COVID-19: Sanwo-Olu launches N5bn support capital for low cost schools

•Says intervention to help mitigate effect of lockdown

Lagos State government in partnership with First Bank of Nigeria Ltd has formally launched N5 billion Post-COVID-19 Recovery Support capital for education sector to support low-cost private schools across the state in order to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic.

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 over 2,000 private schools and vocational education centres across the state.

This was just as the state government hinted that the 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.

Sanwo-Olu, while speaking at the launch, which took place at the Banquet Hall in the State House, Alausa, said 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.

The governor said the loan programme would help the targeted beneficiaries accelerate recovery and give them opportunity of painless return to regular life as the state gradually unlocks socio-economic activities, following the impact of the pandemic.

“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,” the governor stated.

Sanwo-Olu, while hinting that the N5 billion Education Loan Programme was a precursor to many more sector-specific support programmes that would be unveiled by the LSETF on behalf of the state government, come October explained that the intervention was necessary, given the importance of education to building human capital.

He said his administration took education as critical to building 21st century economy and realising objectives set out in the T.H.E.M.E.S. Agenda.

According to him, the beneficiaries will have access to single-digit loan facilities to fund the provision of the amenities and services needed to aid learning, saying it was heart-warming to have First Bank electing to partner the state government in the intervention.

“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,” he said.

“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,” he added.

Chairperson, LSETF Board of Trustees, Mrs Bola Adesola, represented by Mrs. Tatiana Mousali-Nouri, stated criteria for the beneficiaries, saying schools that have a minimum of 100 students and have been in operation for, at least, a year are the ones qualified for the loan facility.

“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,” she said.

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 lauded 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.

“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 bank chief said.

The loan scheme will be provided to two categories of applicants, which are Micro-Enterprise (ME) and Small and Medium Enterprise (SME), with those in ME category slated to 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, while details of the successful applicants will be passed on to First Bank for appraisal and disbursement.

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