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UNIC Director Urges Nigerian Girls to Study Science

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By Dipo Olowookere

As the world marked the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, the Director of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Mr Ronald Kayanja has underscored the need to encourage girls to study science subjects and explore careers in the Sciences to break the socio-cultural barriers that discourage girls and women from making career choices in science and technology.

More girls and young women should be encouraged to go into the Sciences as “there are no subjects for boys and another for girls, what boys can do, you (girls) can do even better.” Mr Kayanja said while speaking at the 2017 International Day for Women and Girls in Science event organized by UNIC and ‘Yes I believe Academy’ (YIBA) at Supreme Education Foundation School, Magodo Lagos.

Attended by 200 girls from three Secondary Schools, the observance featured presentations by women in the Sciences as well as a playlet by the students of Supreme Education Foundation.

The United Nations (UN) has declared every 11th day of February as International Day for Women and Girls in Science, due to its concern about changing the trend of gender inequality in the Sciences and its commitment to increasing the participation of more girls and young women in Science,”

In Africa, Mr Kayanja explained, fewer girls are in the Sciences. This he said is due primarily to the socio-cultural belief that sciences are meant for boys and not for girls and secondarily to lack of motivation from parents to make girls pursue career choices in Science.

He enjoined that girls and women must be empowered at every level, in learning and research across all scientific fields.

In his message on the observance, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres observed that for too long, discriminatory stereotypes have prevented women and girls from having equal access to education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). “These stereotypes” according to him, “are flat wrong. They deny women and girls the chance to realize their potential – and deprive the world of the ingenuity and innovation of half the population.”

He urged commitment to end bias, greater investments in STEM education for all women and girls as well as opportunities for their careers and longer-term professional advancement so that all can benefit from their ground-breaking future contributions.

Obviously inspired by the speakers, who were all women with thriving careers in the Sciences, the girls, during the interactive session, expressed their willingness to pursue careers in science and technology. The need to offer mentoring opportunities to young women scientists to assist in their career development was repeatedly stressed by the speakers.

Participants attended from Supreme Education Foundation Schools, Ostra Heights Schools and Veritas Schools, Lagos.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Non-Teaching Workers of Universities Suspend Strike

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NASU strike

By Ahmed Rahma

The leadership of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of non-teaching staff unions of universities has announced the suspension of its three-week-old strike with effect from midnight of Friday, February 26.

The General Secretary of the Non-Academic Staff Union of the Universities (NASU), Mr Peters Adeyemi, confirmed this development while addressing newsmen at the end of a conciliatory meeting with the federal government on Thursday in Abuja.

Mr Adeyemi said the union agreed to suspend the national strike after extracting some concessions from the national government that had to do with the grievances it presented.

“We have eight items which we negotiated and which form the basis for our ongoing national strike in the universities.

“We have held the meeting with the government side and those areas that needed to be harmonised have been done to the satisfaction of both parties and resulting from that development.

“We have agreed that the ongoing national strike in universities and inter universities centres should be suspended with effect from 12 midnight, Friday, February 26, 2021.

“We use this opportunity to appreciate our members for their commitment to this struggles, this strike is hereby suspended,” he said.

Mr Adeyemi stated that the unions would continue to monitor the agreements that had been reached that had a timeline and hoped that the government would implement its own side of the bargain.

According to him, if the government doesn’t, they will call their members to resume the suspended strike, but for now, the strike is suspended.

Earlier, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr Chris Ngige, said the meeting was very fruitful as all the rough edges arising from the former negotiations had been smoothened.

“Today’s deliberations have been very fruitful; we have also issued a conciliation document called Joint Action Memorandum of Action (MoA), and the two unions will get back to their members today and in good faith.

“So, we keep our fingers crossed, believing that their communications with their union members will be as quick and swift as they have promised us.

“This is more so, as the government is desirous that normal activities should return to the University system so that we can take the action one after the other.

“Also with the normalcy restored in the university system, we intend to do the visitation panel which is one of the agreements reached with them and which cannot be carried out without normalcy in the university system,” Mr Ngige said.

JAC non-teaching staff comprises the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and NASU.

The unions demand included rectifying inconsistencies in the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS), non-payment of arrears of minimum wage, delay in renegotiation with government, NASU and SSANU 2009 agreement, among others.

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Kwara Approves Use of Hijab in Public Schools

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Kwara schools Hijab

By Dipo Olowookere

The Kwara State government has approved the use of the Hijab, a veil worn by female Muslims, in public schools in the state.

In a statement issued on Thursday by the Secretary to the Kwara State Government, Prof Mamma Sabah Jibril, it was emphasised that every Muslim schoolgirl has the right to put on the veil.

The government said it authorised the use of the Hijab in schools after consultations with the relevant stakeholders in the state, including leaders of both Muslim and Christian communities.

Recently, tensions were high over the use of the covering in some schools in the predominantly Muslim state. This led to the closure of 10 schools in the state to calm nerves.

Announcing the position of the Kwara State government on the Hijab controversy yesterday, Prof Sabah said any willing schoolgirl is permitted to wear Hijab, but emphasised that an approved type of the religious clothing would be designed and unveiled.

“The government hereby acknowledges and approves the right of the Muslim schoolgirl to wear the hijab, and directs the Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development to come up with a uniform hijab for all public/ grant-aided schools, which will be the accepted mode of head covering in schools.

“Any willing schoolgirl with the approved (uniform) hijab shall have the right to wear same in public/grant-aided schools.

“Also, the government affirms the right of every child in public schools to freedom of worship,” the SSG said in the statement.

The Kwara State government, which said “there is no victor or vanquished on the Hijab question,” urged the “two faith communities, especially the leaders, opinion moulders and media personalities to act with restraint and great responsibility in their public utterances and actions, and continue to live in peace and harmony with one another.”

“The government commends all the thought and religious leaders on both sides for their forbearance, understanding and commitment to peace,” it added.

The state government, thereafter, directed that the 10 schools shut a few days ago to reopen and resume classes from Monday, March 8, 2021.

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LASU Declares New VC Selection Process Credible

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LASU Lagos State University

By Ahmed Rahma

The management of the Lagos State University (LASU) has declared that the ongoing process of selecting a substantive Vice-Chancellor for the institution is credible and warned against attempts by some people to discredit the process.

This  was disclosed in a statement on Wednesday by the Coordinator, Centre for Information Press and Public Relations (CIPPR), Mr Ademola Adekoya.

“Our attention has been drawn to a viral video by one @Baloguneko making the rounds on the social media, where he accused the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman Governing Council of the University, Prof. Adebayo Ninalowo, of attempting to manipulate the ongoing selection process of the next Vice-Chancellor of the University, purportedly to favour some candidates and shortchange others.

“Before now, we have maintained a deliberate silence on the various media reports and propaganda that have greeted the first, and the currently ongoing selection process in order to avoid joining issues with those seeking to, and by all means, rubbish the process, in order to achieve their personal gains.

“But after critically assessing the latest video, and aware of the damage the misinformation it contains could cause to the good name of the university, we are compelled to provide some clarifications,” the statement read.

It further stated that, “First, the Council Chairman, Prof. Adebayo Ninalowo, does not have any grouse with a particular candidate and regardless of his personal preferences, cannot unilaterally determine who applies for, is shortlisted for, or is eventually appointed as the next Vice-Chancellor of the University, as @Baloguneko alleged.

“For the avoidance of doubt, a committee, headed by the Chairman Council, made up of representatives of the council and the Senate of the university, is only responsible for shortlisting, screening and interviewing applicants for the position of Vice-Chancellor, in a transparent manner.

“The job of the selection committee, however, ends with recommending the names of the three best performing candidates to the Visitor (the Governor of the state) who has the prerogative to appoint *any of the three candidates recommended* to him.

“Second, the poster’s allegation that the immediate past Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, attempted to foist a particular candidate on the university is untrue and very unfortunate. The poster again betrays a lack of knowledge of the process of appointment. No where in the LASU Laws is an incumbent (or former) VC empowered to decide his successor.

“Being a stickler for rule of law and due process, the immediate past VC consistently maintained his neutrality in the process of the appointment of the new Vice Chancellor. If he was not able to determine his successor while in office, one wonders how he would do that now that he is out of office.

“Finally, we must state that the process for the appointment of the 9th Substantive Vice Chancellor of the University has been very transparent and credible.

“We, therefore, urge all well-meaning stakeholders to resist any effort to undermine the ongoing selection process, but rather  continue to pray for the best candidate to emerge while supporting the University to attain her goal of becoming the best in the country.”

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Gradely Rolls out Homegrown Learning Management System

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Gradely

By Adedapo Adesanya

A Nigerian education technology startup, Gradely, has unveiled a homegrown and virtual learning management system (LMS) for schools.

The startup, which has raised $150,000 in pre-seed funding from angel investors and venture capital firms such as Ventures Platform and Microtraction, has now launched its LMS, known as Gradely For Schools.

Gradely For Schools is a teacher-led LMS, built for personalised learning, with features such as live classes to organise and hold engaging class experiences, assessment tools to set up robust and relevant assessment formats fitted with the Nigerian and British curriculum-aligned question pool, a proctored examination system to hold credible remote academic evaluations, and a suite of personalised video lessons, practice quizzes and games library known as Gradely CatchUp! to support in-class efforts with students at home.

Speaking on the system in a recent interview with a tech-based platform, Disrupt Africa, Mr Boye Oshinaga noted that, “The personalisation works by having tonnes of assessment content mapped by topic and difficulty, and following the performance on adaptive tests, students are provided recommendations daily to catch up on weak areas.

“This leads to measurable improvement in student’s performance and a learning path that is unique to each child.

“It is possible to use Gradely at home as a standalone learning supplement or in conjunction with school, so that homework and class material can be viewed directly on the app as well. In this case, where the app is school-integrated, parents see a report that is the most representative source of truth of the child’s learning progress.”

So far, Gradely has been used by over 5,000 Nigerian parents and 200 schools as part of its beta testing, and it is now planning a wider rollout.

“We saw that while African schools had begun to adopt technology, they had not figured out how to leverage it to improve learning outcomes,” said Mr Oshinaga.

“Today, 200 million African students, many in private schools as well as public schools, are in school but not learning. This is nine out of every 10 students on the continent.”

As internet penetration and device access accelerate, however, Gradely believes every school and parent in Africa will require a digital learning environment that complements classroom education and gives students a leg up in future exams. Gradely is such a solution, and charges schools an annual per-student fee for LMS access and an additional fee for content access. It also charges parents a monthly subscription for content access as well as fees per live tutor session.

“We are currently making revenues from existing users.

“We are launching first in Nigeria but plan to expand region-by-region across Africa and potentially globally as the use-cases for a content-driven personalised learning platform are very scalable,” Mr Oshinaga added.

Founded in 2019 by Boye Oshinaga, Femi Ibiwoye, Seyi Adelaju and Babatunde Caleb, Gradely uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help parents and schools intervene in real-time to plug student learning gaps.

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Alleged Widespread Corruption at UBEC, SUBEBs Worries SERAP

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Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC

By Adedapo Adesanya

An advocacy organisation in Nigeria, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has expressed strong concern over the allegations of corruption at the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) and State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs).

The group wants the federal government and relevant agencies to probe the alleged missing N3.84 billion documented in the 2017 annual report submitted by the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF).

It was alleged that the two agencies in the education sector in Nigeria recorded widespread and systemic corruption, misappropriation and mismanagement of funds between 2004 and 2020.

SERAP wants the government to act fast and decisively and make public the outcome of any investigation, and to prosecute suspected perpetrators if there is relevant admissible evidence, as well as fully recover any missing public funds.

SERAP stated that allegations of corruption in UBEC and SUBEBs violate the right to education of millions of Nigerian children who continue to face unsuitable learning conditions, as shown by the poor learning and boarding facilities at the Government Science College, Kagara, Niger State.

In a statement, SERAP stressed that, “We would be grateful if your government would indicate the measures being taken to address the allegations and to implement the proposed recommendations within 14 days of the receipt and/or publication of this letter If we have not heard from by then as to the steps being taken in this direction, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel his government to implement these recommendations in the public interest, & to promote transparency & accountability in UBEC and SUBEBs.

“Allegations of corruption in UBEC & SUBEBs undermine public confidence in the education sector, lead to the erosion of education quality & access, & if not urgently addressed will lead to an increase in out-of-school children, & exacerbate educational inequalities in the country.

“According to the 2017 Annual Report by the Auditor-General of the Federation, UBEC spent N7,712,000.00 to engage external solicitors between January to December 2015 without due process and the approval of the Attorney General of the Federation.

“UBEC also reportedly failed to explain the nature of the legal services rendered. The Auditor-General is concerned UBEC may have engaged ‘unqualified solicitors.

“The Plateau State Universal Basic Education Board also reportedly failed to account for N37, 200,000.00 despite repeated requests by the Auditor-General.

“The Plateau SUBEB also spent N9,709,989 without any payment vouchers. The SUBEB spent N1,607,007,353.72 Special Intervention funds by the federal government without any documents.

“The Plateau SUBEB also paid N10, 341,575.00 to various contractors without evidence of advance payment guarantee. The SUBEB paid N70,569,471.00 through cheques to a member of staff, in violation of the Federal Government e-payment policy.

“The SUBEB also failed to explain the purpose of the payment. It spent N120,948,000.00 on the professional development of teachers but failed to retire and account for the money.

“The Imo State Universal Basic Education Board reportedly spent N482,560,000.00 as mobilization fees to some contractors without due process and any advance payment guarantee. The contracts were funded from the Matching Grant Account.

“The Auditor-General stated that the contractors selected lacked ‘the financial capacity to handle the contracts.’ The SUBEB has also failed to account for N140,774,702.12 of project fund since 2015.

“The Kano State Universal Basic Education Board reportedly paid N71,263,000.15 to contractors without due process and without open competitive bidding.

“Similarly, the Ebonyi SUBEB paid N569,758,938.00 to ‘unqualified contractors and companies’ for the reconstruction and renovation of classrooms. The Ebonyi SUBEB also spent N10,123,892.46 to buy store items but without any documents.

“The Gombe SUBEB paid N31,822,600.00 to a staff from its teachers’ professional development funds but failed to account for the money. The Auditor-General is concerned that ‘the payment is fictitious’, and that ‘the funds did not benefit the intended beneficiaries.’

“The SUBEB also reportedly paid N41,277,983.00 as cash advance to staff to ‘buy some materials and for press coverage but failed to account for the money.

“SERAP is concerned about allegations of widespread and systemic corruption, misappropriation and mismanagement within UBEC and several SUBEBs, the failure to investigate these allegations, and to recover any missing public funds.

“The federal government bears responsibility for ensuring that every Nigerian child has access to quality education in a conducive learning environment, and to safeguard education as a public good, govt’s responsibility to guarantee & ensure the right to quality education for every Nigerian child is interlinked with the responsibility under Section 15(5) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 [as amended] to ‘abolish all corrupt practices & abuse of office.’

“This imposes a fundamental obligation to investigate the missing public funds from UBEC and SUBEBs, to prosecute suspected perpetrators, recover the money, and to remove opportunities for corruption in these institutions.

“Access to quality education would empower children to be full and active participants in society, able to exercise their rights and engage in civil and political life.”

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Stanbic IBTC Gives 87 Students N34.8m for University Education

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Stanbic IBTC IDE

By Ahmed Rahma

Not less than N34.8 million worth of scholarship has been given to 87 candidates of the University Tertiary Matriculation Examinations (UTME) for their awesome performances in the 2019 and 2020 exam.

The gesture was given by a leading financial institution, Stanbic IBTC Holdings Plc, to encourage hard work and excellent academic performance.

The chief executive of Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Dr Demola Sogunle, while speaking at the presentation of the scholarships on Thursday, said the prosperity of the nation and its citizens was hinged on the youth’s educational development.

He further said the financial institution, which is a member of Standard Bank Group, remains determined to provide the necessary support to brilliant students.

“Stanbic IBTC appreciates the fundamental role education plays in transforming society, which is why we have chosen to institute the scholarship to encourage hard work and academic excellence amongst Nigerian students who desire tertiary education.

“The scholarship will enable them to pursue and realise their dreams of academic excellence,” he said.

“The scholarship will be disbursed to the 87 students in yearly tranches for a period of four academic years.

“However, after the first tranche, subsequent disbursements will be subject to maintaining at least a second-class upper grade and evidence of good conduct confirmed by the school” Mr Sogunle added.

He further stated that, “Education Trust Funds will be set up for the beneficiaries, and thefunds will be accessed through the Education Trust accounts.”

In 2019, the lender announced its scholarship scheme which was introduced as part of the activities to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

The scheme, according to the bank is to support, reward and encourage students who had excelled in their academic pursuit and also in line with its commitment to value-driven corporate social investments, designed to contribute to youth’s educational development. The beneficiaries were effusive in their appreciation of the gesture.

Business Post gathered that the 87 beneficiaries of the scholarships yesterday included physically challenged students and they were picked from the 36 states in the country of which 39 of them participated in the 2019 exam while 48 participated in the 2020 exam.

Expressing his gratitude, one of the beneficiaries, Hammed-Saruk Omogbolahan, said the scholarship would allow them focus on their education, and he assured that they would continue to strive for academic excellence to justify their selection.

Education has remained a key focus area for Stanbic IBTC, and the financial institution has continued to play a leading role in transforming lives through education.

Other scholarship initiatives organised by the financial institution include those awarded to indigent children who have suffered limb losses, under its signature CSI initiative tagged Together4ALimb.

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