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Developing Effective Private Education in Nigeria How to solve Lagos State’s education conundrum?

Private schools are now a major player on the Lagos education scene, dominating at the pre-primary and primary levels. Approximately 18,000 schools have opened, with the majority unapproved by the government, and offering varying standards of education and facilities. As many as 1.4 million children are spread across these private schools, against just 1.1 million children in 1,600 public schools. The success of this new sector is critical for Lagos’s aspirations of becoming a major player on the global stage.

In 2013, the state government invited DFID Nigeria to fund a five-year programme to address the market constraints faced by private schools, providing support and guidance to help them become a formal contributor to the city’s future.

Fast facts
More than 525,000 children from across nearly 5,000 schools have directly benefitted from DEEPEN’s interventions
Of these schools, half have received loans, and over a third rate their financial position to be ‘stronger’ than what it was 12 months ago
Over 200 episodes of education radio programmes have been broadcast with an average of 800,000 listeners monthly
New private schools are opening almost every day in Lagos, sometimes with inadequate facilities and substandard teaching. However, parents are prepared to find the money, as these private schools are perceived to offer better quality education when compared to government schools. Overall, the poor levels of numeracy and literacy in Lagos remain a significant barrier as the city tries to adjust to rapid population growth.

While private schools give a potential solution for the growing problems of access to education, they face stark financial hurdles that threaten to disrupt their development, especially at the lower end of the market. Unregulated by the government, banks are reluctant to offer credit. Parents with informal employment often pay late or not in full. The proprietors may bring enthusiasm for education, but many have little experience in financial planning or cash flow management. The severe arrears can destabilise the sustainability of the school as a business and deprive them of the means to invest in improving educational quality.

Cambridge Education is the managing partner for DEEPEN (Developing Effective Private Education Nigeria), an initiative by DFID to improve learning outcomes in Lagos’ private schools. Using a market-development approach, the programme continues the progress from the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN), with a particular focus on improving learning outcomes of children from low-income families.

Our team conducted a detailed market analysis to identify the main constraints for improved private education in Lagos, with subsequent interventions classified into four priority areas:

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