Raheem Akingbolu, who has been following the sequence of the MTN Foundationâ€™s â€˜What Can We Do Togetherâ€™ initiative, writes on its essence and how it has successfully touched the lives of about 10 million Nigerians
Saka Tinubu Primary School in Orile Agege, a Lagos suburb, is like other public schools in Nigeria. Situated in a populous environment, the school accommodates pupils in their hundreds and teachers accordingly. As a result of the tall fence, built by government to protect the children from miscreants and external attacks, passerby might not notice the rot within.
Like most public institutions of learning, the school has for years been contending with shortage of infrastructures. But fortune smiled on the teachers and the pupils recently when MTN Foundation train reached their domain and donated chairs and desks for both pupils and the teachers. Today, the classrooms that once accommodate rickety chairs now parade beautiful and standard ones.
How it all began
The story started changing months back, when one Mr. Bolaji Olawoyin, one of the leaders of the Community Development Association (CDA), in Orile Agege and Chairman Parentsâ€™ Forum of Saka Tinubu Primary School nominated the school in â€˜What Can We Do Togetherâ€™ initiative recently concluded by MTN Foundation. According to Olawoyin, few weeks after the nomination, he got a feedback that his request had been granted.
â€œThose who are close to me can attest to how passionate I am about children and this informed why I took the SMS I received from MTN Foundation serious. I saw it as a great opportunity for me to help the children. I nominated this school and Iâ€™m happy that my nomination scaled through. I discovered long ago that the school needed chairs and desks and I applied for it. It was like a dream when I got feedback that my request had been granted.
While appreciating MTN Foundation for the gesture, the community leader called on other organisations to tailor their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives toward touching lives.
â€œLet me appreciate the foundation for following its CSR philosophy with sincerity. This is an intervention that will not only boost morale of the children; it will also change their learning environment. Other organisations should embark on such initiative to help the public. I hate it when people pay lip service to the fact that children are the future leaders without making practical effort to impact on their lives. We should not wait until some of them have become stars in their own rights before awarding scholarships for further education.
â€œToday, government at all levels are trying but everybody wants to go to school and this has led to bloated population of pupils in school. To this end, individuals and corporate organisations should support government to provide essential needs,â€ he added.
Also speaking on the initiative, the Assistant Head Teacher of the school, Mrs. Abigael Titilayo Olude, commended the telecommunication company for the gesture, adding that parents, teachers and the pupils are happy for the donation. Though she pointed out that government is doing a lot to solve infrastructural challenges in various schools, she was quick to urge other organisations to partner government to militate the challenges.
Ogunmola Oluwasemilore, a basic six pupil, who spoke on behalf of other pupils in the school, also commended MTN. However, the 14 year old girl advised her colleagues to make good use of the facilities and handle them with care.
Overview of the initiative
At a well attended event in Lagos, where representatives of various communities that benefitted from the campaign and stakeholders in MTN gathered to celebrate the success of the initiative, it was stated that 400 communities, 347 LGAs had since benefited from it. It was also discovered at the event that â€˜What Can We Do Togetherâ€™ initiative has impacted over 10 million Nigerians.
The breakdown of the project embarked upon by the foundation showed that the projects included delivery and installation of 40 Transformers, 40 Boreholes and 14, 200 School furniture. It was also stated that household items have been donated to 66 orphanage homes as well as supply of medical equipment to 80 primary healthcare centres.
A community leader from Ilupeju Ekiti, Mrs. Ayodeji Adewumi, whose community maternity centre got medical supplies worth millions of naira, said the initiative was well-received and lauded by residents of Ilupeju. â€œIt is a laudable initiative that gladdened the heart of all beneficiary communities. From what we saw tonight, the foundation caters for educational needs through the donation of school furniture; health needs through the donation of medical supplies and economic empowerment intervention through the donation of transformers and boreholes across the different communities,â€
Speaking on the initiative, the Executive Secretary, MTN Foundation, Ms. Nonny Ugboma, said that all projects were selected from a pool of thousands of nominations by members of the public in Phases 1 and 2, after rigorous screening and verification exercises.
â€œAt the end, 200 communities were chosen to benefit in Phase 1, another200 communities in Phase 2 and announcements were made in the print, electronic and digital media platforms. We are pleased to report that all the 200 projects in Phase 1 have been successfully implemented, while all the 200 projects in Phase 2 are at various stages of delivery and installationâ€ Ms. Ugboma said.
The â€˜What Can We Do Togetherâ€™ initiative that was launched in 2015 as part of the 10-year anniversary commemoration of the MTN Foundation was conceived as an idea to do something refreshingly different for our communities. In view of this, it is structured to allow Nigerians partner with the Foundation by nominating their communities to benefit from select projects.
MTN and CSR
To put its contribution to the society in the right perspective, MTN had cleverly conceptualised a television commercial to mark the 10 year anniversary of its foundation two years ago. The MTN classic tells a story. It is a story of a sojourn and an anecdote of a brandâ€™s odyssey. It tells the story of a brandâ€™s navigation through the times. Those times when its patrons were not even sure of what it had to offer. Perhaps, some subscribers have not seen the advert which is currently running on television. May be a recap will do the reader a world of good. MTN reminds its patrons and Nigerians how it has always been there. When a road side card hawker became a big shop owner; when a love story told in hush tones led to both parties saying â€˜I doâ€™ with a walk down the aisle being the final culmination.
The advert also reminisces how MTN was there when hope of a man who thought he would never see again was rekindled and he could behold a child born to him when he could not make use of his sight. The telecommunications giants also reminds its patrons how it was also there when small ideas were supported by them to make it big and become a budding blue chip company and how the nationâ€™s music became the â€œsound of Africaâ€.
Beyond the attempt to push the MTN brand in the market place, the TVC cleverly captured the contribution of the telecommunications company to the development of the country. Through the MTN Foundation, which was instituted a decade ago, to intervene in some specific areas, MTN Nigeria has touched lives of many people.
At the 10th anniversary of the foundation in 2015, prominent Nigerians, including a former Lagos State governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola commended the company for its contribution to community development through the foundation. While highlighting the important roles MTN had played in the past, the former governor specifically charged corporate organisations to intensify their efforts at supporting Nigeria in the area of sustainable development as the country seeks to achieve an enviable status in the areas socio-economic development among the comity of nations.
In line with many countries of the world, where a certain percentage of annual gross profit are voted towards the development of host communities, Nigeria government has continued to encourage corporate bodies to give 3.5 per cent of their annual profit after tax to add value to the development of the economy.
At MTN, the belief is that CSR has several faces and should not be necessarily narrowed down to things like borehole, intervention in schools and stuffs like that. For instance, the CSR activity that was undertaken by the company has been able to give life meaningfully to not only its customers but everyone across board through its foundation (MTNF).
Its intervention in the health sector has been on the increase since the foundation started operation. The case of eight-year-old Oluwatosin Williams, who had problem with her heart valve, six-year old NgoziChijioke, who was discovered to have a hole in the heart and has a month to live, Great Nkor, the little cute boy that got his face burnt beyond recognition from a domestic accident and Mr. Akin Williams, who almost became a â€˜vegetableâ€™ owing to a ghastly car accident but MTNF came to their rescue. Most of them either did their operations in the country or flown to South Africa and India at the companyâ€™s expense.
Many other people have also benefited from MTNF dialysis centres, cancer centres, while higher institutions also benefited from standard digital libraries. The big question is what are other networks doing in terms of similar CSR?.
One of the recipientsâ€™ mothers, Mrs. Anita Chijioke, had during an event said: â€œIn Nigeria, nobody cares for the survival of others. We live in an oligarchy and capitalists society. One does not need to know anyone in MTN or be a subscriber before it would lend a helping hand. Other telecommunication companies are doling out monies to their several brand ambassadors at the expense of dying people with several curable ailments that lack of money and help could send to early grave.â€
In setting up the foundation, its chairman, Chief Adelusi Adeluyi said: â€œWe agreed that we will engage people who had a molecule of virtues, who understood the principles of good governance and what it takes to be responsibleâ€.
Perhaps, what better explains the companyâ€™s contribution to Nigeria development as illustrated by the TVC is the fact that by the time it clocked 10, MTNF has spent over N13 billion on 344 projects across the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).