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Interswitch Sets Aside N12.5m to Promote STEM Subjects

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InterswitchSPAK

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

Leading Pan-African electronic payment and digital commerce company, Interswitch Group, is set to host the first edition of the InterswitchSPAK project with a N12.5 million-scholarship amongst other prizes for the winners.

A statement issued by the firm explained that the project, which is its new CSR initiative, is focused on driving increased interest in the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects among Senior Secondary School students across Nigeria.

It was disclosed that the InterswitchSPAK initiative is a multifaceted one, made up of the TV quiz show which includes the Innovation Challenge, the MasterClass, and the InterswitchSPAK volunteers’ week, all targeted at students aged between 14 and 17 years in SS 2 or year 11, as the case maybe.

InterswitchSPAK aims to encourage and guide the students on career paths that will help them achieve full optimization of their potentials and dreams to become innovators and entrepreneurs.

InterswitchSPAK 1.0. began with a National Qualifying Examination from which the top 81 students out of the over 11,000 students from various private and public secondary schools across the 36 states of the federation, including the FCT, qualified to compete in the TV Quiz Show.

The TV Quiz Show will be preceded by a Masterclass taking place on August 27, in Lagos.  The Masterclass is a full-day of knowledge sharing and engagement sessions where some of the most inspiring and successful men and women in our society will discuss relevant topics with the students.

Speaking about the Masterclass, Founder & GMD of Interswitch, Mr Mitchell Elegbe, stated that the session would give the students the opportunity to meet real-life models who prove that success is possible, regardless of existing challenges. It will focus on knowledge sharing, as well as motivating the students on character building and assuming leadership responsibilities in all their spheres of contact.

“The Masterclass is a real experiential window for the students, where they do not only meet successful people who are providing solutions, they are motivated and prepped by these people to begin to develop the right mind set and attitude for leadership and success,” he said.

The Masterclass will feature three 45-minute sessions where the qualified students who emerged from the qualifying examinations will be intellectually motivated by high-profile speakers led by Mr Elegbe.

Also speaking at the event will be Mr Yinka Sanni, CEO, Stanbic IBTC Holdings Ltd, and Eloho Omame, MD, Endeavour Nigeria.

Mr Yinka Sanni will lead the first session and would be speaking on “Social Innovation – The Power of Transformative Ideas, while Eloho Omame will handle the second session titled: ‘Entrepreneurship – A Tool to Creating Impact in Our Society’ and Mitchell Elegbe will round off the session with the topic: ‘Emotional Intelligence and the Leadership Responsibility of Youths’.

After the Masterclass, the TV quiz show will commence with the InterswitchSPAK Innovation Challenge, a two-day intensive boot camp, where the 81 finalists, working in groups, will have the opportunity to brainstorm with their peers and proffer solutions to various issues affecting our society. The group with the most innovative and viable solution will be presented with the InterswitchSPAK 1.0 Founders Prize for Innovation.

Cherry Eromosele, Group Chief Product and Marketing Officer, Interswitch, disclosed that the Innovation Challenge is aimed at accentuating critical thinking and problem-solving abilities in the students who will be guided by staff of the Interswitch Group.

She said: “InterswitchSPAK is a project we are very much committed to. When we started this journey, our goal was very clear: to find gifted students in secondary schools and guide them to achieve their dreams. InterswitchSPAK was created to help shape the future of Africa’s brightest science students, and our immediate objective is for each student to go away with the awareness of their capacity to do great things”.

With N7.5 million worth of university scholarship for five years for the 1st place winner, N4 million worth of scholarship for three years for the 2nd place winner, and N1 million worth of scholarship for one year for the 3rd place winner, the atmosphere is set for exciting times on InterswitchSPAK 1.0.

Interswitch’s decision to give the grand prize money in the form of tertiary education scholarship, reinforces the company’s commitment to improving lives through sustainable long-term investments.

InterswitchSPAK 1.0 will be rounded off with the “InterswitchSPAK Volunteers Week” where staff of Interswitch will volunteer one hour of their time to teach STEM subjects in selected public schools.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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Education

UBEC Urges Oyo to Recruit More Teachers

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Lagos Teachers

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The Oyo State government has been advised to recruit more teachers into public primary schools in the state as this will further enhance the quality of basic education.

The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), which made this appeal, commended the government for the qualitative education pupils in Oyo State are enjoying under the leadership of Governor Seyi Makinde.

“We urge the Oyo State government to look into the recruitment of teachers into the public primary schools in the state,” the Executive Secretary of UBEC, Mr Hamid Bobboyi, said while reacting to the recommendation of the 2022 National Personnel Audit team.

The chair, who spoke through the head of the team, Mr Muhammed Bello, added that the National Personnel Audit was a major activity in data gathering used in the planning and development of education.

“Though entry is still ongoing, we would give the Board updates on the list and give the State government accurate data in order to plan and develop basic education,” Mr Bobboyi said.

He solicited the cooperation of other stakeholders in education in ensuring accurate data so as to know where every Nigerian child of school age was at any given time.

Responding, the Executive Chairman, Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board (OyoSUBEB), Mr Nureni Aderemi Adeniran, admitted the acute shortage of teachers in the state, saying the state government is making efforts to look into fresh recruitment and replacement of seconded teachers in the state.

“We are aware of the shortage of teachers in our primary schools. The state government under the leadership of our dear Governor is making efforts to ensure the problem is resolved in time,” Mr Adeniran added.

He added that the state government will continue to collaborate with the federal government and other relevant agencies to ensure the public education sector in the state thrives.

Mr Adeniran also hinted that school owners and proprietors operating illegally in the state would be made to face the law.

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Education

Lagos Lauds MTN Nigeria’s Support for Education

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Increase Funding to Education

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

A notable telecommunications company, MTN Nigeria, has been given a pat on the back by the Lagos State government for its support for education in the metropolis.

In June 2020, MTN Nigeria commenced a free data offer enabling primary and secondary school students in various states to access educational content.

The intervention was done in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Education, allowing primary and secondary school students access to virtual lessons and exam prep.

The resources available cover all primary and secondary school subjects and over 10 years of past questions from key examinations, including the First School Leaving Certificate exams, West African Senior School Certificate exams, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board exams, among others; as well as access to learning portals such as Pass.ng, Roducate, mAcademy, among others.

This initiative thrilled the Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, who said he was impressed with the company’s support for e-learning in primary and secondary schools across the state.

Speaking at the second Education Summit organised by the Lagos State Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Office of Sustainable Development Goals and Investment (SDGI), Mr Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by his deputy, Mr Obafemi Hamzat, noted that the past three years have witnessed tremendous improvement in the overall value chain of the education ecosystem.

“Our model of investment is informed by the desire to entrench 21st-century technology into the sector.  This huge investment will ultimately result in significant improvement in learning outcomes.

“Our administration also seeks to recognise and appreciate the tremendous contribution and donations of various private partners who supported the State Government’s Education Transformation Plan, most especially during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown of schools,” he stated.

The Chief Enterprise Business Officer of MTN Nigeria, Ms Lynda Saint-Nwafor, while reacting to the praise showered on the firm, stated that, “We are humbled by the recognition from the Lagos State Government and are pleased by how well our support was received by the Ministry of Education.

“At MTN, we believe that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern, connected life and will continue to provide opportunities that support students to learn and shine.”

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Education

Commission on Child Destitution, ASUU Strike and Education Sector

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Child Destitution

By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi

With the recent passage for the second reading of the Bill for an Act to establish the National Commission on Child Destitution in Nigeria, it is now evident that the nation handlers’ have finally come to the sudden realization that history has over these years thrust upon our generation an indescribably important destiny – to complete the process of learning and modernizations which our nation has too long developed too slowly, but which is our most powerful for world respect and emulation.

The bill, if passed, would provide the legal and constitutional frameworks for the eradication of child destitution in Nigeria. The bill would also result in taking formidable steps to mitigate the effects of the recurring cases of child destitution in the country. When established, the commission would serve as an intervention programme that would eradicate, rehabilitate and prohibit the menace of child destitution in Nigeria.

Without a doubt, there are many reasons that qualify the development as a right step taken in the right direction.

First, separate from the painful realization that 17 states in the country with the highest number of out-of-school children, 14 of them are in the North, and if the rate of out-of-school children is not curtailed, it would further worsen the insecurity that is currently bedevilling parts of the country. There is an accompanying belief that the latest bill, when passed, will strengthen the already existing Universal Basic Education Act 2003, which among other purposes is aimed at enforcing quality, compulsory, mandatory and free education up to secondary school three or equivalent and other purposes.

The second is that successive administrations in the country have done very little in arresting the situation. A particular report in 2013 described as mind-numbing the awareness that about 10.5 million Nigerian children of school age are not enrolled in schools. Out of this number, the report explained that about 9 million are children of beggars, fishermen and other less privileged people in the society.

The survey further showed that the population of out-of-school children in Nigeria had risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, the highest in the world, noting that; there is still a huge number of those who are in school, but are learning nothing, as schooling does not always lead to learning. In Nigeria, there are more non-learners in school than out of school.

Regardless of what you hear or read on the pages of the newspaper, this piece believes that despite the proposed National Commission on Child Destitution in Nigeria, it is still not an easy road for the Nigerian education sector but a tough and tumble ride. Even the practice of democracy in the country, contrary to earlier beliefs, has not helped to stop the pangs of challenges experienced by Nigerians in the sector.

Among many other comments in the recent past, I heard some say that across the globe, funding education now comes with a crushing weight that the government alone can no longer bear. To this group, it calls for public-private partnership and support from good-spirited individuals to the rescue.

Within this span, I have equally read an argument that our educational system is faulty just like every educational system is faulty. The United States educational system, they added, is faulty. If there is no fault in any system, then, there is no improvement. They concluded that what we call fault is a challenge and that is the basics of development. To the rest, our educational system is not faulty as it remains one of the systems that are still very sound and applauded across the world.

To illustrate this belief, the ongoing strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to ensure the government stops reneging on agreements with the union has more than anything else made it clear that the nation’s public universities, principally the federal government-owned universities, are in trouble.

Aside from the fact that this is the second industrial action in less than two years, coupled with the fact that the system continues to frustrate the ambitions and aspirations of our youths; those that will provide the future leadership needs of the country, there are indeed reasons that characterize the current happenings as a troubling reality.

The most fundamental of the reasons is that the strike came a few days after President Muhammadu Buhari, in Abuja, while receiving members of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) led by the co-chairs, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, and the president of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, promised that the federal government remains committed to honouring promises made to ASUU to prevent disruptive strikes, engender uninterrupted academic programmes and improve funding of educational institutions.

The second stems from the words of Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, president of ASUU, who during a reported interview with the Channels Television, not only contradicted but proved as untrue the above pledge by Mr President. He ‘religiously’ explained how the FG has seamlessly become reputed for not keeping promises.

Let’s listen to him; “For the past nine years or so, they have been giving us promises but once the strike is over, they relapse. While noting that his colleagues are tired of these promises which they don’t fulfil, he added that what they want is action, maintaining that the union has sacrificed for the country’s educational system, concluding that ASUU will not back down on the current industrial action, since the federal government has become reputed for not keeping to its promises.

Looking above, it is evident that if the time-honoured aphorism which considers education as the bedrock of development is anything to go by and if the age-long belief that; with sound educational institutions, a country is as good as made, the institutions will turn out all rounded manpower to continue with the development of the society driven by well thought out ideas, policies, programmes, and projects remains a valid argument, then, we all have reasons not only to feel worried but collectively work hard to deliver the nation’s education sector.

Specifically, these challenges come in two forms; the first lays out the dilemma posed by the government’s underfunding of the public universities which as a consequence; impedes lecturers from carrying out scholarly research, truncates the academic calendar with strike actions, laces Nigerian universities with dilapidated and overstretched learning facilities with the universities producing graduates devoid of linkage with the manpower demand by the nation’s industrial sector.

The second challenge stems from the first but centres more particularly on thoughtless demand for fees of varying amounts/proposed by the school authorities-a development that is financially squeezing the life out of the innocent students and their parents.

The dilemma and menace posed by this practice indicate considerably higher risk and unless the government commits its resources to get to the root of the challenge, the potential consequence could be higher than that of other challenges currently ravaging the education sector.

By not taking the education sector seriously, one fact that the federal government failed to remember is that when human beings, through sound education, develop a higher order of thinking, the society gains an advantage in being able to anticipate emerging threats, they gain the ability to conceptualize instead of just perceiving.

But when they fail to acquire or deny the need, they will also gain the ability to conceptualize an imaginary threat and when a group of people are persuaded to conceptualize this imaginary threat, they can activate the fear response as powerfully as the real threat.

This fact partially explains the current fears and insecurity that have recently enveloped the country.

To further avert all these, governments at all levels must unlearn this attitude of the progressives’ non-recognition of the right to education as a human right despite their membership in a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights where the right is respected.

Above all, the Buhari-led federal government must urgently commit to mind that globally; ‘the relationship between employers/employees is always strained, always headed toward conflict. It is a natural conflict built into the system.

Unions do not strike on a whim or use the strike to show off their strength. They look at strikes as costly and disturbing, especially for workers and their families. Strikes are called as last resort’. And any government that fails to manage this delicate relationship profitably or fails to develop a cordial relationship with the workers becomes an enemy of not just the workers but that of the open society and, such society will sooner than later find itself degenerate into chaos.

Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), a Lagos-based non-governmental organisation (NGO). He can be reached via Jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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