By Emmanuel Edukugho
The need to provide conducive environment for learning in the face of dilapidated and decaying infrastructure in public schools informed the decision of Etisalat, an emerging communication company in Nigeria to construct new classroom blocks in schools it adopted in Lagos State.
Mr. Steven Evans, Etisalat CEO, gave this reason during an interactive session, with the media after inspecting the building projects at Rabiatu Thompson Primary School, Surulere Lagos.
â€œIâ€™m pleased with the progress made so far in the construction work. The contractors are good, they are doing a good work. Etisalat is pleased, as we are on target.â€
On the criteria used for selecting the schools adopted by the company:
â€œThe Lagos State Government gave us names of schools with serious infrastructural problems. We did not select the schools ourselves. They were given to us by the government.â€
Asked to explain why a young company just entering the market is spending so much on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?
This was how he responded:
â€œWe are confident that the company will eventually grow to have large customers. At present Etisalat has about three-and-half million customers.
It may not be profitable today, but the future is bright. We have confidence in the future. Our strategy will make the difference. We are making the difference now, getting to be established as a leading company.â€
Evans referred to the recent career counselling exercise conducted by Etisalat for students of Akande Dahunsi Senior Secondary School, Ikoyi Lagos, which enabled them know about career choices in law, Marketing and Computer Science (ICT).
â€œIt was about mentoring and coaching the students. A lot of people in the company volunteered and use their time for the career counselling. There is now the enthusiasm to follow up. We are going to organise more and bring in pupils, to get maximum impact.â€
On what Etisalat is going to do after this:
â€œThere are three buildings in the school. (Rabiatu Thompson Primary School) Weâ€™ve completed two school buildings and a building for the staff.
Next year, we will come back and knock down the other building and start work. We are making an impact and will deliver on the promise.â€
The Etisalat CEO said that he felt great and delighted over the new school buildings constructed by his company.
â€œI feel great – and will feel greater if I come back to finish the project and have good environment for the children to stay and learn without leaking roofs and no rain entering into the classrooms. I am proud of what is being done in this school.â€
On the cost of the project:
â€œIâ€™m not so sure of the cost but weâ€™ve spent one million US dollars on our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) of which the school buildings project is one aspect. And also the University projects.
We do things with long term benefit for the future.â€
Samuel Ikenga, Manager of the school, recalled that he came to Rabiatu Thompson Primary School in May, 2008.
â€œWhen I came, I met the school in a tattered situation and started writing to the Local Government Chairman for help. They helped to do the wall, gave us borehole, etc.
The school fences are low and we hope these will be lifted up to check intruders.
Etisalat has done well and children can now learn in a good environment.
Ikenga said there are 500 pupils in the school, from Kindergarten to primary.
Alhaji Rasak Adekunle Dawodu, a community leader and President of Egbe Omo Eko who is also a member of the School Based Management Committee, commended Etisalat.
â€œThe company has done a very nice work, a marvellous job for this community. I can assure that the new classroom blocks will be maintained and secured.â€
â€œWe appreciate the good gesture of Etisalat and pray that God will bless the company.â€
At Edward Blyden Memorial Primary School, Lafiaji, Lagos Island, another school adopted by Etisalat, construction of a U-shaped block of eleven (11) classrooms has started.
Work is just at the foundation level, the old school had been demolished and the pupils relocated elsewhere by the government.
Mr. Ismail Omamegbe, CSR Manager of Etisalat said that the project will be completed in a monthâ€™s time.
Asked to explain the companyâ€™s relationship with the Lagos State government considering its investment in school buildings, he said:
â€œThere is no special relationship with the government. We have a national scholarship scheme and also intend to adopt schools in other states.
The relationship is like we have in all the 36 states. Nothing special. We are not limited to one state or zone.â€
He spoke further:
â€œThere is nothing in return for what we are doing. CSR is about giving back to the community. We are just doing it right in Lagos State, getting properly involved in CSR and implementing it well. It is not for profit.â€
According to Omamegbe, the idea is to make true impact and sustainability and the CSR is designed to achieve high impact as long as Etisalat exists.