The First Primary School in Nigeria


Before colonization, ethnic groups facilitated education among its people. Vocational education was a major form of education in those days. The onset of colonization introduced western style education to present day Nigeria. So now we have these three types of education. 

Nigeria follows the 6-3-3-4 system
  1. Traditional Education
  2. Islamic Education
  3. Western Education

This article will focus on western education in Nigeria.

Brief History

The first primary (elementary) school was established by the Methodist mission in the first half of the 19th century in the border town of Badagry. After the establishment of the first primary school in 1843, other primary schools were founded in other towns like Abeokuta and Ibadan in southwest Nigeria.

The primary school of 1843 was named Nursery of Infant Church. In 1845, it became St. Thomas’ Anglican Nursery and Primary School. The school was housed in the first story building in Badagry before moving to its location in Topo, Badagry where the relic of the old building can still be seen today.

Now that we know of the first primary school in Nigeria which happen to have been established in southwest Nigeria, let’s take a look at the first primary school in Northern Nigeria. Since the initial purpose of western education was to convert ‘pagans’ to Christianity, Northern Nigeria did not welcome western education until much later. In the North, Islamic education flourish under the highly educated Islamic scholars.

In 1865, the Bishop Crowther LGA Primary School was established in Lokoja, Kogi State by the Anglican missionary. Not much has been written about this school so I can’t tell if it was a successful attempt in western education in Northern Nigeria. In 1899, the colonial government had to establish a government primary school in Lagos for the Muslim students as a result of their unwillingness to attend the missionary schools. This would be the first Government school in Nigeria.


Primary school education begins at the age of 4 for most of the Nigerian population. Nigeria follows the 6-3-3-4 system. This means 6 years of primary school, 3 years in Junior Secondary schools, 3 years in Senior Secondary School and 4 years at the tertiary institution.

In primary schools, students are taught mathematics, English language, Christian Religious Knowledge or Islamic knowledge studies, social studies, science and one of the three main indigenous languages (Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba, or Igbo). Most Private schools often includes computer science, French, and Fine Arts as subjects taught in primary schools.

Towards the end of the 6th year, primary school students are required to take the Common Entrance Examination in order to qualify for admission into any Federal or State Secondary schools. Private secondary schools and military operated schools often require students to take their own entrance examinations as well.

Some Current Challenges

While the country has seen significant increase in the enrollment of pupils to western style primary schools, the state and federal schools are still faced with many challenges. Some of these challenges includes overcrowding of classes and understaffed schools making effective teaching impossible.

Most government schools especially the ones in the rural areas are in critical needs of basic infrastructures and necessary resources.

Random Facts

  • All primary school students wear uniforms
  • If you attended primary school in Lagos, you most likely went on a field trip to Badagry at least once in your primary school life.
  • A sizeable percentage of students who attended private primary schools skipped primary 6 (last year in primary school). They took the entrance examination in primary 5 and went on to secondary schools.

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