Background of the study

Education is widely acclaimed as the pivotal point on which the wheel of the development of any nation or society rests. This is largely due to the fact that education brings new knowledge that can be used in the development of the society, as well as, individual members of the society. Consequent upon this, it is asserted that the level of development of any country is dependent upon the level of development of its knowledge base. Informed by this, the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FGN, 2008) in her National Policy on Education referred to education as the most important instrument of change since any fundamental change in the intellectual and social outlook of any society has to be preceded by an educational revolution. In view of this, countries all over the world are investing much in the provision/funding of education. It is even seen as the basic right of every citizen. Osaat (2005:120) is of the view that it denial to citizens tantamount to an infringement upon their constitutional rights. Accordingly the author wrote:

Education is in most cases believed to be the architect of development. It is also a means to achieve development. If the state has a responsibility to educate or help citizens for development then education becomes a right of the citizens. Anything that deprives the state from its responsibility is opposed to this right.


Suffice here to say that, the history of western education in Nigeria, which is the type of education we are referring to, will be incomplete without mentioning the role of the Portuguese traders, missionaries and colonial masters or government. The missionaries, for instance, were the first to establish schools in Nigeria notably the Methodist, the Church Missionary Society, the American Baptist Mission, the Roman Catholic Mission etc. In 1842, the Methodist Mission opened a primary school in Badagry while the Christian Missionary Society (CMS) did the same in 1845, and in 1850, the American Baptist followed suit. In 1868, the Roman Catholic Mission joined the race for the establishment of schools by establishing a school in Lagos. Other religious sects followed later (like the Qua Iboe of Northern Ireland who established schools at Eket Uyo (Eworo, 2004).

The management and financing of these schools were initially left to the whims and caprices of the various religious bodies by the Colonial Government. It was not until 1925 that the Colonial Government showed concrete interest in the development of education in Nigeria when the Education Ordinance was enacted (Fafunwa, 2004).

Furthermore, at the tertiary level, as Fafunwa (2004) puts it, the colonial government also showed interest in providing higher education for Nigerians with the setting up of Phelps Stroke Commission. According to him, January, 1934 marked the official commissioning of the first tertiary educational institution by Sir Donald Cameron. This was followed by the Elliot’s Commission, specially set up for the purpose of higher education. This effort gave birth to the University College Ibadan in 1948 and accordingly the tempo for government’s involvement in the control and funding of education increased from here. After independence, education continued to be in the exclusive legislative list until the beginning of the Civil War. In 1970, the military government announced the complete take over of schools from the missions.

Prior to the takeover of schools from their respective proprietors in the 1970s, education was owned and managed by various agencies – regional and state governments, local authorities, voluntary agencies and private proprietors as earlier noted. Most of these private, community and voluntary agency schools were indeed famous, competing favourably with the few ones owned and controlled by government. With the takeover of these schools, Nigeria’s education system became over-centralised and characterised with unnecessary bureaucracy. This stand was concretized by government declaration as contained in the National Policy on Education with various editions (1977, 1981, 1998, 2004, 2008 and the latest 2014).

Unfortunately, in administration, there is a difference between policy formulation and implementation, and so the document could not provide the needed magic that could completely turn around the fortunes of the nation’s education. Consequently, the system was marked with overcrowded students’ hostels; classrooms without desks and seats for students, libraries and laboratories without necessary equipment or infrastructure; dilapidated buildings and absence of meaningful staff development programmes coupled with short supply of qualified staff and ill-equipped products that could not favourably compete with their counterparts from other countries (Ejiogu, 2003). With this type of ugly picture, coupled with the Nigerians’ criticism of the system of education, it was no longer worthwhile for the government to have complete monopoly of the education system. In furtherance of this, the government thought it wise to withdraw her monopoly and in turn decentralise the education sector. In the bid to carry out this decision, the policy of deregulation was introduced. The term deregulation simply put, means removal of control. It also implies di-vestment of monopolistic control over a system or an institution allowing the participation of corporate, non-corporate, governmental and non-governmental bodies. In strict economic parlance, the Wikipedia encyclopaedia defines deregulation as the process by which government remove selected regulations on business in order to (in theory) encourage the efficient operation of markets. In this light Babarinde and Farayola (2008:10) posit that:

deregulation can be seen as a policy thrust of economic restructuring based on the Washington consensus which expresses faith in the efficiency of markets, that states are unnecessary, that privatization, deregulation and open capital market promotes economic development, and that government should not do more than balance budgets and fight inflation.

Deregulation therefore relieves the government of some responsibilities and allows them the opportunity to do the needful when appropriate. It breeds serious competition and also enhances the quality of services provided.