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The Role of International Schools in Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals: Focus on Lagos, Nigeria.

Article by: Moulin 'Sade Marriott |

The Role of International Schools in Advancing the Sustainable Development Goals: Focus on Lagos, Nigeria.

Sade Marriott
Author:Sade Marriott

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International schools, even simply by virtue of being deemed 'international' could be said to serve as vital hubs for fostering global citizenship and contributing to sustainable development efforts. In the context of Lagos, Nigeria, the role these institutions play is, perhaps, a little more nuanced.

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They could (and some, in fact, do) play a multifaceted role in realising several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at local, national, regional and,even possibly, global levels. There is value therefore in exploring the diverse ways in which international schools in Lagos can contribute to advancing the SDGs, focusing on key areas such as quality education, gender equality, economic growth and partnerships for development. Through a combination of rigorous academic curricula, extracurricular activities, community engagement and global partnerships, international schools in Lagos have the potential to become catalysts for positive change and sustainable development.

International schools in Lagos, Nigeria, stand at the intersection of local contexts and global perspectives, offering a unique platform to address pressing development challenges. As centres of educational excellence with diverse student populations, these institutions are well-positioned to contribute significantly to the realisation of some of the SDGs.

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Quality Education (SDG 4):

International schools are deemed to prioritise the delivery of quality education that is inclusive and relevant to the needs of a rapidly changing world - a 21st Century education - with ready access to technology, sporting facilities, the internet as well as up to date educational trends and practises. Through rigorous academic programs, qualified and well-paid faculty, innovative teaching methodologies and a focus on holistic development, these institutions prepare students to become lifelong learners and global citizens. In Lagos, where access to quality education remains a challenge for many, international schools serve as beacons of educational excellence, offering opportunities for these students to excel academically and thrive personally.

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Gender Equality (SDG 5):

Gender equality is a fundamental principle embedded in the ethos of international schools. By promoting a culture of respect, inclusion and equal opportunity for their students, these institutions empower girls and boys to pursue their aspirations without discrimination. In Lagos, where gender disparities persist in education and beyond, international schools (whether by design or through economic considerations making single sex international schools a rarity) play a crucial role in challenging stereotypes, fostering leadership skills and promoting gender-sensitive policies and practices.

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Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8):

International schools contribute to economic growth and sustainable development by equipping students with the knowledge, skills and values needed to succeed in the global economy. Through career guidance, entrepreneurship programs and experiential learning opportunities, these institutions prepare young people for the workforce and nurture the next generation of innovators, leaders and change-makers. In Lagos, where youth unemployment is a pressing issue, international schools play a vital role in bridging the skills gap and fostering economic empowerment.

However, with many (most?) of the products of these schools excelling academically, going on to well known institutions abroad and then taking up high level positions in these foreign countries, the question whether the country is benefitting or will ultimately benefit from this high achieving demographic is one that bears further examination. The gains can be argued to be mainly personal rather than communal.

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The Environment - Sustainable Cities and Communities (SDG 6, 7,11, 12,13 & SDG 15):

Some international schools in Lagos actively engage in community outreach initiatives and environmental stewardship projects, promoting sustainable practices and contributing to the development of resilient cities and communities. Through partnerships with local organisations, eco-clubs, and advocacy campaigns, these institutions raise awareness about pressing environmental issues and mobilize action to address them. In Lagos, where rapid urbanisation and environmental degradation pose significant challenges, international schools play a crucial role in promoting sustainability and fostering a sense of environmental responsibility among students.

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Reduced Inequalities (SDG 10):

International schools by their very nature can be assumed to embrace diversity and promote inclusivity, creating environments where students from diverse cultures can learn, collaborate and thrive together. By celebrating cultural differences, these institutions contribute to building more inclusive societies and challenging stereotypes.

However, in the area of reducing socio-economic disparities, there is clearly a lot more work to do. In Lagos, a city characterised by vast socio-economic disparities, international schools would benefit from more focus on preparing their students to become agents of positive change in their communities. This goes beyond the performative collection for charity or the charity dinner by well-heeled patrons. It would require engagement at greater depth to include active collaboration between the more affluent international schools and the less endowed public schools. Some educational NGOs (non-governmental organisations) have begun to explore this space This kind of collaboration is being trialled in the United Kingdom between the exclusive public (ie, private in the UK) schools and state schools.

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Partnership for the Goals (SDG 17):

International schools recognise the importance of collaboration and partnership in achieving the SDGs. By forging alliances with governments, non-profit organizations, businesses and other stakeholders, these institutions amplify their impact and leverage resources to address complex development challenges. Through global citizenship programs, service-learning projects and international exchanges, international schools in Lagos foster a sense of solidarity and shared responsibility for global development. With most of the international schools accredited by organisations such as COBIS (Council of British International Schools) and BSO (British Schools Overseas), these organisations serve as forums for interconnectivity, sharing of best practices and important partnerships. In Lagos, a city with a vibrant and diverse ecosystem of NGOs, businesses and civil society organisations, international schools serve as catalysts for cross-sectoral collaboration and collective action towards sustainable development.

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International schools in Lagos, Nigeria, occupy a unique position in the quest for sustainable development, serving as potential catalysts for positive change and agents of transformation in their communities and beyond. Through their commitment to quality education, gender equality,economic empowerment, inclusivity, sustainability and partnership, these institutions are making strides towards realising the SDGs and have potential to shape a more just, equitable and sustainable world for future generations.

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Moulin 'Sade Marriott


A solicitor qualified in the UK and Nigeria and former magistrate, Sade Marriott is passionate about education and is a director of Banana Island International School, an Ambassador School of the UN SDG Book Club African Chapter. She is co-host of Sade & Sade on Education, a podcast about education in Nigeria and Banana Island Living, a community podcast on happier, healthier and more informed living.

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About the African Perspectives Series

The African Perspective Series was launched at the 2022 Nigeria International Book Fair with the first set of commissioned papers written and presented by authors of the UN SDG Book Club African Chapter. The objective of African Perspectives is to have African authors contribute to the global conversation around development challenges afflicting the African continent and to publish these important papers in the SDG Book Club blog hosted in the Stories section of the UN Namibia site. In this way, our authors' ideas about the way forward for African development, can reach the widest possible interested audience.. The African Perspectives Series is an initiative and property of Borders Literature for all Nations.

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