Stakeholders in the Nigerian Education sector have advocated more private sector investment, tax concession, import duty waivers for educational equipment and special intervention funds to revamp the sector in the face of the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The stakeholders comprising public and private sector participants who spoke during the Ecobank Digital Series titled “Education in Nigeria – The role of private investment” noted that education is a critical sector that contributes to human capital development and sustainable future for the country and must therefore not be overlooked. They called on the private sector to invest more in education in the form of corporate social responsibility (CSR), scholarships, provision of palliatives, support to reconstruction and rehabilitations of schools across the country.
Key participants at the event included the Honourable Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, represented by the Assistant Director & Head, PPP/NGOs, Elizabeth Afape; The Honourable commissioner of Education, Lagos State, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo; The Honourable commissioner of Education, Katsina State, Prof. Badamasi Lawal Charanchi; The Deputy Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Dr. Suleiman Ramon-Yusuf; Director General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Muda Yusuf and Keynote speaker and Pro-Chancellor Achievers University, Dr. Olabode Ayorinde, and also the National President, Association for Formidable Educational Development (AFED), Mr. Orji Kanu Emmanuel amongst others.
In his presentation, Professor Olabode Ayorinde, stressed the need for government at all levels to place high priority on the education sector when providing intervention funds, urging commercial banks to also lend more to this sector at low interest rate. According to him, “The private sector has played a significant role in education development. However, funding has been a major issue. A critical analysis shows inadequate infrastructure, lack of equipment and teaching aids, high teacher to student ratio, all of which requires a loan facility to solve. Regrettably, we see the government and its agencies providing intervention funds to the aviation sector, agriculture, creative sector without considering the education sector.”
On his part, Dr. Suleiman Ramon-Yusuf, of the NUC, attributed the poor state of the nation’s economy to the inability of the private sector in making the right impact on the education sector, noting that endowments, scholarships and bursaries would create access for schools to admit more students. He disclosed that the NUC will continue to provide an enabling environment for education and learning to thrive in the country, urging the private sector to invest more in human capital development, while limiting undue interference from the investors.
Also on the Ecobank Digital series platform, Dr. Muda Yusuf of the LCCI, called for government’s intervention in the education sector, especially at the foundation level, maintaining that it was not easy to sustain the education sector with loans from the commercial banks because of high interest rates. He canvassed for tax concession for private investments in education, adding that “Licensing for private universities should be made easy to enable inclusiveness and a model that will include scholarships and bursary should be enacted.”
In her contribution, Mrs. Folashade Adefisayo, Commissioner for Education, Lagos State, said there are more private schools in the state than public schools and most of them may not survive the grueling effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to her, “Land and access is the main hinderance to building of more schools in Lagos State. Currently, the government is working on synergy between the public and private sectors, reviewing and optimizing the school curriculum, improving the quality of primary education, investing in teaching aids for schools and much more.” Towing the same line Prof. Badamasi Lawal, Commissioner for Education, Katsina State, posited that “Initiatives for teachers development, public and private sector partnership, better and favorable legislation, corporate social responsibility like scholarship, bursary and tax concession would go a long way in providing the enabling environment for education sector to thrive in the country.
Segment Head, Public Sector, Ecobank Nigeria, Mrs. Annabel Ikuenobe, stated the readiness of the bank to keep supporting the growth of the education sector in the country. She enumerated the bank’s several products and initiatives available for Ecobank customers. According to her, one of our products to serve the education sector is the “Ecobank School Bundle. The bundle comprises of a current account, which runs at a zero maintenance fee. We also have in place digital banking services, which include PoS, corporate card and Omnilite for easy disbursement of funds; E-billspay, to support collections and administration of the school portal, which promotes remote learning for students, receipt generation and the school’s communication management. Loans are also available for Ecobank customers.”
Welcoming guests earlier to the Ecobank Digital Series, Carol Oyedeji, Executive Director, Commercial Bank noted that private sector participation in the education sector cannot be overemphasized. She stated that education ensures a brighter future for our generation. She enjoined all stakeholders to proffer ways forward for the sector. She noted that the Ecobank Digital Series is a virtual programme organized by Ecobank to educate and enlighten the public on crucial issues of public interest, especially as it relates to their financial freedom.