By Henry Umahi
What is life without education in today’s world? An uneducated society wallows in ignorance, and ignoramuses perish, according to the Good Book. As someone said, “Education is a tool which provides people with knowledge, skill, technique, information, enables them to know their rights and duties toward their family, society as well as the nation. It expands vision and outlook to see the world. It develops the capabilities to fight against injustice, violence, corruption and many other elements in society.”
To put it in a capsule form, every society needs critical thinkers whose education is defined by their ability to solve problems.
This is why Sustainable Development Goals 4 (SDG 4) of the United Nations aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Achieving inclusive and quality education for all reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. This goal ensures that all girls and boys achieve free primary and secondary education by 2030. It also aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training, to eliminate gender and wealth disparities, and achieve universal access to a quality higher education.
As Nigeria struggles to cover lost ground in the education sector, occasioned by lack of infrastructure and capacity deficiency, stakeholders insist that all hands must be on deck to rejig the sector.
After all, it is said that “education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to people who prepare for it today.”
Bearing this in mind, Seplat Petroleum, an independent indigenous Nigerian upstream exploration and production company, set out to ramp up teachers’ creative thinking, allowing for higher student engagement, through its Seplat Teachers’ Empowerment Programme (STEP).
Over the years, it 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 values.
Today, it continues to make remarkable strides with its drive to improve the standard of education in Nigeria, particularly in its host states.
The educational programme, which aims to promote and offer well-rounded education for its recipients, made its debut in Benin City, Edo State, on November 23, 2020.
Beginning with a five-day residential introductory workshop, STEP ushered a six-month programme specially designed for teachers, providing training in teaching applications for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) as well as leadership and self-improvement training.
The importance of STEAM cannot be over-emphasised as it has been proven to help teachers incorporate multiple disciplines, and at the same time promote learning experiences that allow children to explore, question, research, discover, and exercise innovative building skills.
According to the director, External Affairs and Communications (Seplat), Dr. Chioma Nwachukwu, the company is poised to play an invaluable role in enhancing the quality of education with the many educational programmes offered through the company’s CSR initiatives.
Nwachukwu said: “With the STEP programme, the company now has a full boutique of programmes to address the entire education value chain. Our programmes now cover improving school infrastructure, enhancing the academic performance of students and building the skills and competencies of teachers. A total of 100 teachers and 43 chief inspectors of education (CIEs) drawn from Edo and Delta states are benefitting from this maiden edition.”
Nwachukwu further disclosed that, after the maiden edition, the training continued online for over six months, with teachers receiving customized training modules on efficient pedagogical methods for STEAM education, as well as leadership and self-improvement training. In keeping with the times, SEPLAT has developed an Online Teachers Resource Centre, which provides the 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. It also went a step further to provide electronic devices and internet data for the teachers for the period of training.
It was gathered 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.
Seplat’s chief executive officer, Roger Brown, disclosed that the STEAM programme was not the company’s only foray into the Nigeria education sector, as it has invested significantly in various educational corporate social responsibility programmes that support SDGs-Goal 4.
The company recently concluded another flagship educational programme, SEPLAT PEARLs Quiz, which had 574 participating schools drawn from Edo and Delta states. The competition aims to promote and reward academic excellence amongst secondary school students; it runs for six months with the students and schools earnestly contesting to win the much-coveted prizes. This, he said, is rooted in Seplat’s strong belief that education is the bedrock for national growth.
While the STEP initiative is commendable, many are not surprised, given the underlying philosophy of the founders of the organisation, like its chairman, Dr. A.B.C. Orjiako, and coming from a corporate entity with a laudable track record in enhancing the quality of education with many CSR programmes.
To commemorate the certificate presentation ceremony, held on March 19, 2021, Seplat hosted an education round table to further explore the right policy formulation for quality education. The theme for the round table was “Provision of Quality Education: A National Priority.”
The Seplat certificate awards ceremony, alongside the education roundtable, had educational experts and professionals in a highly engaging panel session moderated by Prof. Pat Utomi. The keynote speaker for the day was former Edo State Commissioner of Education, Prof. Ngozi Osarenren.
The CEO, Brown, who was represented by Nwachukwu, stated that: “Seplat has invested significantly in various educational CSR programmes, which support Sustainable Development Goals, Goal 4, because of our 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.”
The company urged Nigerians to join in the drive to take the country’s educational sector out of the doldrums and set it on a steady path toward joining the rest of the world to provide quality education to our children, the leaders of tomorrow.
Utomi, while commenting on the state of education in the country, said society must appreciate and show esteem for teachers, adding that the impacts 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. He argued that misery among the people could only be effectively addressed by quality education.
In the same vein, Prof. Aluede said education was critical to combating poverty, adding that qualified teachers were the genuine agents needed to actualize it in Nigeria. He, therefore, stressed the need for the right curriculum, the requisite skill sets and effective partnership among stakeholders, as is being exhibited by Seplat.
Similarly, Prof. Emunemu urged everyone who needed to become a teacher to acquire the minimum qualifications. He pointed out that failure to do so would only result in wrong output from the sector.
Sola Okunkpolor, in her submission, advocated a robust database in the educational sector to allow for good planning, monitoring and decision making.
Nwachukwu cited the high numbers of out-of-school children in the country, the poor budgetary allocation to education, misplaced priorities leading to value erosion in society as significant setbacks that must be addressed for an improved standard of education. She noted that technology must be applied appropriately to schooling, as new competencies could become game-changers for the country and the Nigerian people.