The Vice Chancellor , University of Burkingham, UK, Professor James Tooley has said that there are about 2.1 million children currently receiving education in 14,000 low cost private schools in Nigeria. Seventy per cent of this figure, he said, are pre-school and primary school age children.
Tooley disclosed this, weekend, at the launch of Bukingham-Association for Formidable Educational Development (AFED) pilot teacher training programme, aimed at expanding qualitative and affordable education to every Nigerian child. He expressed excitement that AFED schools are sprawling all over Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.
According to him, "Nigeria is not alone. Across Africa, in Nairobi, Kenya, 75 per cent of children are in low cost private schools, in Kampala, Uganda, 80 per cent, Accra, Ghana, 70 per cent, urban India too, 70 or 80 per cent. From research, 30 of children in the rural area in India are in low cost private schools."
He said he had always had passion for private schools for the poor, adding that when he first came to Lagos, Nigeria, 20 years ago and taken through the third mainland, he was moved to go and see if there are poor schools in the slum of Makoko
" When I landed at the Muritala Mohammed Airport and was taken to Victoria Island passing through through the Third Mainland bridge, I told my host about shanty town of Makoko which I had seen and wanted to go there to find low cost schools, but he told me that its would be too dangerous to go there, but the next day I came on my own. I met someone there who introduced me to AFED. AFED was growing because people were not appreciating what the low cost schools were doing. I felt that there was something revolutionary going on in these schools."
The VC who spoke virtually, noted that he has been carrying out a study on low cost private schools across Africa and South Asia, adding that its shows that the schools are ubiquitous, movement into low cost private schools is of positive benefit, they don't discriminate, going into the schools leads to sustainable outcomes and also the preferred choice for parents.
According to the Don, "there are five key points the research shows across private schools; its is ubiquitous especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The second point is movement into the low cost private schools is of positive benefit and what we are doing now is bring teacher training programme to enhance teaching, that is not to say that what is going on there, is not good. Infact research showed that the teaching and learning in the low cost private schools is better than what goes on in the government-owned schools.
"We know we are committed to raising children we can do so well in our schools and community. Secondly achievement is higher, thirdly some of the critics say low cost private schools suffer from gender bias, you know that's not true when you see your school yourselves, in Lagos in particular. We have done research showing that private schools are fair, they don't discriminate, they want to serve all children in their community. Fourthly, to send a child to school, every child has to have books, shoes, uniform and pay for transport and the cost of those things are the same in low cost private schools.. The final point is controversial; most of the low cost private schools represented here by AFED, are run by entrepreneurs who created the schools as small businesses in a totally sustainable manner. Entrepreneurship is good because it leads to sustainable outcomes,"
Tooley enjoined AFED members to stand proud to improving the education of poor children as it would help to improve their learning experience.
In her remarks, the Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo thanked AFED for its support in impacting lives of poor children .
"I have always believed that there is a star in every child and we must help the child to become better. Secondly, I have always believed that every child deserves quality education no matter where the child lives or what his parents circumstances are, his gender or religion. That is why I have always said that the society cannot believe only on those that can only afford it alone, but they must be concerned for all. That means all of us must work together towards the same goal."
She said the society cannot afford to neglect children from the poor background, adding that the impact will be tremendous as witnessed in recent times.
"We are turning out too many people who are unskilled and they don't know what to do with their lives. If we truly work for equity, and solve the problems of inequality, then our society will be better for it," the commissioner said.
She urged the association to get the right people to be teachers so that they can learn the theory of teaching, adding that they must also upgrade their skills.
" It is very glaring that teachers are critical, teaching is a profession so we must develop our practices and code of conduct."
A total of 300 participants will be benefitting from a 9-months training, which will hold in six centres across the six educational districts in Lagos. They were also provided with Smart phones with internet connection, to enhance their training.
The Country Project Manager for AFED-Burkingham Teacher Training Programme , Dr. Ibukun Daramola commended James Tooley for supporting the association and ensuring that the products from the low cost private schools can become ones to be proud of.
" When AFED solicited for his support, Professor Tooley didn't find it difficult to throw its weight on the project."
He disclosed that the training will be entirely free for the participants, while commending the London team who have helped in designing its curriculum and content.
Daramola appealed to them to take the training seriously.
The President of the association, Mr. Orji Kanu Emmanuel also commended Tooley's support and passion to impact lives, adding that the objective is to ensure that children of poor parents who are mostly in low cost private schools get the best of education and be able to compete favourably with their counterparts in any part of the world.
"AFED will continue to leverage with Tooley to ensure that the programme comes to teachers of low cost schools," he said, while expressing optimism that with the training, in the next 9 months, will enable pupils and students to come out in flying colours.