By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU

Just when stakeholders, government and those troubled by myriad of challenges in the country’s education sector are busy pondering a way out, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial services provider, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, has come up with educational solution – FirstEdu – specifically designed to enhance the educational facilities in schools at all levels. The FirstEdu product includes FirstEdu loan and FirstEdu portal.

FirstEdu loan is targeted at private Nursery & Primary and Secondary schools to assist the schools in achieving their desired growth in the medium and long-term. The product provides funding to replace old furniture and equipment, pay staff salaries, purchase brand new or fairly-used buses as well as refurbish dilapidated buildings and classroom blocks.

With this product, school owners/proprietors can stay ahead of competition at all times. A beneficiary, Jolaoye Oyeyemi, a school proprietor told BusinessHallmark that ” First Bank has come a long way, for them to come to the rescue of private educational institutions is enough contribution worthy of celebration.

The challenge is that there isn’t enough publicity on the product. Quite a lot of people who should benefit are not aware of the existence of the product.”

Oyeyemi said school financing has been the greatest challenge the Nigerian education system is facing. He stated that most often, people fail to ask the right questions and policy makers because of political correctness have generally refused to discuss the challenge with any serious intent.

“For example, as a country, we need to know how much it will cost to educate a child in primary and secondary schools. We also need to know how much it will cost to train an average undergraduate in Nigerian university. We need to ask these questions.

As a private school, we ask this question: how much will it cost to bring this school to international standard in terms of infrastructure, quality of teaching, and the fees to charge but we must perform our own role by providing quality infrastructure. That is where the First Bank’s FirstEdu comes in.”

The product enables the schools to access facility with no tangible collateral, apart from domiciliation of school fees account with the Bank. In addition, FirstEdu portal is a modular and robust web-based enterprise portal that enables tertiary educational institutions manage academic, administrative, professional, logistics and payment challenges.

The basis for its robustness is to take the stress of logistics, administrative and payment challenges off the institutions, as they focus on meeting their year-long, medium and long-term objectives.

The product features and benefits include; e-Learning, virtual library and facilitation of exchange programmes with foreign educational institutions; academic & student events/time-table/calendar management; school fees payment via the internet; online information and result checking; interactive community forum between students and teachers.

It also affords applicants the opportunity of enrolling from the comfort of their homes or any location around the world; no licensing, installation and maintenance cost and plugs avenues for revenue leakages amongst others.

According to Chuma Ezirim, Group Executive, e-Business & Retail Products, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, “With FirstEdu, private schools across the various tiers of education in Nigeria; elementary, secondary and tertiary, have the right tool to boost their business to the level they desire. With over N5 billion loans already disbursed to schools this year alone, we are committed to supporting growth in this key sector of our economy.”

A school principal  Adeyanju Omotosho, who presides over Einstein College, Kollington, Agbado said FirstEdu loan has really helped many private school owners from nursery to tertiary  institutions.

“The FirstEdu loan is available to Private schools owners who require extra funds for the smooth running of their school operations, and I can tell you it has really solved the challenge of finance”, he said in a chat with this reporter.

Omotosho advised the premier bank, if it was to achieve its aim of deepening education, to do more in the area of public awareness which at the moment he put at low level.

“The media has to be involved, for this thing to succeed the bank must involve the media in creating awareness across the education value chain.”

The facility is only available to all private schools duly registered with CAC (either Government approved or not). Usually, the tenor for the loan is from 90 days to 12 months (terms and conditions apply), and the maximum loan amount is N20m.

Some beneficiary schools have used the loan to finance operational vehicles for schools (new and fairly used), improve infrastructure, libraries among others. As it is, the facility concentrates on private educational institutions at all levels from nursery to tertiary education.

The benefiting school can also use the loan for asset acquisition of up to N20m for 24 months. And the only collateral is undertaking to domicile school fees with First Bank.

Part of the condition is that the school in question must have an account with any bank for a minimum of 12 months, and the school must have a minimum student population of 100.

Accompanying Documents:

In order to apply for the loan, the following documents must accompany the application:

Evidence of Government Approval of school;

School Memorandum and Articles of Association (MEMART) where applicable;

Documents showing how long school has been in the business;

documents showing the number of students in the school; and any other documents that may be required by the bank.