Proprietors of low-cost private schools and vocational training centres in Lagos State, who are still battling with the impact of COVID19 pandemic on their school businesses can now heave a sigh of relief.
This is sequel to the opening of the online portal through which schools that are negatively impacted by COVID 19 can obtain FirstEdu loan which will help them to ameliorate the negative consequences of COVID 19 on their businesses.
And to enhance easy access to the loan, the Lagos state Government, through its agency, the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), is inviting applications from proprietors of private schools interested in the scheme through the portal for LSETF FIRSTEDU LOAN Programme which is now open to the public. Interested schools can apply through the portal’s link https://apply.lsetf.ng
The partnership between the Lagos state government and First Bank is Lagos state government is partnering with First Bank has yielded a ₦5bn Post COVID Recovery Support for stakeholders in the education sector in the state.
Through the partnership, LSETF & FirstBankngr will collaborate to provide matching funds that would be disbursed as a loan programme to support low-cost private schools and vocational training centres in Lagos State.
Meanwhile, First Bank’s FirstEdu is also offering financial Succour to beleaguered owners of private schools in other parts of the country. The loan is designed to assist Nursery and Primary schools as well as private Secondary schools, who are facing challenges in the area of provision of adequate infrastructures to overcome these challenges.
A statement by the Bank’s Group Head of Marketing & Corporate Communications, Folake Ani-Mumuney, said FirstEdu which comprises FirstEdu loan and FirstEdu portal, is “specifically designed to enhance the educational facilities in private schools.
The statement added that FirstEdu loan will assist private Nursery and Primary and Secondary schools in achieving their desired growth in the medium and long-term”
Among the benefits of the loan are funds for replacement of old school furniture, equipment, payment of staff salaries, purchase of brand new or fairly-used buses as well as refurbishment of dilapidated buildings and classroom blocks.
Folake Ani-Mumuney said further in the statement that through FirstEdu schools can access the facility being offered with no tangible collateral, apart from domiciliation of school fees account with the Bank.
In addition, according to Folake Ani-Mumuney, “FirstEdu portal is a modular and robust web-based enterprise portal that enables Tertiary educational institutions manage academic, administrative, professional, logistics and payment challenges”.
“The basis for its robustness is to take the stress of logistics, administrative and payment challenges off the institutions, as they focus on meeting their year-long, medium and long-term objectives”.
The product features and benefits include; e-Learning, virtual library and facilitation of exchange programmes with foreign educational institutions; academic & student events/time-table/calendar management; school fees payment via the internet; online information and result checking; interactive community forum between students and teachers. It also affords applicants the opportunity of enrolling from the comfort of their homes or any location around the world; no licensing, installation and maintenance cost and plugs avenues for revenue leakages amongst others.
Giving a further insight to the benefits of FirstEdu, Mr. Chuma Ezirim, the Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products, of the bank, said “with FirstEdu, private schools across the various tiers of education in Nigeria; elementary, secondary and tertiary, have the right tool to boost their business to the level they desire. With over N5 billion loans already disbursed to schools this year alone, we are committed to supporting growth in this key sector of our economy.”’
FirstEdu Loan For Beleaguered Schools
The ravaging COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked further havoc on the nation’s education system as the West African Examination Council (WAEC) has been forced to indefinitely put off the 2021 West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination.
Addressing newsmen in Lagos on Tuesday during the release of results of WASSCE for private candidates 2021- first series, Head of the National Office of WAEC, Mr Patrick Areghan, said the effects COVID-19 on schools’ academic calendar compelled WAEC to shift the examination.
“Let me also use this opportunity to dispel rumors being peddled around by some people regarding the conduct of the WASSCE for School Candidates in 2021. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still very much felt in the education sector. The academic calendar has been distorted. It will, therefore, not be possible to have the examination in May/June this year.”
The WAEC boss said further that “ a convenient international timetable for the conduct of the examination will soon be released. All stakeholders are requested to keep their fingers crossed until they hear from WAEC.”
Areghan urged secondary school principals and proprietors to keep to time in the enrollment of their candidates, adding that “it is important to re-emphasize the role of Continuous Assessment Scores (CASS) in the computation of candidates’ results. All schools are advised to get this aspect of the registration process right in order to make the entry processes seamless.”
While announcing the results of WASSCE, for private candidates in 2021- first series, 26 days after the conduct of the examination, the sub-regional examination body said more female candidates obtained a minimum of five credits in subjects including English Language and Mathematics, than their male counterparts.
In his breakdown of the results, Areghan also noted a drop in the number of entries for the examination compared to the previous year.
He declared: “A total of Seven Thousand Six Hundred and Ninety (7,690) (representing a 38% decline, when compared with the 2020 entry figure) put in for the examination, while Seven Thousand Two Hundred and Eighty-Nine (7,289) candidates actually sat for the examination at Two Hundred and Fifty-Two (252) centres spread across the nooks and crannies of the country.
“The drop in the entry figure could be attributed to the negative impact of the COVID– 19 pandemic. A total of Twenty-Three (23) candidates with varying degrees of Special Needs were registered for the examination. Out of this number, Six (6) were visually challenged, Two (2) had impaired hearing; Five (5) were Albino; One (1)was spastic cum mentally challenged, and Nine (9) were physically challenged with their results processed and also released. “
He said further that out of the the total number of Seven Thousand Two Hundred and Eighty-Nine (7,289) candidates that sat for the examination, Three Thousand Five Hundred and Ninety-Three (3,593) were males while Three Thousand Six Hundred and Ninety-Six (3,696) were females, representing 49.29% and 50.71%, respectively. ”
Of this number, according to Areghan, “one Thousand and Seventy-Four (1,074) i.e. 48.93% were male candidates, while One Thousand, One Hundred and Twenty-One (1,121) i.e. 51.07% were female candidates. The percentage of candidates in this category in the WASSCE for Private Candidates, 2019 and 2020, that is, those who obtained credit and above in a minimum of five (5) subjects, including English Language and Mathematics, were 26.08% and 32.23%respectively. Thus, there is a marginal decrease of 2.12%” Mr Areghan noted.
There is bequeath to his or her children because it helps children to develop their innate abilities and skills which they can readily deploy in proffering solutions to any problem or challenges that may confront them in life. In this regard, education is seen as an investment in human capital development. Thus for any nation to maximize the benefits of education for her sustainable development, such nation must invest heavily in the education of its citizenry. This is one of the reasons the importance of education will continue to receive the attention of all stakeholders both at the local, state, and federal levels in Nigeria.
Nigeria got her independence from the British government in 1960 and since then there has not been any appreciable development as the economy is still in comatose stage despite huge financial resources that have accrued to her The standard of education has continuously been in downward trend due to underfunding whereas the enrolment at all level of education has been on the increase. The quality and standard of education in Nigeria cannot be compared with what is obtainable in developed nations which is directly or indirectly undermining its development process.
Orji and Job are of the opinion that in order to position the Nigerian economy for a more desirable and meaningful development, the challenges facing the Nigerian educational sector and its reforms should be approached in a more pragmatic manner that would ensure sustainability, soundness, and healthy environment in the system. The government at all levels should desist from paying lips services to many problems facing the sector which is considered pivotal to the economic transformation of any nation.
In Nigeria, one of the challenges in the education sector is the skewness nature in the trend of recurrent expenditure on education. In 2015 and 2016, the federal government budget for education was N392.4billion and N369.6 billion representing 15.05% and 9.32% respectively of the total budget. This shows the insensitivity of the government to educational development when compared to Ghana 31% allocation of budget to education. This allocation is far below the 26% recommended by the United Nations Education, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for developing countries. The underfunding has resulted to frequent and unabated clampdown on schools through strike actions usually embarked upon by teachers/lecturers, paucity of instructional materials, poor infrastructural facilities thus making teaching and learning un-conducive. It is worrisome that virtually all tertiary institutions in Nigeria lack basic facilities for teaching and learning such as well-equipped laboratories, residential and lecture halls, security and healthcare for both the students and lecturers. While over ten million children are still out-of-school, underfunding is seriously affecting the quality of teaching and learning in 187 institutions which comprised of federal universities (40), federal polytechnics (21), federal colleges of education (22) and unity colleges (104) aside state educational institutions.
It has clearly been brought to fore that in order to revive the Nigerian economy, there is an urgent need to aggressively and purposefully fund education sector with a view to generating the needed human capital capacity. It would be absolutely impossible for Nigeria to realize her dream of being among the top 20 economies in the world by 2020 if the present status of her educational sector remains unchanged in view of the latest ranking as enunciated above. The strategic sectors of the Nigerian economy like power, health, education, agriculture, manufacturing and ICT needs competent professionals to survive and upturn the current economic woes. This can only be realized if sufficient funds are invested in the education sector which is the backbone of any economy.
The question is how can meaningful research and discovery be carried out in the face of these myriad problems? Until this challenge is reasonably overcome, Nigeria will continue to look up to developed nations for transfer technology. It is based on this backdrop that this paper intends to critically look into the strategic importance of education in achieving the needed development in an economy.
A closer and critical assessment of primary and secondary schools funding showed insignificant correlation with the GDP. This portends critical implication to the growth of the national economy because these segments of the educational level are foundational to any educational endeavor or pursuit. If the foundation is not solid then, the performances at the institutions of higher learning will be negatively affected. There is the need to fund education with a view to positioning the sector for more robust performance in order to lift the productive capacity of the economy.
The current sectorial allocation to education from the National budget, cannot help to achieve the needed economic growth and development. It is therefore recommended that the government should endeavour to meet and even strive to exceed the 26% benchmark allocation to education as recommended by UNESCO.