Nigerian children targeted by for-profit education corporation

published 28 May 2018 updated 4 January 2022

Foreign edu-business corporations, such as Bridge International Academies (BIA), are targeting families in Lagos, Nigeria by setting up fee charging education facilities to expand their business model. For parents looking for a quality school for their children, is this a good option?

Nigeria is just one of the targets of Bridge, whose facilities have been shut down in Kenya and Uganda for violating their national laws. In March, Uganda’s high court determined that Bridge set out to operate illegally, with blatant disregard for minimum standards required by law.

Bridge is one of the largest education for-profit companies in the world, with plans to sell services to 10 million fee-paying students throughout Africa and Asia by 2025. According to new research launched on May 31, in Lagos, Nigeria, by Education International, the Bridge facilities, which use unqualified staff paid at low wages, are not a quality option for the students who attend or for the communities in which they live.

The study: Quality and Equalities: a comparative study of public and low-cost private schools in Lagos, analyses how public and private schools in Lagos deliver on quality and equality, particularly for children from poor households.

More expensive, lower qualifications

According to the research, since the 1980s there has been inadequate state provision for primary schooling in Lagos. A huge private sector has grown with very limited effective regulation. Currently, about 18,000 private schools operate in Lagos, a 50 percent increase since 2011. Furthermore, foreign aid money has supported the expansion of private schools. Notably, in 2014, £3.45 million from UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) was paid to Bridge International Academies, facilitating its entry into Lagos. In other words, government aid designed for development assistance is instead going to controversial private operators.

The research found that among private education providers, Bridge is on average more expensive for parents, uses unqualified staff, has low standards for staff training and is less concerned about inclusiveness and equality than others. By comparison, public schools in Lagos, which are free, have teachers with the highest level of qualification - all have formal teaching qualifications and inservice training.

The researchers also found that despite the limited funding and other challenges faced by public schools, the teachers were dedicated to their students and to the values of equality and inclusiveness.

Invest in public education

Against this backdrop, the Secretary General of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Dr. Mike Ike Ene, stated: “Low cost private schools, are not an alternative to public education. If investments are not made in public education the needs of all children will not be met and quality and equality in schooling will be further undermined. We support Education International in conducting this research which also highlights the professionalism and dedication of Nigeria’s public school teachers and their commitment despite the challenges to providing quality education for all”, he added.

“Education is a public good and the right of every child, and therefore its provision should be a fundamental responsibility of government,” stated in a joint release the president of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) Michael A. Olukoya National President and Dr. Mike Ike Ene, Secretary General of NUT “Any fee, any economic barrier is an obstacle to access to education, particularly for girls and the socially disadvantaged. To date, global progress in education access has only been possible thanks to the public sector expansion and the abolition of fees,” they added.

David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International, went on to say: “This is not the first time our research exposes the exploitative practices of this education business chain. From Kenya, to Uganda, to Liberia, we have seen how Bridge facilities are contributing to the deepening of segregation in education. They undermine the right of children to free quality education.“

The report Quality and Equalities: a comparative study of public and low-cost private schools in Lagos by Unterhalter E., Robinson L., & Ibrahim J. (2018) is available here: pdf

The executive summary is available here: pdf.

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