By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu on Friday said the government launched N5 billion Post-Coronavirus (COVID-19) Recovery Support capital for education sector in order to support low-cost private schools in the state in mitigating the negative impact of the pandemic.
The N5 billion fund was launched by the state government in partnership with First Bank of Nigeria Limited on Friday at the State House, Ikeja, Lagos.
The intervention fund targets over 2,000 private schools.
Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) collaborated with First Bank of Nigeria Limited to facilitate the matching fund, which will be given as loan to schools and vocational education centres across the State.
According to Sanwo-Olu, the intervention was part of the state government’s sustainable solutions to limit the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on both residents and businesses.
As the State gradually unlocks socio-economic activities, following the impact of the pandemic, the governor said the loan programme would help the targeted beneficiaries accelerate recovery and give them opportunity of painless return to regular life.
He said: “It is no longer debatable that the education is one of the sectors that are severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with schools and vocational learning-centres shut since March when we took the tough decisions meant to disrupt the spread of the virus. Given the incidence of the closure of schools in response to the pandemic, it would not be out of context to note that the challenges presently faced by these schools would increase significantly.
“With access to low-cost funding for privately owned schools and vocational training centres in the state, we are confident that this programme will help accelerate sustainable and painless return to world-class learning and skills acquisition of our young population. As a responsible Government, we are obligated to provide intervention that would enable learners in these schools’ study in line with the new normal.”
Sanwo-Olu said the N5 billion Education Loan Programme was a precursor to many more human development sector-specific support programmes that would be unveiled by the LSETF on behalf of the State Government next month.
The governor explained that the intervention was necessary, given the importance of education to building human capital. He said his administration took education as critical building 21st century economy and realising objectives set out in the T.H.E.M.E.S. agenda.
The beneficiaries, Sanwo-Olu said, would have access to single-digit loan facilities to fund the provision of the amenities and services needed to aid learning.
He said: “It is thus heart-warming to have First Bank of Nigeria electing to be our exemplary partner for this intervention. With their support, players in the education sector would be getting the financial support they need to boost learning at a single-digit interest rate.
“I also commend the Board of LSETF and the management for this significant accomplishment. They have helped the Lagos State Government build an institution that has engendered public trust and elevated the hope of small businesses and young people, irrespective of challenges faced.”
Chairperson, LSETF Board of Trustees, Mrs Bola Adesola, represented by Mrs. Tatiana Mousali-Nouri, said schools that have a minimum of 100 students and have been in operation for, at least, a year were the ones qualified for the loan facility.
She said: “We are confident that this intervention fund, which is complemented by our free professional and institutional support structures, will ensure that education ecosystem in Lagos witness an improvement in the overall learning outcomes for the children, while positively impacting on the local economy through wealth and job creation.”
First Bank’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Adesola Adeduntan, said the Bank went into the partnership, having recognised the role played by education towards the growth of the economy.
He praised the State Government’s efforts towards suppressing the burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on the education, saying Lagos Government had scored another first.
Adeduntan said: “With the single-digit funding targeted at about 2,000 low-cost private schools in Lagos, we are delighted to demonstrate our commitment to the development of education in the State, thereby contributing our quota to realise the mandate of the State Government and LSETF on economic growth, opportunities for employment and bridging societal gaps in education.”
The loan scheme will be provided to two categories of applicants, which are Micro-Enterprise (ME) and Small and Medium Enterprise (SME). Those in ME category will receive a sum of not more than N500,000, while those in SME will get N5,000,000.
To apply for the loan facility, applicants are expected to submit their applications via the LSETF portal for screening. Details of the successful applicants will be passed on to First Bank for appraisal and disbursement.