That there is an urgent need for the private sector to become more involved in the funding and management of Nigeria’s educational sector is a fact that cannot be over emphasized. This necessity is backed by a by a provision in Section II Sub-section 109 of the National Policy on Education (NPE), which specifies that education should be a concurrent responsibility of government at all levels, and that the private sector which makes significant contributions towards the development of the society, has key roles to play in the educational sector.
Sustainable development is impossible without quality education, an inviolable, inalienable fundamental human right. The multiple challenges of structural violence, inequality, poverty, disease, unemployment and other visceral problems that plague all human societies cannot be overcome without, first, advancing the objectives of education.
The Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) seeks to ensure comprehensive, qualitative, accessible education for children globally by the year 2030. This goal is more crucial in Nigeria where the quality of education has fallen to an all-time low. A pointer to the parlous state of education in Nigeria was the damning 2017 report by the World Economic Forum in which out of 136 ranked countries, Nigeria was placed in the 120th position. Similarly, over 10 million Nigerian children of primary school age were not enrolled in school in 2019. This is the highest number of out-of-school children globally.
In Nigeria, certain groups are more affected by the education crisis than others. For example, children in rural areas are worse off than their counterparts in urban areas, those in the Northern region in comparison to those in the Southern part, and girls in relation to boys. The overall state of education and the inequalities stemming from education access have severe implications on living standards, access to jobs, and economic growth. Despite the efforts of the government, the private sector, and international donors towards addressing the visceral challenges facing Nigeria’s educational sector, formidable challenges continue to rear their ugly heads.
Of all the factors responsible for the poor quality of education in Nigeria, FUNDING is perhaps the most critical. Despite the huge role government plays in the funding of education in Nigeria, funding has remained the Achilles Heel of the sector. Although the government plays a dominant role in financing education, public funds remain inadequate to sufficiently support the implementation of SDG$ goals. About USD 34 billion per annum is required to achieve SDG4 goals in Nigeria between 2015 and 2030, according to UNESCO. When the fact that the sum total of Nigeria’s national budget for 2018 is USD 29.9 billion, with education accounting for a mere 7% of this amount is juxtaposed against the requirements for the attainment of the SDG4 goals, a discouraging picture begins to emerge. The states and local governments have not fared better due to the lean resources at their disposal.
Nigeria Breweries-Felix Ohiwerie Education Trust Fund
Nigerian Breweries Plc is the pioneer and largest brewing company in Nigeria. It serves the Nigerian market and exports to other parts of West Africa. The company was incorporated in 1946 and has branches in Lagos, Aba, Kaduna, Ibadan and Enugu.
Nigerian Breweries Plc is a socially accountable corporate organization with an impressive trajectory of completed, ongoing and new corporate social initiatives. The Company’s Corporate Social Responsibility program is driven by a vision to always “Winning with Nigeria”. In line with this stated vision, the company has been very active in supporting Nigeria’s national development objectives through its impressive social investments in education, sports, skills development, micro finance, environment, water, youth empowerment, talent development, amongst others.
In 1994, Nigerian Breweries Plc established an Education Trust Fund, known as the Nigeria Breweries-Felix Ohiwerie Education Trust Fund, with an initial take-off grant of N100 million. The fund was meant to encourage research activities and academic excellence in Nigeria’s higher institutions, and to also contribute to the development of the manpower needs of the country. This is complemented by Secondary and university scholarship programmes for the wards of the company’s employees. Having kicked off in 1994 with the sum of N100 million, the fund has grown tremendously.
All tiers of educational institution have benefited from the fund’s projects: primary, secondary and tertiary. All the geographical zones in the country have also benefited. So far, the fund has built approximately 162 new classrooms and renovated 20 existing school buildings at both primary and secondary school levels. One of such schools is the prestigious Igbobi College, where the fund renovated the main block in the school and also donated a library.
The Beyond the School Initiative is another programme of the fund worthy of note. Put together for students in public Senior Secondary Schools, it is designed to expose them to career options and factors they need to consider before making career choices. The initiative also helps students improve their reading habit and underpin the importance of reading in career goal achievement. A total of 1,200 students in the five schools visited so far received the career talk accompanied with relevant support materials.
At the tertiary level, the fund recently made a 1 Million Dollars donation to the Pan African University, donated a science laboratory at the University of Nsukka, N10 Million worth of microscopes to the Department of Crop Production and Protection, Faculty of Agriculture, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife as well as Computers and UPS’ to the University of Ibadan. The intent of the fund is to help as many Nigerian students as it possibly can to gain qualitative education that enables them to compete favourably with other students all over the world and ultimately live productive and fulfilled lives.
At the 2014 edition of the Social Enterprise and Reports Awards, Nigeria’s foremost CSR Awards, Nigerian Breweries fittingly received the Most Socially Responsible Company award in recognition of its expansive CSR activities in Nigeria.
AIRTEL’S ADOPT-A-SCHOOL INITIATIVE
Airtel Networks Limited (Airtel Nigeria) is a leading mobile telecommunications company in Nigeria. According to the Subscribers statistics released by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on 30 August 2019, Airtel Nigeria has 26.8% mobile telephone market share and 46.8 million subscribers. The company is a member of Airtel Africa, the holding firm for Bharti Airtel’s operations in 14 countries in Africa. Airtel Nigeria is the second-largest telecommunications company in Nigeria by number of customers. It has an estimated 46.8 million subscribers representing 26.8% market share and in terms of mobile internet users, Airtel Nigeria has the second-largest users with 32.4 million subscribers as at July 2019.
In its quest for excellence, Airtel’s vision is anchored on transforming into Nigeria’s most trusted brand. This vision defines its CSR thrusts which are not limited to the traditional, widespread provision of voluntary social services, but of a company that is committed to being a contributing stakeholder in the general development of the society at large by adhering strictly to the code of conduct defining and guarding its operations in the country.
In 2011, Airtel caused a huge stare in the CSR community when, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Education, launched its groundbreaking Adopt-a-School Program, an educational empowerment programme that is targeted at providing high quality education for the less privileged children of school age in Nigeria who have the intellects but not the financial wherewithal to pursue their academic dreams through the construction and renovation of schools, provision of educational resources such as school uniforms, books, writing materials and other necessary study materials.
The pilot project under the Adopt-a-School programme was the adoption of Oremeji Primary School 2 in Ajeromi Ifelodun Local Government Area of Ajegunle, Lagos State. This project involved the commissioning a six-classroom block, including an office for the headmaster, together with the sinking of boreholes for water, provision of toilet facilities for the students and teachers. Bags, uniforms, books and chairs were also donated to the school. Other schools in Nigeria so far adopted under the programme include: Oremeji Primary School, Ajegunle, Lagos State, Community Primary School, Amumara, Imo State, St. John’s Primary School, Oke-Agbo, Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State, Presbyterian Primary School, Ediba, Cross-River State, and Iyeru-Okin Primary School, Offa, Kwara State, which have been provided with boreholes, classrooms, bore-holes, generating sets, educational materials, as well as the provision of free health services for the pupils and teachers of these schools.
Another laudable aspect of the program, apart from the construction, and equipping of schools, and the provision of educational materials for the students, is the Capacity Building Programmes that have been provided for hundreds of primary school teachers which has contributed immensely to the manpower needs of these schools.
Indeed, Airtel’s silent revolution in the delivery of quality primary education to the less privileged across the country has earned it its social license in many communities across the country. However, the scheme can be broadened to include beneficiaries from other academic cadres like secondary and tertiary institutions in Nigeria which are not immune from the general malaise afflicting the educational sector. This could be in the area of skills development as well as the provision of scholarships and bursaries to undergraduate students in institutions of higher learning in the country.
Agenda Watchdog hereby recommends more private sector participation in education which can complement government’s efforts towards improving service delivery in that sector. Government – federal, state and local – alone cannot effectively fund education as has been practically demonstrated by the worsening state of the sector over the years. Private sector participation would ensure that educational services are delivered in a cost-effective manner, without compromising standards and equity. Private participation can also encourage the public sector to improve the quality and efficiency of public schools. Competition among providers of services can lower costs and improve responsiveness to the needs of consumers.
Apart from the provision of funding, other possible areas of partnership could be in the area of curriculum development in which corporate executives would work with educators to develop curricula that reflect private-sector technology, standards and practice; corporations and educational institutions working together to set up programmes that focus on specific aspects of business, for example, finance and entrepreneurship; mentorship programmes, whereby professionals and entrepreneurs have links with individual students; provision of management expertise; to mention a few. Nigerian Breweries PLC and Airtel Nigeria are among some of the corporate organizations that are blazing the trail in private sector involvement in the development of education in Nigeria. More corporate bodies should join in the fray. A multipronged approach towards tackling the formidable challenges militating against the growth of education in Nigeria would suffice as the best way going forward