The steady weakening of the educational sector in Nigeria has brought so much concern to many Nigerians considering the role of education in nation building.
From the long-drawn battles between the Federal Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other non-academic staff unions, resulting in unending strike actions in tertiary institutions, to lack of school structures, learning infrastructure, security and other basic amenities such as proper sanitation at the primary and secondary school levels.
In Nigeria today, teachers have continued to decry lack of training, support, resources to aid learning, poor remuneration, and often many months’ salaries being owed, making the teaching profession largely unattractive.
Whereas in some other climes, education is top priority, teaching jobs are lucrative and teachers are well respected in the society; learning is made more engaging, interactive, stimulating and interesting for learners with the aid of technology, but for us in this part of the world, it has become a tall order.
In the midst all these comes a beacon of hope on the horizon as one of Nigeria’s leading independent oil and gas operators, Seplat drives a positive change by introducing a laudable educational programme targeted at secondary school teachers with the aim of promoting teachers’ creative thinking, allowing for higher student engagement, and offering a well-rounded education for recipients of the programme as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Seplat is a leading independent indigenous oil and natural gas producer in the oil-rich Niger-Delta region in Nigeria. Over the years, the oil and gas giant has built strong relationships with its host communities, thereby promoting trust and confidence among its various stakeholders, resulting in a stable operating environment that facilitates the creation of shared value. Today, it continues to make strides worthy of note with its drive to improve the standard of education in Nigeria, particularly in its host states.
Just recently, the company concluded another flagship educational programme known as Seplat PEARLs Quiz, aimed at promoting and rewarding academic excellence among secondary school students. The programme, which ran for six months, had 574 participating schools drawn from Edo and Delta States.
The competition, according to the company, aims to promote and reward academic excellence among secondary school students. With a corporate philosophy, which sees the host communities as key stakeholders/co-owners of its business, Seplat has excelled in providing other supports such as health services, scholarships, and social infrastructure to the communities.
Also, SEPLAT has made significant impact in the Nigerian educational sector by creating critical initiatives that are focused on providing quality education for states of its operations and the country. To consolidate its achievements on Sustainability Development Goal 4, which promotes inclusive and equitable quality education, the Company introduced Seplat Teachers Empowerment Programme (STEP), a customised training programme for secondary school teachers.
STEP is a three-month intensive training programme that equips teachers with tools to teach Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics (STEAM).
At the maiden edition held in Benin City, Edo State, on November 23, 2020, a total of 100 teachers and 43 Chief Inspectors of Education (CIEs) drawn from Edo and Delta States were enrolled into the STEP programme to embarked on a six-month online training on teaching applications for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM), as well as leadership and self-improvement training.
Report has it that through STEAM education, students are engaged in several activities in their daily life aimed at establishing communication skills like critiquing art, presenting research, collaborating with peers for group projects, and communicating results in research papers. Along with creative thinking, STEAM education creates an environment where students can learn to express themselves in a supportive and accepting climate in the classroom, giving them the chance to explore more of themselves.
There are also indicators that point to the fact that teachers who are well-equipped to teach STEAM, play an important role in guiding children, resulting in superior performance than less experienced teachers. This, among others, has spurred SEPLAT to continue to make notable strides with its drive to improve the standard of education in the country, particularly for its host States.
In keeping with the times, SEPLAT developed an Online Teachers Resource Centre which provides teachers access to inclusive learnings highlighting best techniques and practices for implementing STEAM teaching methods and assists teachers to learn to use such methods in the classrooms. The E-Platform provides and connects teachers to a collection of STEAM resources to enable them to understand, teach and demonstrate effectively to their students.
Seplat supported the teachers with the provision of electronic devices and internet data for the period of training. While the STEP initiative is highly commendable, many are not surprised, given the underlying philosophy of the founders of the organisation, like A.B.C Orjiako, chairman of Seplat, who came from a corporate entity but has a laudable track record in enhancing the quality of education with many Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes.
To commemorate the certificate presentation ceremony held on March 19, 2021, Seplat hosted an Education Roundtable to explore the right policy formulation for quality education. The theme for the roundtable was, ‘Provision of Quality Education: A National Priority’.
The Seplat Certificate Awards Ceremony, alongside the Seplat Education Roundtable, had educational experts and professionals in a highly engaging panel session moderated by Pat Utomi while the keynote speaker was Ngozi Osarenren, former Edo State Commissioner of Education.
Roger Brown, CEO of Seplat, who was represented by Chioma Nwachuku, director, External Affairs and Communications at the event, said that Seplat has invested significantly in various educational CSR programmes which support Sustainable Development Goal 4, because of its strong belief that education is the bedrock for national growth.
“Worldwide, having a team of competent teachers is a critical success factor for achieving quality education. That easily tells the impetus behind the well-targeted programmes. While we all agree that this is indeed a laudable initiative, and look forward to future editions, more teachers as well as students being empowered through the programmes is a call on more organisations, corporate bodies, groups and well-meaning Nigerians to join in the drive to take Nigeria’s educational sector out of the doldrums and set it on albeit slow, but steady path toward joining the rest of the world to provide quality education to our children, the leaders of tomorrow,” Brown said.
Utomi, while commenting on the state of education in the country, said the society must appreciate and show esteem for teachers, adding that the impact teachers make in the lives of students and community remain immeasurable.
According to Utomi, teachers need to continue to exhibit a strong passion for their profession with the undying commitment to sustaining the future generation. “Misery among the people could only be effectively addressed with quality education.”
Education is critical to combating poverty, and qualified teachers are the genuine agents needed to actualise this in Nigeria. Therefore, there is the need for the right curriculum, to set the requisite skill and to have effective partnership among stakeholders, as is being exhibited by Seplat.
Sola Okunkpolor, in her submission, advocated for a robust database in the educational sector to allow for good planning, monitoring and decision making.
“Continuous data mining process is needed to enable us to know how many children are in school, how many are graduating, how many are progressive, how many are being engaged upon leaving school, and so on,” Okunkpolor added.
Chioma Nwachuku, who cited the high numbers of out-of-school children in the country, said that poor budgetary allocation to education has created a misplaced priority that leads to value erosion in society, which is a significant setback that must be addressed for an improved standard of education.
She noted that technology advances must be applied appropriately to schooling, as new competencies could become game-changers for the country and the Nigerian people.
With this latest feat, Seplat has demonstrated its passion towards helping to shape the nation’s future by building the intellectual capital that will launch her unto the realms of real prosperity. This step is not only laudable, but also worthy of emulation by other corporate organisations in order to move Nigeria forward.