As part of SEED’s response to COVID19, our team got straight to work to fully understand the challenges emerging from closures of the 715+ SEED Schools in Lagos, Nigeria. Increase in number of COVID-19 cases and extension of lockdown days has now pointed to the fact that schools are not physically resuming anytime soon. On 22 April 2020, the Hon. Commissioner for Education in Lagos State, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, issued a press statement that third term remains postponed, however private schools can continue remote teaching so that students continue to learn. We are not against online/remote learning, but what about the vulnerable children amongst us that attend low-cost private schools (often regarded as “private schools for the poor”) that are not government funded.
Low-cost private schools in Lagos State accounts for over 60% (about 12,000) of the schools and educate millions of children from very poor communities. These schools typically survive from “hand to mouth” as they depend on the meager fees they receive from poor parents mostly on daily, weekly or monthly basis. Many of these schools were already facing other challenges prior to this crisis. For instance, most of the schools in Education District 5 (Badagry axis) had been adversely affected by the Benin border closures. Many of their parents’ incomes, which are mostly tied to border activities, had been negatively impacted.
Today, Nigeria has the largest number of extremely poor people in the world, has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world (13.2 million) and 4 out of 5 persons aged 15-24 are unable to read a full sentence. According to the Lagos State Governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu during his 2020 budget presentation, “Lagos faces an existential threat arising from the interplay of demographic and climate change. Lagos will continue to be a magnet for multitudes within and outside Nigeria, in search of jobs and economic prosperity. These levels of migration put phenomenal strain on the physical and fiscal resources of the State”. This infrastructure includes public schools. The growing population of the state and the market forces for education is responsible for the emergence and growth of low-cost private schools.
Education is way out of for many to escape poverty and SEED remains committed to ensuring quality education for all children. SEED supports schools that serve children from low-income families to build lasting pathways towards improving education quality. We work with schools to ensure to ensure they have the capacity to tackle the most common obstacles that stand in the way of providing quality education to local communities. We envision a world with transformative schools that enable children, no matter their background, to thrive and succeed. To date, SEED has served 715 schools with 5,986 staff and 65,170 children.
It is a struggle to find 1 out of 10 of my parents that have a smart phone and is online. Some that have an smart phone don’t stay with their children. The children are with their grandparents. I have thought of sending the children printed worksheets but I surely cannot sustain it because of cost as parents cannot pay anything right now. They are struggling with hunger. For now honestly, I am open to other suggestions that can help me keep them busy till after the lockdown. It seems we will be at home for a while. I sincerely hope that my school can survive this. Please come to our aid.
School Resilience Conversations
SEED embarked on a 3-Day conversation (18th – 20th April 2020) with our School Owners/Leaders via WhatsApp. The outcome of these conversations has been analyzed using the SWOT tool to provide an aggregated picture of what is at stake for most of the low-cost private schools in Lagos State that serve these vulnerable children.
|Goal: To ensure that children from low-income families continue to learn despite the school closures.|
Turning Insight Into Action
Making connections between each quadrant of the SWOT analysis, we worked around the square to highlight opportunities for key stakeholders which includes (not limited to):
Lagos State Government: Leverage the local community partnerships that exist with low-cost private schools for sensitization of free government Radio & TV school options and to distribute learning packets. Build trust with the low-cost private school sector by providing stimulus packages and/or relief funds for schools in exchange for their registration with government (as a vast majority of these schools are not on the government database). Embark on mass adult literacy trainings post COVID-19 linked to the parents in these schools. Revise Child Protection & Safeguarding policies and guidelines to provide for risks related to online/remote learning.
Financial Institutions: Build relationships with these schools by supporting their financial literacy education. Many of these schools do not understand cashflow management, a critical strategy for survival during crisis. Develop, maintain and increase if possible, access to finance/credit opportunities for these schools.
Network Providers: Provide concessions on the costs of data and advertise them as solutions for the education sector. Some schools are able to deploy tech tools for online learning but data is still a major challenge, besides hardware.
EdTech Companies: Support teachers with digital literacy trainings and resources. Provide increased access to online/remote learning resources for students
Local and International Donors/Funders: Design projects to support learners returning to the classroom post COVID-19. Provide flexibility with existing funding and additional short-term funding (as required) for grantees and investees.
As stakeholders, we know the priorities currently are public schools, however we appeal to you to consider the private education sector in Lagos State as they bridge the massive gaps in public education in the State with 18,000 private schools compared to the less than 2,000 public schools. Between 2010 – 2015 if government were to have provided education for the over 7.5 million children attending private schools, it would have amounted to N377 billion ($1.05 billion). With a population growth rate of 3.2% and an increasing demand for quality education options that parallels the growth of Nigeria’s economy, government will have between 2015 – 2025, N958 billion ($2.66 billion) to spend on strengthening public sector options [DEEPEN, 2018]. Imagine if majority of them do not survive this pandemic. Will the public schools in Lagos State be able to accommodate them and provide education for the millions of children they serve?
SEED is responding to the needs of schools through our SEED C.A.R.E.S. (COVID-19 Advocacy, Relief, Empowerment & Support) project. It is an intervention focused on ensuring that children get access to quality education, despite this crisis situation. It is a holistic project that will reduce the impact of the COVID-19 crisis by ensuring the children from low-income families in the schools we serve continue to learn despite the crisis and post COVID-19, they are able to remain in school. To learn more about SEED C.A.R.E.S., click here.
The time to support these schools is now. We need to support them in this crisis. These are the same schools that will do the hard work during the recovery period once they resume and they will be faced with a myriad of challenges. Nigeria is already in a bad state when it comes to education. If we do nothing, we are at risk of millions of children being left behind.