Quality and equalities: a comparative study of public and low-cost private schools in Lagos

By Elaine Unterhalter, Lynsey Robinson and Jibrin Ibrahim

published 16 May 2018 updated 4 January 2022
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One of the greatest challenges facing Nigeria is rebuilding high-quality, free public education for all. State promises on this date back to the 1973 National Pledge and have been repeated in policies and declarations. However, repeated failures to fulfil these promises has led to private sector intervention, and the commercialisation of education.

It is estimated that currently 18,000 private schools operate in Lagos, a 50 percent increase since 2011. Private schools come in many different forms, some catering for elites, some for the middle classes, and some for the poor termed low-cost private schools.

This study investigates policies and practices in public and private schools, particularly those termed ‘low-cost’ private schools which aim to work with low income communities in Lagos State.

The research focused on three different neighbourhoods in Lagos. In each neighbourhood researchers visited a public school, a school that is part of the Bridge International Academies (BIA) chain of private schools, supported by UK development assistance, and another low cost provider.

In view of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on the provision of free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education to all children by 2030,  endorsed by the Nigerian and British governments, the research particularly focused on levels of fees charged in the different types of school, the attendant working conditions of teachers, and the ways in which quality and equalities were understood and put into practice.