top of page

Projects >  Nigeria > Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria

Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria

In June and July 2010, I went to Nigeria to carry out a review of the cost of construction and the quality of facilities for basic education that had been constructed in Kano, Kaduna and Kwara States.  The review was to be carried out under the aegis of the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) which was a six-year education development programme being funded by DFID and managed by Cambridge Education Consultants.

Background to the Review

The aim of ESSPIN was to have a sustainable impact on the way in which government in Nigeria delivered education services and was directed at enabling institutions to bring about systemic change in the education system, leveraging Nigerian resources in support of State and Federal Education Sector Plans and building capacity for sustainability.  It was operating in five States (Kano, Kaduna, Kwara, Jigawa and Lagos) and at the Federal level.  ESSPIN was building upon previous technical assistance projects in education, in particular the Capacity for Universal Basic Education Project (CUBE) and was running in parallel with World Bank funded projects in four of the States (the State Education Sector Project, SESP, in Kano, Kaduna and Kwara States and SESP II in Lagos).

The objective of the assignment was to conduct a comparative review of construction costs of the basic education facilities that had been built in the previous 5 years in Kano, Kwara and Kaduna States. 

In addition to researching the costs of the facilities provided by the various stakeholders in the education sector, the review was to take into account the appropriateness of the designs being used, the suitability of the materials that had been specified, the quality of construction and the cost and effectiveness of supervision.  A comparison was also to be made with the construction costs of similar facilities in other sub-Saharan African countries.

Conclusions of the Review

A number of conclusions were arrived at that could influence the way that future construction programmes were designed and implemented and that could also reduce costs.

It was proposed that the provision of facilities for basic education should be seen as a process that started with planning, continued with the design of facilities and the specification of materials and ended with construction, supervision and completion of the facilities.

The conclusions were set out in a manner that took account of this process together with the main factors contributing to the poor quality of the finished facilities and their high cost relative to similar facilities in other sub-Saharan African countries.

Planning for New and Renovated Facilities for Basic Education

Very little planning for the provision of facilities for basic education was taking place and the lack of planning in all three States was leading to unnecessary spending on the construction of school facilities and therefore to a waste of scarce resources.


Appropriateness of Designs for School Facilities

While most of the classroom designs being used went some way to deal with the tropical climate, all of the designs could be improved.  Classroom sizes provided adequate space for 40 primary school pupils but there was no provision of the larger classrooms and specialist facilities that were required for junior secondary schools.  All States were using classroom furniture that was impeding the introduction of innovative, pupil-centred teaching techniques. No allowance was being made for disabled access to classrooms or toilets and the latrines and toilets that were being provided by all programmes were poorly designed.

Suitability of Construction Materials

Many of the problems seen were caused by the poor quality of the materials being used.  Some of the materials were not considered appropriate and these included terrazzo floors and aluminium roof sheets both of which were expensive and a waste of resources.

The ‘Impact Building System’ that was being used in Kwara State was not considered an appropriate solution to the problem of constructing facilities for basic education and while the materials that were being used in the buildings being funded by JICA in Kano were much better quality than in most of the other programmes the amount of reinforced concrete that was being used in these buildings could not be justified. 

Quality of Construction

The quality of the construction seen at nearly all of the schools was generally very poor and in some cases was unacceptable and in others positively dangerous.  The SESP schools were in some respects better constructed but there were problems even with these buildings.  The only real exceptions to the generally low standards were the buildings being constructed in Kaduna and Kano using Japanese funds.

The poor quality of the construction seemed to be caused by a number of factors: incompetent contractors selected through a restricted and possibly politically influenced bidding system; under-pricing of bids by contractors; the use of poor quality materials and unskilled labour by contractors and very poor supervision.

Cost and Effectiveness of Supervision

Poor supervision of the construction contracts that were being implemented by all agencies (apart from those being implemented by JICA in Kano), was considered to be one of the main reasons for the poor quality of the buildings.

Even though all of the buildings that were being constructed were fairly simple in design, from the poor standard of construction seen at all schools it appeared that the contractors were not getting enough supervision and assistance from the consultants and particularly from the site supervisors.  Buildings were not being constructed in accordance with drawings and specifications and although it was the contractors’ responsibility to do this, the consultants were being paid to ensure that the contractors fulfilled their contractual obligations but were not doing so.

Cost of Facilities

The cost of constructing basic education facilities by all agencies was comparatively high compared to similar facilities in other sub-Saharan African countries.  This disparity could not have been due to the quality of materials and construction in Nigerian schools as these were generally very poor.  The reasons were more likely to have been: inaccurate and possibly over-inflated estimates of construction costs; leaking of budgets to contractors prior to bidding; non-transparent procedures used for the pre-selection of contractors and consequently the use of incompetent contractors; inadequacies in the bidding and evaluation processes and the fact that the market was not being allowed to establish the real cost of constructing school facilities.

Options and Next Steps

Following on from these conclusions, a number of options were set out for the design and implementation of future school building construction programmes that would assist in making such programmes more appropriate, efficient and cost-effective.


It was proposed that:

  • In order to best use the resources available for the provision of good quality facilities, these resources must be properly directed and that to do this, the SUBEBs should use the school census data to ensure that appropriate size schools are provided at all locations. 

  • SUBEBs should consider the renovation of existing buildings rather than the construction of new ones and when planning for the provision of all facilities they should make provision for water supplies and appropriate numbers of latrines.  

  • SUBEBs should also put in place plans for the maintenance of all school facilities. 

Classroom Design

It was proposed that:

  • the design of classroom buildings should be rationalised and that one size of classroom should be provided for primary schools and that a larger classroom size should be provided for junior secondary schools together with a small number of even larger classrooms for project and group work and specialist rooms such as libraries, laboratories and workshops.

  • consideration should be given to providing single classroom or three classroom primary schools in remote rural villages with small numbers of primary school age children.   

  • the design of the VIP latrines should be modified and sustainable double-pit VIP latrines should be provided at all schools.   


Classroom Construction

It was proposed that:

  • Classroom construction should be simplified with walls of sandcrete or fired-clay blocks; floors of 100mm concrete slabs reinforced with mesh and finished with a steel trowel so that a screed was not necessary; windows and doors of 2mm thick single-skin steel sheets with good quality hinges; roof structures of steel trusses at 3.0 metre centres with steel rafters over end and cross walls and steel pipe columns to verandas; purlins of 100 x 50mm treated timber; ceilings of 12mm plywood fixed to the underside of the purlins; and colour-coated 28 gauge steel corrugated roof sheets with large roof overhangs on all sides of the buildings. 


The above proposals were for buildings to be constructed by contractors.  If buildings were to be constructed by communities then it was suggested that they should be further simplified.  While foundations had to be constructed of sandcrete blocks, superstructure walls could be constructed of either cement-stabilised soil blocks or of mud blocks; roof trusses could be made of treated timber and doors and shutters could be made of timber. 

Construction Costs

It was recognised that while construction costs could be reduced by omitting expensive materials such as terrazzo floors and aluminium roofing sheets and by simplifying construction, overall construction costs would probably not be reduced unless the whole process of procuring buildings was radically changed. 

It was therefore proposed that:

  • realistic and accurate prices should be used for budget estimates and these had to include contingency sums. 

  • accurate and comprehensive bidding documents should be prepared consisting of detailed drawings, bills of quantities and specifications for all materials. 

  • tenders should be advertised with adequate time given for the contractors to visit sites and prepare their bids and bids should be opened in public and professionally evaluated.

  • if pre-selection of contractors was to take place then this had to be an open and transparent process so that only properly qualified, experienced and registered contractors were used and there was no possibility of political interference. 

  • funding should be available for use when required and contracts should be awarded within a short period to avoid any price escalation caused by delays. 

  • consideration should be given to the location of the construction sites and it had to be accepted that costs for remote rural sites will be higher than those for more accessible sites. 


It also had to be recognised that while buildings constructed with good quality materials to a good standard might cost more initially, they will last longer and cost less to maintain than buildings constructed badly using cheaper materials.


Even if the process of procuring buildings was radically changed as outlined above, it would still be impossible to ensure that the buildings were constructed to an acceptable standard without regular, independent, professional supervision of the work. 

Contractors were in general not very competent and required continuous professional supervision and it was recommended that qualified construction consultants were employed to supervise all school construction programmes.  This type of supervision was not cheap but was essential if good quality buildings were to be procured and it was recommended that the SUBEBs should budget for up to 10% of the estimated construction cost for supervision.

Community-based School Construction

One way of driving down the cost of provision at least of primary school facilities particularly in remote, rural locations where contractors were difficult to find would be to use school or community committees to manage the construction work.  The designs for the facilities to be constructed by local builders and managed by communities would have to be simple to construct using locally available materials and easily understood techniques; the budgets for the work would have to be realistic and communities would require a great deal of technical assistance in managing the construction work.

Drawings for typical SUBEB schools can be seen here; drawings for SESP schools for Kwara State can be seen here and drawings for JICA schools can be seen here

The final report can be seen here and a photo gallery of some of the schools visited in all three States can be seen below.

Project Gallery

bottom of page