Education is highly valued by Nigerians and is seen as the key to one's future. Sadly, this appreciation is yet to transfer to the quality of the government-run school system. State-sponsored schools are a far cry from satisfying international standards and are plagued by staff shortages and a deficiency of learning tools, textbooks and facilities. Most expats send their children to private international schools in Nigeria, while some may opt for homeschooling.

Public schools in Nigeria

Nigeria’s public school system has been struggling as it is severely underfunded and many state schools lack basic facilities and learning materials.

Children attend primary school from age five, for six years, and take subjects including maths, English and a main Nigerian language (Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo), religious studies, agricultural science and home economics. A further six years is spent in secondary school, divided into junior and secondary levels. Students also have the alternative to join a technical college, being trained in a specific trade or craftmanship.

Unfortunately, Nigeria has seen little improvements in their schooling system, and many families who can afford it opt for private and international schools.

International schools in Nigeria

Foreign nationals may be surprised at just how many international school options there are in Nigeria's major urban centres, namely the capital city of Abuja and the commercial capital of Lagos. As expected, rural areas are unable to support the same type of provision; expat parents living far from a large city may want to consider homeschooling or sending their child to a boarding school.

Most international school curricula in Nigeria follow British, American or International Baccalaureate standards. The quality of education tends to be high, and students need not worry about falling behind during their time abroad. Many are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and offer a healthy choice of extra-curricular activities.

Although some international schools may follow the format of the school year in their home country, the school year in Nigeria runs from January to December and is divided into three semesters. The school day in Nigeria runs roughly between 8am and 3pm; timetables are subject to changes according to age level and institution.

Fees and admission to international schools

Expats should be fully aware that such a posh education amid a sea of sub-standard state options certainly comes at a price. On top of inordinately high basic fees, other expenses can include school uniforms, textbooks, extra-curricular activities and transport. Expats moving to Nigeria with children must secure subsidies and allowances for education in addition to their contracted salary.

Admission to the best schools can be competitive. It is often required that children sit for an entrance exam, submit up to two years of their records or even go for a personal interview.

In some cases, preference is given to students who have parents employed by a specific company, organisation or government body: organisations may have reserved spots in particular schools for the children of their employees. Before they begin applying to schools, expats should enquire within their company to find out if they offer such provisions.

Nurseries in Nigeria

Finding a kindergarten in Nigeria’s major cities should not prove too much of a problem. Many are integrated as part of a larger international school while others operate as a stand-alone preschool.

Special needs education in Nigeria

There have been efforts to integrate special needs education into the typical classroom settings in Nigeria, yet most schools for students with disabilities are separate centres that can provide full support. International schools will provide the best quality of facilities, including scribes, counselling and assistant teachers. Specific services available will vary though, and some schools may only offer limited assistance. It’s best to contact and meet with the schools directly for more information.

Homeschooling in Nigeria

Expats wishing to keep their children out of the Nigerian schooling system or those who are relocating to Nigeria on a short-term contract may choose to homeschool their children. Homeschooling is permissible in Nigeria, although there is very little policy to regulate it and few families choose this.

However, homeschooling and distance learning are becoming increasingly popular, and in some cases necessary. Expat parents should research the various curricula and see how homeschooling aligns with their lives and capabilities. Private and international schools may also provide varying levels of support and educational resources, and we also recommend getting in touch with the homeschooling community via social media.

Tutors in Nigeria

While schools encourage students to succeed, classroom learning may not be enough or suit every child. Parents can search for private tutors to provide extra classes to their children, and this can prove particularly useful around exam time. There are several tutoring companies located in major cities and independent tutors can also be found through online portals such as TeacherOn.