The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) on Friday urged the federal and state governments to stop a foreign multi-national, Bridge International Academies, from allegedly misappropriating funds from international donors.
The union’s National President, Mr. Micheal Olukoya, made the appeal at the Launch of a Research Report entitled: “Quality and Equalities: A Comparative Study of Public and Low-Cost Private Schools in Lagos’’ on Thursday.
The research was carried out by Lynsey Robinson, Elaine Unterhalter and Jubril Ibrahim for Education International.
It investigated policies and practices in public and private schools, particularly those termed low-cost private schools from January to May this year.
Olukoya claimed that Bridge Academies had sought assistance from the British Government on behalf of Nigerian children to provide low-cost education.
At the launch organized by Education International, Belgium in partnership with NUT, it was disclosed that the research revealed that private schools have grown to 18,000 in Lagos, with limited or effective regulations.
Olukoya said that Bridge was receiving aid money from UK’s Department of International Development (DFID) without provoking access to education for Nigerian children.
He said the schools were not accessible to all, adding: “Certainly not for the poor and the disadvantaged children as requested by DFID.’’
He noted that over 3.45 million pounds had been donated from U.K. to Bridge to facilitate its entry into Nigeria.
He said the union had called on the British government to cease any further funding to Bridge.
According to Olukoya, the research has found that among private education providers in Lagos, Bridge is on the average more expensive for parents.
“Any fee, any economy barrier is an obstacle for access to education, particularly for girls and the socially disadvantaged.
“The school also uses unqualified staff, low standard for staff training and is less concerned about inclusiveness and equality than others,’’ he alleged.
“The Federal Republic of Nigeria remains in need of and appreciates the assistance of international agencies in working with it to strengthen our public school systems.’’
Olukoya, however, said that it was inappropriate that international aid was going into private hands.
“We consider it inappropriate that international development assistance is going to the private sector, rather than working with the government to develop quality in public schools.
“In effect, aid money is supporting the expansion of private schools. It is deplorable that millions of U.K. Taxpayers’ money are going to the wrong hands in the name of providing education for all.
“Bridge International Academies is a for-profit company operating illegally in Kenya, Liberia, and Uganda.
“We have written to the British Government to cease any further funding to Bridge International Academies and instead, invest in quality public education for all in Nigeria,’’ he said.
Olukoya said that the research also revealed that public schools in Lagos, which was free, had teachers with the highest level of qualifications and in-service training.
He urged the Lagos State Government to tighten its noose on low-cost profit-taking private schools.
Contributing, one of the researchers, Lynsey Robinson, said recommendations, including the development of a strict regulatory framework for all schools to employ only qualified teachers in primary and secondary schools, had been made.
Also, she said that the researchers recommended investment in public education and end to development assistance to Bridge schools in Nigeria.
Mrs. Assimilate Napoe, Chief Regional Coordinator for Educational International (EI), Africa, said the body would continue to support the NUT to achieve universal education for all.
Napoe said the research was carried out by the EI to ensure all children had access to quality education.
She said the research focused on three different neighbourhoods in Lagos, adding that Bridge schools had been banned in Liberia, Kenya, and Uganda and urged the Nigerian government to act fast.
Also, Prof. Samuel Ajiboye, Executive Secretary, Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), said the Council would investigate the schools and prosecute any employing unqualified teachers.
Ajiboye, represented the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu.
The Lagos State NUT Chairman, Segun Raheem, said that the outcome of the research indicated that public education was still the best for students.
He praised the Lagos State Government for improved teachers’ welfare, prompt payment of salary and regular promotions.