Educational Reforms in
Public-Private Partnership Initiative and the Management of Unity Schools in
N.Y.S. Ijaiya & A.A. Jekayinfa
There is a new awakening now in the
global community that to give quality education to the youth, it requires the combined effort
of the Government and the
community especially in the management of schools. It is also being increasingly realised that
bureaucracy due to over-centralisation can be stifling to the development of
schools and therefore there is a need to free them in some aspects of
management so that they can use their initiatives
to deal with their peculiar challenges. Though the idea of Community participation in establishing and
managing schools is not alien to the
world in general, and Nigeria in particular, as Western education originated as
a private venture (from the Christian missions), the recent development is taking it to a partnership level
in various forms, hence the charter
or autonomous schools in the USA, UK, and some other countries. However, this is not confined to the education
sector but extended to virtually all
sectors of the economy including transport, roads, electricity communication, etc., going by
It was reported by The Punch newspaper that the Presidency had stopped the "sale of Unity Schools" (Nwankwo, Sam & Omigbile. 2007, p.2). That supposedly put an end to the controversy, anger in some quarters and enthusiasm in others, which had engulfed the PPP initiative for the management of the 102 Federal Government schools collectively referred to as Unity schools. The PPP was attempted for implementation by the administration of former President Obasanjo with Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili as Minister of Education. Even though cancelled, possibly for its unpopularity, the issues/problems that necessitated the planned PPP policy remain unsolved. These include the dwindling quality of the schools’ performance and the need to free the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) from their management so that it can face its constitutional role squarely as 'visioner' and 'overseer' of the entire educational system.
There is therefore a need to re-visit the PPP vis-a-vis its merits and demerits so as not to throw away the baby with the bath water. What is the genesis of the Unity schools? What does the PPP entail? What was the rationale behind it and how was it justified? What are the odds against it? If not PPP, how else should the Unity schools be managed to arrest their downward slide and bring back quality? These questions will be tackled in this chapter.
The Unity Schools in Historical Perspective
The Unity Schools, include Federal
Government Colleges (FGCs), King's College and Queen School, Lagos, Suleija Academy for Gifted Children, etc. The FGCs came into existence after the
Nigerian Civil War, the Biafran War of 1967 to 1970 and were
actually, by-products of the war. Fresh from the war, the Federal Government of
Nigeria decided to establish those schools in each state of the Federation as a model to forge the much- needed understanding,
patriotism and national unity among the feuding tribes through education. Schools were rightly
thought to be the fastest
means of promoting understanding, appreciation, tolerance and respect for each other's culture, and children in their
formative years, given the opportunity to
live together, are better placed to forge that national unity. They were therefore boarding schools,
mostly mixed at first, while a few
were single-sex only (female), but eventually, each state got additional female type. Together with their predecessors, (
At inception, admission to these colleges was designed to be truly national with admission quota guidelines enforced to ensure that no state is left out due to lower scores, though merit was not totally sacrificed. The best from each state were considered for admission. Up to the early 1980s, the schools were centres of excellence and the toast of parents and serious students from both the urban and rural areas. They encouraged parents, teachers, primary schools and the pupils to work hard to secure admission into those schools. They propelled the educational system. They were the ultimate then, not the private schools. Competition was high but once a child secured admission through tough examinations and interviews, the parents were rest assured of his or her passing the WAEC examination in flying colours, all other things being equal.
from academic excellence, they also lived up to the vision that established them through their
national spread and alumni activities. The schools have produced excellent students who have and are
still contributing to
national development e.g., past and current Head of Service at Federal level, engineers, doctors, professors,
governors, notable accountants, bankers, etc. When the history of manpower development in
This cheering development however, began to decline in
the last decade or as the
Unity schools became disorientated. The usually strict admission policy was no longer respected, and
there were allegations of
corruption. There were a few reported court cases by aggrieved candidates and their parents who felt they had
been cheated in the admission process. Some
principals were sanctioned over breach of
admission policy. The general decay in the public schools also afflicted
these schools. The rot is such that today the Unity schools are mostly shadows of their past in terms of infrastructural
facilities and academic performance.
In a recent survey of secondary school NECO
results throughout the country by the FME. The first Unity school to appear on the rating took 54th position
in the SSCF results (Daily Sun, November 21, 2006. p. 19,though
this claim has been challenged..
This is a marked departure from their performance in the 1970s and 1980s, and certainly needs to be
arrested. Many parents withdrew their children even from the
Factors Responsible for the Decline of the Unity Schools
It is important to examine the factors that were said to have contributed to the decline of the Unity schools. The following are the reasons put forward by the FME to reinforce the need for the reforms as contained in one of its releases "Education Sector Situation Analysis", "Draft 4", p. 35:
1. The Unity schools, in spite of their "proud history ... are no longer fulfilling the purpose for which they were founded" (p.35);
secondary schools are not within Federal
Government's responsibility. On the other hand, the Unity schools
are getting too much attention of the FME, which is distracting it
from its normal constitutional role of visioning and supervision of die
Unity schools are also said to be consuming a disproportionate
percentage of the Ministry's funds. According to the Ministry, Units-
schools ".students constitute "1.88 % of the total pupils in secondary
schools" in Nigeria,"... Over 80% of the FME's budget and over
85 % of the Ministry's staff resources are being spent on the
management of the Unity schools" (p.35);
of the 27,000 workers of the FME, 23,110 are said to be
working in the Unity schools and out of this number, only 6,000
are teachers. The rest are non-teaching staff, giving a ratio of
1:4. The Minister regarded this state of affairs as lopsided and
should not be allowed to go on. There is therefore, a need for a
new approach or strategy for managing the Unity schools, "which
if successful", might attract wider application according to the FME. What therefore did the PPP initiative entail and what was it meant - to achieve?
The Public -Private Partnership
The concept and practice of PPP initiative are recent developments as part of Nigerian Government's reform agenda for the realisation of the Vision 2020 plan. It is aimed at improving the quality of performance of public enterprises through private investment in cash and kind especially where some tasks can be best performed by private bodies (Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), 2006, p.27). According to the BFSR, the PPP's original concept comprises Joint ownership, Contracted forms of PPP and Private financing in which:
Joint ownership is an arrangement whereby "a
legal entity is formed for a
Contracted forms of PPP comes inform of "concessions, leases and contracted agreements, which are just simply procurement such as maintenance contracts, where a particular aspect of a government's operation is contracted out" (p.28). Usually, the contracted forms comprise "Build-Operate-Transfer" (BOT), "Build-Own-Operate-Transfer" (BOOT), Rehabilitate-Operate-Transfer"(ROT), and "Build-Own-Operate" (BOO) (p.28).
The lease version is a case in which “a contract to assume control and use of a government asset for commercial purposes" is entered into with an appropriate organization. It is not privatization and in the view of BPSR, it is better than full privatization since "an investor does not buy the whole business and all assets" (p.29).
A Concession is "a right to serve a set of customers for a given service in a specific geographical area, or a set of customers already served by a network (electricity, water, bridges, roads) or set of products" (p.29). It usually involves use of existing assets.
Private financing, another PPP alternative, involves capital investment by a private company to help government in building government schools, hospitals, etc., while it pays the investor for the use of the facilities.
The PPP strategy can also be used for training and skill acquisition, hence relevant for poverty alleviation. Its benefits could be three-pronged namely the investor, the client i.e., the Government and lastly the society, which is the user and the major beneficiary.
The use of
PPP concept in
The FME version of PPP however,does not seem to fall
tightly into any of the above categories but
may be considered as a modified form of a
lease, with not-for-profit or not commercial or not-for-privatization status. Much of the information about PPP came from
newspaper advertorials by the FME
and documents emanating from the Ministry. According to an advertisement by the FME, in The Punch of Wednesda,. January 24, 2007, captioned "FAQs", Frequently Asked
Ensure the effectiveness of Unity Schools by bringing together
various stakeholders in the Education system to deliver
innovative solutions to the problems of poor school management,
academic under-achievement and poor utilization of public
financial resources (pp. 51 - 52).
The scope of the FME's PPP is therefore three-fold namely improvement, of school management, students' academic performance and management of school funds including fund- raising.
How will these be achieved? What would be the role of the FG and FME? ,
1. The role of the FG will change. Instead of managing the schools directly through the FME, the Government will now become:
· enabler and facilitator of the system;
through law, regulations and guidelines
regarding policies, minimum standards, etc;
· primary fund provider;
and inspector to ensure maintenance of mini mum
· asset owner of land and physical infrastructure.
2. The new managers will be "not-for-profit organizations" called "School Management Organizations (SMOs)" (FME. 2006. pp.51 -52).
Who are the SMOs and what will be their Functions?
According to the same advert, those qualified to be SMOs are Parent Teacher Associations, School Alumni groups. Educational Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Charities as well as Local Community groups. In short, SMOs must have a strong stake in the school they will manage. Apparently, individuals cannot. According to the Hon. Minister, over 900 applications were received by the Ministry, in spite of protests by some groups. In the Guardian newspaper of Tuesday, 13th March, 2000, the FME published 166 names of pre-qualified SMCK who would participate in the "bidding for the 102 Unity schools across the country" (p.72).
As contained in The Punch advert of January 24,200, the FME put the functions of the SMOs as " to manage the academic and administrative affairs of the schools" (p.51). They will also prepare the capital expenditure and forward it to the Unity Schools Trust (UST) as well as maintain core purpose of the schools through admission spread.
Each school's management headed by the Principal will be responsible to the SMOs, who will in turn be accountable to the School's Board of Governors and the UST. There will be an Education Trust Fund (ETF) to be set up by the FME, which will incorporate the UST. The UST "will be registered under the Companies and Allied Matters Act as a charitable trust or not-for-profit company limited by guarantee''
(p-52).The functions of UST include regulation of fees and screening of staff to retain the good ones. It will also present capital expenditure from the SMOs to the ETF and defend it. There will also be a Governing Board, which will be responsible for the remuneration, and pension of the teaching and non-teaching staff. Funds coming through the FME will be in form of "capital expenditure, performance related grants and stipends" (p.52).
Justification of the PPP for the
From the various releases by the FME, one can deduce the following as the Government's justification for the Unity schools' reform: The need to:
i maximize and spread education resources to all Nigerian children rather than the few (1.88 %) in Unity schools, i.e., out of the 6.4 million students in all secondary schools in Nigeria, only 122,000 are in Unity schools (The Punch, Monday, March 5,2007);
ii get FME back on course and more focused on its actual constitutional role of visioning, making policies and monitoring the whole educational system;
iii make the schools regain their lost glory of high productivity through improved management especially by removing bureaucratic bottlenecks;
mismanagement of funds allocated to the Unity schools; and
v. attract more funds to the schools especially from the private sector
as it is not easy for the Government to solely bear the heavy
From the above justifications, three main issues can be identified. These are issues of:
ii. funding; and
constitutionality, in the new democratic dispensation in
i. formulating a National Policy on Education;
ii. collecting and collating data for purposes of education planning
iii. maintaining a uniform standard of education throughout the country;
iv. controlling the quality of education in the country through the
supervisory role of the Inspectorate Services Department of the Ministry;
v. harmonizing education policies and procedures of all the states of
the federation through the instrumentality of the National Council on Education;
Vi effecting co-operation in educational matters on an international scale; and
vii developing curricula and syllabuses at the national level in conjunction with other
bodies (Fafunwa, 2002, p.304),
Part of Ezekwesili's observations of the FME was that as the parent body that visions for the country, it should not be weaker in term of quality of staff and performance than its parastatals such as the National Universities Commission, the National Commission for Colleges of Education, etc., which was the situation when she came in. If the educational system is as poor as it is today (with examination malpractice, high drop-out rate, reading disaster in schools, cultism, massive failure, etc), does that not speak volumes of the quality of leadership the FME offers to the system?. Concentrating so much attention and resources on a few schools as claimed by Ezekwesili, at the expense of the whole country deserves a
closer look and a reversal.
On the issues of funding and performance, although the Unity schools were special post war contraptions, they have come to stay, no matter how they are going to be managed. At this critical stage of her development, when access to education is grossly inadequate, the country cannot afford to close a single secondary school. They therefore deserve to be more funded. However, the problems of mismanagement and corruption, both barriers to quality, should be fought headlong. They have no doubt contributed to the schools' declining academic performance, which is now common knowledge. Admission racketeering, poor supervision and poor leadership example by the FME (e.g., undue interference in the admission process, etc.) among others must have contributed to the declining standard in those schools. According to a recent survey by the FME through Operation Reach All Secondary Schools (ORASS), earlier referred to, it is unthinkable that the best Unity schools would take the 54th position among secondary schools in the country. In their good old days, they most likely took the first ten positions or more. They were more sought after than private schools. They had the best students compared with other schools, well-qualified, experienced and dedicated teachers and principals, as well as good facilities. Student population was also moderate and discipline was easier. Today, all those have changed for the worse. It is no wonder that the standard has declined considerably.
From the foregoing, one can conclude that the reform of the Unity schools and the FME is indeed overdue. The issue at stake is therefore not whether the reform is necessary or not, but how it should be done.
The initial pubic reaction was that the PPP was a ploy by the Federal Government to sell or privatize the Unity schools, which they felt amount to Government shirking its responsibility to Nigerian children (Sango, 2006; Nadaba, 2007). They were also afraid that school fees would rise beyond common people's purse, thus making the schools elitist (Bosah, 2006).
Some Nigerians described it as a mere quick-fix but lazy man solution to a serious problem. A press release by the Ministry tried to douse this fear. The Ministry was emphatic that the PPP does not amount to privatization, neither will the schools be managed for profit and they are still Federal Government's property. The aspect of the fees could not have received any categorical answer. If that was reassuring to the public, it could not have been so to the staff of the Unity schools that is directly affected. There were also many unanswered questions particularly concerning the staff's job security and for which they were at daggers drawn. The senior staff association went to court to challenge the PPP initiative and to prevent the SMOs from taking over their schools. According to the teachers, they joined the service through permanent appointment, what will become of their condition of service under the SMOs? The FME did not help matters when it said that the SMOs would screen the staff and retain the good ones. How would the staff feel comfortable with that? This subtle threat should have been avoided. Teachers who do not fit into the new-dispensation would have found themselves 'outside the gate' naturally once they found out that they could not cope with accountability.
A Critical Examination of the PPP with Regard to the Unity Schools
The FME maintains that the PPP is a school - community partnership option. From that perspective, one can hazard some basic assumptions behind the PPP initiative:
a. that the community that actually houses the school deserves to have a say in the management of such schools;
b. that responsible members of the community are likely to be more committed in the management of such schools and achieve better results when not bogged down by bureaucracy; and
c. probably taking a cue from the private schools, which seem to be having upper hand over public schools in quality delivery, private organizations may do a better job than the ministry.
Apart from these assumptions, there
is also the example of the return of some public secondary schools to their former owners in
some states (e.g.
Can school- community partnership work?
difficult to give a positive answer to this question in the light of realities on ground. Although community schools
i. SMOs are not the direct proprietors of the Unity schools, unlike
the private schools, so their interest and commitment may not be as strong as expected.
ii SMOs, the Board of Governors and other members of the
Adopting organizations may see it as a piece of "national cake" and not the "not-for-profit" case the FME wants it to be.
iii. There is also the influence of the so-called the "Nigerian factor", which can further compound the problems of the schools, e.g., favoritisms, nepotism, tribalism, selfishness, parochialism, etc. which can be brought into the staff screening, recruitment, promotion, discipline, and student admission process.
iv How will the issue of the staff's condition of service be handled without
introducing instability to the schools through strike actions?
v. Who will monitor the activities of the SMOs?
vi. What if the SMOs collaborated with the school head to cheat the system?
vii. What happens to an unperforming organisation? Will they be replaced or disciplined?
viii. What are the modalities put in place to check their excesses weaknesses, e.g., localizing the student in-take, and teacher recruitment and victimization?
ix. How can individuals who are not contributing financially to the school purse run them with fairness and honesty?
However, the core issue here that should not be jettisoned even without PPP, is how quality education and sanity can be returned to the Unity schools. Can the FME in its current form guarantee that? In the newspaper article that reported the cancellation of the PPP arrangement, some stakeholders interviewed supported the cancellation. They however warned that the corruption in the admission process and the administration of the schools should be tackled. The current Minister of Education, Dr. Igwe Aja-Nwachukwu, was reported to be "planning an expanded all stakeholders meeting to find the best way of approaching the issue (Nwankwo, Sam & Olugbile, 2007, p.2), an indication that the issue is not closed.
The Way Forward
The PPP, to our minds, failed for two
main reasons-one, with the level of corruption in Nigeria, it is difficult to trust some individuals in the
management of money or
school admission and so, many Nigerians were jittery and two, the last Federal Government that
attempted it had no
sufficient time to plan, enlighten the public and implement it to its legal and logical conclusion, and so
created a lot of apprehensions. The PPP concept is yet to take root in
One of the factors killing the system is over-centralisation of management. It has been the trend since independence and this continued with the take-over of all community schools by the Federal Government (FG) in 1976. One of the shortcomings of that move was that it has deprived the leadership of schools the much-needed initiative to run their schools successfully. Bureaucracy delays decision-making and mistakes are descended upon with severity. School heads therefore wait on Ministries dictation to run their schools and this has stilled innovativeness and quality delivery. Freedom to take appropriate decisions is important to leadership success.
recent times, market forces are taking central place in the management of many public enterprises
including education. The trend in school management in the last two or three decades in some English-speaking countries (e.g.
In times of greater centralised authority, large administrative structures, such as states, school districts, and school boards, maintain control over decisions regarding educational policy, budget, and operations. When the pendulum swings towards decentralisation, much of this control shifts to smaller school boards for example, and more recently, individual schools, (p.l).
Type of management Control
Small boards (private and stakeholders and school administrators)
What are the merits and de-merits of decentralisation?
Research evidence according to Coulson (2003), shows that "school staff members generally perceive their schools as being more responsive under decentralised arrangements, with responsiveness defined as the ability to adapt resources and procedures to student needs", but that staff interest would wane if after a long period of decentralisation, "no improvements are noted in working conditions or student outcomes" (p. 11), Parents and students are also said to be satisfied with such arrangements while survey of principals shows that they "have persistently shown a high degree of satisfaction though their workload increased" (Cotton, 2003, p. 11). The governing council members surveyed, Cotton added, said they would not be happy if given power only over trivial school matters or if their impact is very little on school policies and operations, or if their decisions were over-ruled by the principal though they are supposed to be a decision-making body. On whether decentralisation increased students' academic performance, there is no conclusive evidence according to Cotton (2003). Decentralised arrangements however call for a new approach to school leadership, most appropriately, transformational type. It is more challenging and demands more work from both the head and the teachers on teamwork basis. Citing Chubb, Cotton affirms however that: the more control a school has over those aspects of its organisation that affect its performance-the articulation of goals, the selection and management of its personnel, the specification of its policies, the more likely a school is to exhibit the qualities that have been found to promote effectiveness (p.14).
such a system in
Conclusion and recommendations
The main focus of this chapter is
whether the PPP initiative should be resuscitated or not for the Unity schools.
The PPP as a developmental strategy
has several benefits especially that it can attract more private investment in the critical areas of
service delivery since governments alone cannot provide every thing in the face of limited
resources even with the most
benevolent regime. It is therefore considered necessary for the Federal Government to take another look at the
PPP and return to the drawing board. With population explosion in schools at all levels, increasing
demand for education
under Universal Basic Education, visible shortage of classrooms and other school facilities, unemployment and
poverty, competition from other sectors, it
appears the PPP is the only attractive
option for now if the Federal Government intends to take development to the higher level and attain
the objectives of Vision 2020, more
so because it is a strategy that is working elsewhere. Any of the Contracted forms, (BOT, BOOT, etc.) or
leasing without commercialization, could
be adapted to suit
In addition, funding of the FME should be adequate so that it can fulfill its constitutional responsibility to the nation. The Unity schools' budget should be separated from that of the FME, and so is its management in line with the rule of law policy of the current Government.
FME should be upgraded in terms of staff quality. Political appointment should reflect the
serious demand for quality in the system, as education is the 'spinal cord' of development.
Leadership demands courage
to undertake radical changes in the interest of the whole nation. Principals need to be re-trained as
academic/professional leaders responsible and accountable for the performance of their pupils, which
is their primary assignment. The 'chop-I-chop'
mentality (i.e.corrupt tendencies) needs to be erased from school management in
Bosah, A.U. (2006). Private Management of Unity Schools not the
solution. Adequate funding is needed. http://www.nigeria
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Service Reforms (2006).
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Coleman, M. (1994). Leadership in Educational Management .In T. Bush
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Cotton, K. (2007). School-Based Management. Improvement Research
Series (SIR) NWRCL.
Coulson, A. (2003). Implementing "Education for All" moving from Goals
to Action. Paper prepared for the 2nd in control International
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Davies, B. (1994). Managing Reforms in T. Bush and J. West- Bornham
The Principles of Educational Management.
Fafunwa, B. (2002). History of Education in
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Federal Ministry of Education (2007). Invitation for Expressions of Interest.
Unity Schools: Public-Private partnership Initiative. The Punch,
Wednesday, January 24, p.48.
Federal Ministry of Education (2007). Pre-Qualified SMOs for the 102
Unity Schools. The Guardian, Tuesday, March 13, pp. 13 & 74 http://www.southafrica.info/business/investing/opportunities/public-
private.htm. Retrieved May 4,2008.
Nadaba, A.M. (2007). "Educational Reforms". Holes in the PPP Initiatives
Nwankwo, C, Sam, V. ,& Olugbile, S. (2007). 'Presidency stops sale of
Unity schools', the Punch. Wednesday November 21, p. 2.
Daily Sun, Tuesday November 21, p. 17. Sango, S. (2006). Privatization of Unity
The Punch Editorial (2007). Fate of Unity school. The Punch, Monday
March 5, p. 16.