By Tare Youdeowei
It is expected that come 2030, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, STEM, based jobs will take over more than 50 per cent of the jobs in the world.
Due to challenges of poverty, poor school funding, waning interest in STEM subjects by students, poorly trained teachers, inadequate learning aids, as well as incessant strikes, Nigeria is not prepared for this reality as students in schools are ill-equipped to take advantage of the coming opportunity.
Resolved to pilot the nation in the right direction, integrated digital payment and commerce company, Interswitch, has launched the Interswitch SPAK initiative to promote STEM education in Nigeria by providing the right support and reward for students and other stakeholders.
Speaking on the details of Interswitch SPAK, Marketing Manager Interswitch, Olawale Akanbi, revealed; “To kick-start the initiative, a national science competition is set to begin in April 2018, which will feature students from all states of the federation competing in core STEM subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics.
“Registration started from February 21 for eight weeks till April 21. It is for students in SS2 or Year 11 in schools across the 36 states of the country. Schools are to register their top six students. If a mixed school, two of the six students must be females. Hence, top 81 students will compete to get the top three.”
On the prizes, Akanbi enthused; “N7m will be given winners to study in schools in Nigeria. Top two students in the competition will be awarded a five-year scholarship, a Mac laptop and gold trophy, the second will get a three-year scholarship, a laptop and a silver trophy, while the third position will receive a two-year scholarship, a laptop, and a bronze trophy.
“There will also be master classes that will feature professionals and volunteer staff of Interswitch , to teach students programming and robotics and expose them to hands-on practicals. Upon getting the scholarship, we will follow up the students because we want to ensure consistency and commitment towards achieving excellence. There is a minimum grade scholars need to continue to be eligible for the scholarship. We are doing this because we see this as a life-long commitment.”
Chief Marketing Officer, Interswitch Group, Cherry Eromosele said: “Owing to existing incompetence levels, a large number of jobs in Nigeria’s employment ecosystem have been outsourced to expatriates.
“Initiatives like SPAK will, in the long run increase competitiveness and improve employment levels for Nigerians. And as a matter of cause-and-effect, improved STEM skills at the grassroots will equal greater employment, lower rate of job losses, higher exports and a direct positive impact on Nigeria’s GDP.”
“While STEM education may have been plagued by various challenges in the past, Interswitch SPAK is one great step towards ameliorating the situation and it deserves the support and commendation of every stakeholder. One also hopes that other successful Nigerian tech companies will be inspired by this to create similar opportunities for the nation’s education system.”