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Exposed!: How Nigerian School Proprietors Discriminate Against Black Head Teachers in Nigeria's Private Schools!

Exposed!: How Nigerian School Proprietors Discriminate Against Black Head Teachers in Nigeria's Private Schools!


By Dayo Balogun

It is not surprising that starting a private primary or secondary school in Nigeria is now a very lucrative business. In a country where there is lack of adequate investment in education, dilapidated infrastructural facilities, endemic corruption in all facets of life and standards of education in the public schools have been reduced to nothing, the rapid growth of private educational institutions is the common phenomenon.

Nigeria's Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqquyat Ahmed Rufai

It is therefore no news that the private education sector has grown. In the last two decades, Nigeria has witnessed the establishment of several private schools from nursery to University most especially nurseries, primary and secondary schools. Lack of proper and adequate regulation for Nigeria`s education sector – public or private is a topic for another day but with this growth of private schools is a dangerous new trend starting to take root in Nigeria`s private nursery, primary and secondary schools.


Nigeria`s private schools have not only adopted foreign curriculum, majority of private school proprietors in Nigeria now prefer hiring white expatriates as head or administrators of their schools in place of adequately qualified and experienced Nigerian and or black expatriates from other parts of the world. As a result of this very dangerous trend, demand for “white” expatriate administrators has gone up! Private primary and secondary school proprietors are now becoming very desperate to hire white expatriates not minding their nationalities and past misdemeanours. In fact, many of such schools are reported to be in serious need for white foreigners and are actively seeking the help of specialist recruitment agencies in Nigeria and overseas to “import” available expatriates.


According to reliable sources I interviewed, the most significant criteria for the school proprietors is the colour of the skin of would be administrators to be hired to run their schools. It doesn’t matter which part of the world the administrator is being recruited from, as long as he or she is white that is what matters. This is clearly racism rearing its ugly head in Nigeria`s educational sector and there is no other way to describe this ugly trend than to simply say that it is wrong.


I don’t know any western countries where the white expatriates come from that will allow this precarious trend to be practiced in any of their sectors and in particular and most importantly educational sector for that matter. For instance it is simply against the law to hire anyone on the basis of skin color in western countries that these Nigerian schools tends to be emulating and there are policies put in place to enforce equality and diversity legislation. Any black person or Nigerian hired to be head of private or public educational institutions or any other institutions for that matter in western countries is not hired on the basis of being black but for being the best person for the job. Why can`t proprietors of Nigeria`s private school imitate that? It is simply disgraceful that this ugly, very demeaning practice and racism is going on in Nigeria, a black African country and nothing, absolutely no measure has been put in place to prevent or address it.   


While researching into this trend, I interviewed an experienced British Nigerian head teacher presently employed as Head teacher in one of Church of England State Primary Schools in South London, United Kingdom, Mrs Bo## (name withheld) who recently applied for headship role in one of the private primary schools in Lagos, Nigeria. Mrs Bo## (name withheld) in spite of being one of the first five black qualified teachers to gain the professional status of Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) and over seven years management experience informed me that after she submitted her application for the role she was immediately advised by her agent that the school in question has instructed the agency that only white candidates should be shortlisted for the position. She was informed that no matter how excellent or highly qualified she might be, the school will not appoint her even if at all she gets shortlisted because they are only interested in hiring a white expatriate. I contacted her agent who confirmed the information but asked for anonymity.


According to Mrs Bo##`s agent, the school proprietors that he has been recruiting for have suggested that the trend has been fuelled by a growing number of Nigerian parents' specific demand for white expatriates as head, principal and administrators in private schools. Parents are generally said to now favor schools that have white expatriates as head which in turn puts proprietors under pressure to join the trend or risk low patronage. Therefore, the proprietors are of the impression that succumbing to this racist demands of Nigerian parents not only add to school`s unique selling point but increases enrollment exponentially.


Out of twelve private schools I researched while writing this article, eight of them have already appointed white administrators and others are said to be in the process of doing so. In fact, one of the eight private schools appointed a white professor as director of education and two other white administrators as heads. A source in a school that recently recruited a white expatriate who pleaded anonymity, suggested that there was pressure from parents for the school to hire a white head teacher.


According to him “parents of pupils in our school have this flawed belief that the white man or anyone with a white skin is superior to their black counterparts. Some parents even threatened to remove their children and enroll them in schools where their head is white and gave us ultimatum. White administrators are not more qualified or experienced than their Nigerian or black counterparts resident in Nigeria or other well qualified Nigerians, Ghanaians in Diaspora, in fact most of the white expatriates are here because they can’t get better offers in their countries, but since the school wants to remain competitive, we had no option.’’ he said.


Other flimsy excuses for this dangerous trend according to my other sources in Nigeria and United Kingdom are requirement for school head teacher to be familiar with modern and latest educational innovations and teaching techniques and substantial increase in number of Nigerians seeking higher education overseas. I personally do not know or understand how being white, as an administrator, automatically translates into familiarity with latest educational teaching techniques. Furthermore, I do not understand the correlation between increase in number of Nigerians seeking higher education overseas and attending schools where whites are the head teacher in Nigeria.


There is absolutely nothing wrong in hiring foreign expatriates white or black to work in private schools in Nigeria but appointment has got to be on merit. There is everything wrong with employment policy based on the color of prospective candidates' skin. It`s plain discrimination, racism, uneven playing field and lack of fair treatment of equally qualified locally trained or foreign trained Nigerians resident in Nigeria and other equally qualified and experienced black expatriates across the world.


According to Mrs Bo##`s agent, some of the white expatriates hired to work in Nigeria`s private schools are not heads of school in their country of origin. I cannot but wonder how the white expatriates would have fared if they have been hired solely on merit and not the color of their skin as clearly demonstrated by those I interviewed and the inferiority complex of those employing them who feel they are better than their Nigerian “black” counterparts. usually in American dollars or British sterling salaries that they cannot dream of getting in their country of origin but which they are paid in Nigeria coupled with lack of proper regulations which they can take advantage of in Nigeria.  

If the white people employed are so excellent and outstanding in their career, would they have needed to migrate to Nigeria in the first instance? It must be because of the fact that they are favored and the huge salaries

There is no reason to suggest that equally qualified Nigerians resident in Nigeria or currently resident overseas are not current with educational innovations and developments. If the decay in Nigeria`s educational institutions is the reason for wanting to employ foreigners, it should be noted that some of these qualified and resident Nigerians have been born, trained and experienced overseas and have returned to Nigeria or in the process of doing so like Mrs Bo## but are not being given the opportunity mainly because they are black and there is prejudice against them. It will be absurd to say these Nigerians or black administrators like them in the Diaspora lack solid foundation, modern teaching methods, innovations and rare educational expertise which might be cited as reasons for employing their white counterparts.


The lack of proper regulation or enforcement of legislation in Nigeria's education sector by the government and the almost non-existent immigration control measures means any white expatriates can come over to Nigeria and work in midst of thousands of unemployed, overseas and locally trained, qualified Nigerians. There is no mechanism in place in Nigeria for checking the background misdemeanors, offenses, convictions of prospective candidates before being allowed to work in Nigeria`s educational institutions as it is done in other countries across the world. In the United Kingdom, prospective academic and non-academic staff are checked by Criminal Record Bureau (Enhanced CRB Check) before being allowed to work in a school environment. Absence of such policy and practical system in Nigeria means any prospective white expatriates can be hired to work without adequate checks carried out. 


This ugly trend has many serious implications for Nigeria. Adoption of foreign curriculum and employment of white expatriates means gradual erosion of Nigeria`s socio-cultural values, customs and tradition. Some teachers who have worked in schools where white has been employed that I interviewed said they put aside whatever system they met on the ground when they arrive however productive it might have been and install their own system which they see as superior and these include local values, customs and tradition been swept away. It also means that there is ceiling of aspiration for Nigerians as they can only aspire to be deputy heads in their country of birth. Is Nigeria`s private schools gradually introducing the experience last witnessed during colonization when the white people came to colonize the country and were seen as superiors but it is being put into practice for them at this time by fellow Nigerians?


Another very dangerous outcome of this trend is Nigerians blaming foreigners for coming to take their jobs and the associated negative connotations and implications for foreigners in Nigeria. Nigeria should borrow a leaf from countries such as the United Kingdom and Singapore where immigration and general inflow of foreign labor is presently a very hot political issue.


On the part of government – state and federal, further measures should be put in place to enable the natural relative advantage of Nigerian citizens, the ease of access to jobs in their own space while restricting foreigners' reach into Nigeria's labor market. As it is clearly difficult to enforce Nigeria`s expatriate quota legislation on employment, the serious issue of racism should be urgently addressed and further measures introduced to make it mandatory that vacant positions should first and foremost be advertised locally for a reasonable period to Nigerians or Nigerians in Diaspora before been offered to expatriates as it is the practice in other countries across the world.


Proprietors of private schools should wake up to their delicate position of responsibility, jettison racist and discriminatory practice of employing white expatriates on the basis of their skin color. All hands of stakeholders in the Nigerian government, with the full support of proprietors, should be on deck to do everything possible to train and develop education graduates, teachers and head teachers in their employment as well as tap into ample bank of trained and experienced Nigerians in countries around the world who have returned to Nigeria or are willing to return home to contribute their quota to nation building.