By Udeme Akpan
With inadequate funding, lack of basic facilities, limited capacity building and negative impact on students, Nigeria’s education sector is seriously gasping for breath, especially in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM).
Unexpectedly, this has scuttled sustainable development in many ways. But the narrative might change for good in the coming years because of the strong intervention of Seplat Energy.
In its report obtained by Vanguard, the company stated: “Nigeria’s education sector is increasingly impacted by Seplat Energy’s commitment. Focused on education, its unequalled Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes and projects appreciatively gives back to its host communities and by extension its host states.
One of such laudable programmes is the Seplat Teachers Empowerment Programme (STEP) initiative through which the company has taken the bull by the horns to select, train and equip teachers from Edo and Delta States with Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to enhance educational development in Nigeria.
With emphases on teacher training and empowerment, especially in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Seplat redefined the focus on STEAM at this year’s STEP which again attracted dignitaries from various walks of life. These included: Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, Minister of State for Education of the Federal Republic of Nigeria represented by his Special Adviser, Dr. Muna Onuzo-Adetora, Prof. Fabian Ajogwu, SAN- Independent Nom Executive Director Seplat Energy Plc, Dr. Chioma Nwachuku Director, External Affairs & Sustainability, Seplat Energy, Edo State Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu, Edo State Commissioner for Education, Dr Joan Oviawe, Delta State Ministries of Basic and Secondary Education, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari, Adejoke Orelope Adefulire represented by the Special Assistant, Rose Keffas, Hon. Shijaude Idowu Tiamiyu- State Universal Basic Education Board, Lagos state, Managing Director, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) and Supervisor Media Relations, Mrs Goodnews Willie and a host of others.
Role of teachers
Speaking at the occasion, Edo State Deputy Governor, Comrade Philip Shaibu said the roles of teachers are fundamental in the development of society hence he described teachers as the drivers of Nigeria’s education system. In his words, “teachers are the drivers of our educational system by training the child to become a global competitor. Under the Edo Basic Education System Transformation (EdoBEST) programme, we have become a model and set the pace for others to emulate in education digitalisation.
Public, private sector partnership
Similarly, the Minister of State for Education, Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, who was represented by his Special Adviser, Dr. Muna Onuzo-Adetora, described Seplat as a socially responsible organization adding, “to the STEP beneficiaries, this program fulfils the goal of the federal government and the private sector partnership, which is to work together to produce teachers with the requisite knowledge, skills, and desirable attitude. You have been bequeathed with a solid foundation.
“A foundation that enables you to be emotionally, psychologically, socially and technologically prepared to handle the delicate art of teaching across all levels of education. Therefore, I charge you today to be worthy ambassadors of this organisation. “”You represent what is great about this program. Remember that cultivating a positive emotional disposition, as well as the acquisition of knowledge and pedagogical skill will make you succeed in this profession.
Significance of STEP
In any case, explaining the significance of STEP, the Seplat Energy Director, External Affairs and Sustainability, Dr. Chioma Nwachuku said: “The Seplat Teachers Empowerment Programme (STEP) was initiated from our continued quest to contribute towards the improvement of quality education in Nigeria. It is our belief that teachers are the bedrock for quality education.
STEP is designed to promote teachers’ creative thinking provide training on teaching applications for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM), provide leadership and self-improvement training, allow for higher student’s engagement, and offer a well-rounded education for recipients of the programme.
“STEP aims at training secondary school teachers on skills, innovations, and technologies for deploying STEAM to deliver tutelage better to the students, to provide and connect teachers to a collection of STEAM resources to enable them understand, apply and innovate, to provide schools with resources to enable them to provide the right environment for STEAM implementation and to enable students to engage in the interdisciplinary nature of STEAM.
“Currently, our target group for STEP is Secondary School Teachers in public and private schools in our host States (Delta and Edo) including our host communities,” pointing out that it specifically promotes quality education of these states through the training of select secondary school teachers in critical-thinking leadership and improving their competence to teach their students through the Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) methodology.
The Seplat Director of External Affairs and Sustainability, who hinted that already 314 teachers and 49 Chief Inspectors of Education have been trained, said: “The STEP app, which is provided for all participants during the training, is an interactive App which can accommodate 10,000 learners simultaneously. It is self-paced and provides access to 16 other learning applications. it deploys tests and assignments with results published instantly. The application has installed capacity for Monitoring and Evaluation.
“At the back of our STEP programme, we inaugurated The Seplat Education Round Table, which made its debut in 2021. It is Seplat Energy’s advocacy programme to improve the nation’s Education Sector, where the company has taken a leading role in the deployment of crucial educational programmes. This event complements the Seplat Teachers Empowerment Programme (STEP) by bringing critical stakeholders to deliberate and proffer solutions on area of educational concern.”
Benefits of technology
However, in his keynote address, Prof Fabian Ajogwu, an Independent Non-Executive Director of Seplat Energy, said, “The benefits of technology in an educational endeavour are that it simplifies access to research and the ease of getting current and useful reading materials and other online resources on platforms that are frequently revised. This access to large sources of information on a comparative basis from different parts of the world within easy reach of students and teachers is the highest factor in leapfrogging knowledge.
“The need to harness technology in research and application and dissemination of knowledge goes beyond the number of computers a school has to the quality of access to data, power (and alternative power) and access to online resources. Harnessing technology effectively means that we enhance the ability to subscribe to different learning platforms and online teaching aids for teachers, to provide optimal education in the context of time and relevance. Although education at this most basic level is the primary responsibility of government, it is a fact that this is far more than the government alone can cope with, hence the importance of private sector-led initiatives to support education, such as the Seplat Teachers Empowerment Programme (STEP).
I must pause and commend Seplat Energy Plc for the STEP initiative. In supporting teachers and providing them with the necessary tools and enhanced skills, they are given the key to reach and teach more based on today’s needs. The STEP initiative is worthy of emulation across different states and by other corporates to be able to create the desired impact and leapfrog Nigeria to the next level of education. Technology, where properly and timeously deployed saves overall costs and bridges the affordability divide for users of educational services.”“He added: “In bridging the digital divide between our country and others in the more advanced world, it is important to harness technology in creating an equitable playing ground for students in Nigeria. This would help them compete globally.
The use of technology should be built into regulatory requirements for teaching and learning at all levels. Nigeria needs a framework for attracting investments in the education sector and paying the right cost of education. Our teachers need to be well paid, well-trained, and motivated to be able to drive the transformation in education. Harnessing technology for education should go beyond new resources and equipment, to regular assessment of the impact and effectiveness of their deployment. “Teachers react“ However, two teachers, Abiola Stella from Edo College, Edo State and Akpoghelie Oghale from Mixed Secondary School, Ukala- Okpunor, Delta state, expressed their joy, stressing that the programme is exceptional and mind blowing while thanking Seplat for the training which will enable them to make positive impact.