as most teachers do not stay, but move from one school to the other once that school increases the salary by meagre N5,000.

Another school, Lords Blossoming International School, built with plywood and roofing sheets with two rooms and two teachers is one of the several ‘private schools’ that claim to have secured government approval. The second teacher is also the proprietor and head teacher.

When The Guardian asked to see their approval, they claimed that they were in the process of getting approval. All the little kids were huddled in a single ‘class’ after assembly that was held on the corridor. The school is right beside a plantain chips factory and is not fenced. The school has no toilet, in fact, no facility of any kind.

A proprietor who doesn’t want his name in print revealed that most of these private schools started as daycares after school lessons or private lessons centres. And after a while they blossom into schools, while their secondary counterparts usually start off as after school lessons and JAMB/NECO/A Levels tutorials centres before transforming into full blown schools.

He lamented that most of these schools go through the backdoor in getting approvals and the government officials turn blind eyes to their inadequacies. He admitted that a lot of sharp practices were going on, but since nobody was saying anything, he too has decided to look the other way.

Mrs. Adeola Adeyemi, a parent who spoke to The Guardian at the entrance of one of the private schools, divulged that she knew the school was not too good, but she believed it is still better than public schools, where the students are jam-packed in the classes and are very rough.

“The children are too many in the classes and the teachers are not really dedicated unlike private schools, where the proprietor can enforce discipline. My child was attending a public school before, but he was learning bad words and was always fighting and coming home with injuries, so his father asked me to withdraw him and put him in a private school. This school is not ‘too okay’ but at least, it is manageable. The fees are a bit high too, but what can I do? It is still better than some other schools that were calling thousands of Naira for ordinary primary school. His teacher speaks Yoruba to them a lot, too, but what can I do about that either,” she said.

Nearly every street in Lagos parades a plethora of schools in almost every building with students and under- qualified teachers and very poor teaching and learning environment with scant regards to safety and environmental laws.

Just last month in one of the private schools (name withheld) some students were playing outside and one of them fell into an open gutter, seriously injuring herself and had to be operated upon. The school is still functioning till date and it is doubtful if the management were sanctioned for gross negligence and poor safety standards. This is even as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said playing is not luxury, but a necessity for children.

The President of the National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), Lagos Chapter, Alhaji Kamal Akande, in an interview with The Guardian said the association didn’t have any power outside of government policies.

“Supervision is government’s responsibility, we only liaise between government and our members to follow government’s policy on education. We intimate our members on new policy methods in Lagos and advise them on what to do, but we can’t force things if government isn’t doing its part. There are laid down procedures to follow before any school can be registered and you must satisfy at least 70% before your school can be registered. The Ministry of Education is responsible for monitoring and inspecting the quality of schools not us,” he said.

He added that some proprietors feel that the fees paid by the students are not enough to pay competent teachers, so they cut corners.

“Anyone can join the association once you have a school, but we believe you must have been approved before joining. Sadly, some owners just put ‘Government Approved’ to deceive people and when officials come around, they ‘settle’ them. When we ask for their approval letter, they claim they are processing it. Some cannot even run primary school properly, but before you know it, they have opened secondary school as well.

“The government has a huge role to play in helping us close down these substandard schools. Unfortunately, many have ‘godfathers’ that protect them, while most government officials have been compromised. It is not my duty to close these schools or call them to order. It is the duty of the government. Most of these schools employ school certificate holders as teachers, what do you want these children to know? We have been calling on the government to help rid us of these fakes to no avail. Parents complain that our fees are too high and so they take their kids to these cheaper, substandard schools, believing they are better than government schools. That is what is killing our educational standard in Nigeria today,” he said.

Living Rooms, Shanties Now Private Schools
By Chiamaka Jacobs
IT is a belief that the easiest way to make money is by either owning a church or a school. This belief has led many into opting for the school, rather than other businesses. The educational sector has witnessed rapid decrease in standard, following the increasing rate of unqualified schools in Nigeria.

This is the unfortunate case of the pupils of Wisdom Base Nursery And Primary School, where you have a burial ground right beside the structure made out of wood. One cannot help but notice how unsafe and risky the compound is owing to the fact that it is not fenced or protected by any security personnel, leaving the children at the mercy of kidnappers or at worse ritual killers.

The display of lack of organisation in the school is alarming as you have teachers selling biscuits, sweets, milk, biro, flavored yoghurts, etc. to the children and even outsiders, and this trade is carried out on the table she ought to use to keep text books, exercise books and other learning materials.

According to the accreditation criteria of a government-approved school, a primary school must have a big room as an administrative department where parents who want to enroll children into the school are welcomed. But in the case of Wisdom Base, parents are received in classrooms, a situation where children who are supposed to pay attention to the teacher lose focus because of the unfamiliar faces they see.

Again, a government-approved school should have a functional library for pupils who cannot afford to buy textbooks to have access to the library. Unfortunately, this school has a small room as its library, storeroom, bookshop and the headmistress’ office that has no chair for either the headmistress or visitor.

During rainy seasons, water floods the room, causing her to evacuate the room to find a suitable shelter, possibly her home.

So many things like toilet facility, basic health scheme, qualified teachers, etc. are lacking in this school. A school where you have unqualified teachers who don’t have good command of English, teach these children, the children are at the receiving end.

Mushroom Schools In Suburbs
By Henry Ekemezie
IN various communities, the reason most students fail examination is because of their inability to do well in classes, basically not because they are dullards, but the issue is that their environment isn’t always conducive for learning. Some schools have hazardous environment, mostly with bad structures haphazardly put together, walls almost collapsing; roofs almost falling off on pupils’ heads.

The Guardian investigation of some of these schools in various parts of Lagos State revealed that most of them in the right sense cannot be called school.

In Ijegun, Alimosho Local Council for example, the structures of some schools looked like old houses in a forgotten community. The classrooms are usually dark and untidy with broken ceilings; students are taught with faded chalkboards.

When it is time for break/lunch, the students go out to shops around the environment to get food and other consumables and this puts their lives at risk by exposing them to abductors who may be lurking around the vicinity.

Economic Recession Compel Parents To Patronise Substandard Schools
By Temitope Makinde
THE opportunity to enrol their wards in big schools in Lagos becomes a mission impossible for parents as the country’s economic situation bites harder.
Some parents now enroll their wards/children in mushroom schools regardless of their teaching standards and conducive environment for learning.

A parent, Mrs Biola Aduradola, who resides in Ikotun, said: “My son had to switch from Jimad Group of Schools at Ijegun just because we cannot afford the school fees again.”

Another resident of Isheri/Ijegun, Mrs. Eniola James, also said: “We all love good things, I also want my child to attend at least a middle class school, but as things are in the country we have to adapt to the system by also switching to the school which we can afford”.

The advent of most of these mushrooms schools in the society today lies in the fact that they seize the opportunity of a few number of government-owned schools in the community, that are not conducive enough for the students.

Parents, Stakeholders Blame Govt For Increasing Rate Of Mushroom Private Schools
By Shakirat Odunayo
DUE to lapses of the government at all levels to provide good educational system, private individuals have dabbled into the educational system to make money.

According to the Proprietress of Salmat Citadel Montessori School: “The standard of a school can never be determined by structure, likewise the structure is important because the environment of the school is very vital. The most important thing to look at is the effectiveness of educational programme in the school.

“Taking Idimu in Alimosho Local Government as a case study. Idimu is a densely populated area, there are just two schools owned by the government, a primary and secondary. One primary and one secondary school cannot cater for educational needs of the pupils in this area, the number of primary school children is more than the facilities on ground. So the government cannot do it all alone, they need private initiatives to complement whatever they are doing. In terms of quality, some of these schools offer a good quality education while some of them need to be trained and monitored.

“People living in this kind of area are below average as most of them cannot afford very expensive schools. School owners in this kind of area cannot put up a high standard structure. The most important thing is for the government to monitor activities in the schools and there should be a continuous training for the schools. I have been running a school system for the past 10 years, teaching profession was destroyed because some people refuse to do their part years back and it is gradually affecting the educational qualification of people. It is a general loss of values,” she said.

During an interview to get competent teachers she said she realised that there were lots of BSC, HND holders that are not qualified to be a class teacher as some SSCE holders are far better than them. She said government should run a continuous teaching programme for teachers in Nigeria.

Education Stakeholders In Ondo Decry Quackery Among Teachers
From Oluwaseun Akingboye, Akure.
STAKEHOLDERS in the education sector in Ondo State have decried the continued proliferation of substandard private schools across the 18 local councils of the state, attributing it to the major cause of the continued slide in the nation’s education.

According to the latest report of the Community Development Statistics Survey 2010 produced by the Ondo State Bureau of Statistics, there are 506 private primary schools, 105 private secondary schools, one private school of health in Akure South, a private college of education in Ifedore local council and three private universities.

A parent, Mrs Adetoba Felicia, who spoke with The Guardian in Owo local council, where one of the private universities was situated, lamented the alarming rate at which quackery is growing unchecked in the education sector.

Though Adetoba mentioned that none of her wards attends any of the private schools from elementary to tertiary, she pointed out that the public schools, too, are not spared of the malaise in the system which included such unqualified teachers, poor curriculum, inadequate instructional materials and teaching environment. These are much more pronounced in the private schools.

Mr. Adeniyi Adeyelu, a father whose ward is in primary one, decried the deplorable state of infrastructure in the private schools.

“Many of the classrooms in the private schools are eye-sores and you wouldn’t believe that pupils and students are learning in such terrible environment. Many of the school structures are as bad as the quality of the teachers,” Adeyelu said.

He pointed out that most of the “mushroom schools” employed the services of teachers who are not in any way qualified to give the pupils standard education, stressing that almost 80 percent of teachers in the private schools are O’ level drop-outs and never-do-wells.”

Meanwhile, the Ondo State Commissioner for Education, Arch. Jide Adejuyigbe, declared that the efforts to raise the standard of education necessitated the establishment of 51 Mega schools across the 18 local councils of the state by the administration of Governor Olusegun Mimiko.

Adejuyigbe affirmed that the idea was basically to complement the already existing schools and to provide a solid educational foundation for Ondo students by building state-of-the art structures, equipment, facilities and trendy teachers that have won several international accolades and recognition.

The commissioner declared that the state government is working with associations and unions like the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), All Nigerian Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPPS) and Parents Teachers Association (PTA) in the state to improve on the standard of education in the state.

Private Schools Not A Cash Cow, Say Proprietors
By Ujunwa Atueyi
For the Proprietress of TLS School, Ikoyi, Mrs Olubunmi Egbeyemi, the perception that school owners make a lot of money is wrong, particularly those that love quality. “Running a functional quality private school involves huge capital in a country where electricity is unstable,” she added.

“There is a perception that school business is a cash cow, it is wrong. We make money sure. School fees are paid but for every fee paid we spend a lot on materials, salaries and maintenance. As a very passionate school owner, we go the extra mile to provide quality teaching and services in the interest of our pupils, because we know it will benefit our country in the long run.

“There is no private school that doesn’t have at least two generators. Sometime last school year, we had to rent a generator for close to two weeks at the rate of N30,000 per day. Where is the savings? Government needs to support us by improving on power supply.”

Stressing that getting resourceful teachers to deliver the school content to learners appropriately is another big challenge, she expressed: “We are blessed in Nigeria with very brilliant ladies and gentlemen who thankfully love teaching. As a school, we spend a lot on training for the teachers to go the extra mile and also engage in personal development, while battling with other environmental factors.

“We are hoping and praying, too, that the economy gets better because there is so much task for employers. Government dues are there to pay too. We all comply by paying annual dues some others come up with other levies and you just wonder. For the love of the profession private schools are thriving and working hand in hand with the Ministry of Education. There was a stakeholders meeting during the week we are hoping that the power situation gets better and the economy improves,” she said

Another proprietress who does not want her name in print told The Guardian that running a private school in Lagos state is very demanding, as it requires huge finance.