Sterling Bank: Aligning Investments with Progress in Education

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Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Sterling Bank Plc Mr Abubakar Suleiman

Olaoluwakitan Babatunde

One of the sectors Sterling Bank has identified to focus its investment and also make meaningful impact in the Nigerian economy is education. It identified the sector as one of the five critical sectors in dire need of investment. Others are Health, Agriculture, Renewable energy and Transportation.

Reason for this is not farfetched! A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) report published in 2013 revealed that Nigeria had the highest number of out-of-school children in the world. The report noted that about 10.5 million Nigerian children were out of school. However, the figure may have grown significantly against the backdrop of instability occasioned by raging terrorism in parts of the country which displaced thousands of families.

 Apart from the increasing number of out-of-school children is the preponderance of scarcity of quality teachers. The report also noted: “The quality of teachers is low, with unqualified primary teachers exceeding 40 percent of the teaching staff. All these have negatively impacted student outcomes in Nigeria, posing all daunting constraints to educational equity. Also, infrastructure and resources are in short supply and the curriculum is largely obsolete and content-focused”.

 Despite this bleak situation, the federal government allocated only six per cent of the 2019 budget to the educational sector, a far cry from the 26 percent recommended by UNESCO.

It is against this background that Sterling Bank decided to align its business model to offer financial and non-financial solutions to the education sector as one of the key areas of the economy.

Ms. Eniola Obe, Education Sector Lead, Sterling Bank, says the bank plans to invest more than N10 billion in the education sector by 2020 to provide loans for business expansion, access to finance for parents, schools and other stakeholders to ensure that  schools in Nigeria are among the best in the world.

In this regard, she says the bank has been able to disburse personal loans of more than N2 billion to members of staff of educational institutions through Specta, its online lending platform, which has greatly improved teachers’ access to funding and achievement of their goals.

According to her, the bank has sponsored about 200 youths to the Teach For Nigeria Summer Teaching Institute which creates a pipeline of young people desirous of pursuing careers in education through volunteering.

As part of its intervention in the education sector, Sterling Bank also sponsored 55 School Leaders/Administrators to its maiden Succeeding at School Leadership Programme in a bid to improve their leadership and personal outcomes in their schools.

The Education Sector Lead says the bank has trained more than 3,000 teachers nationwide on financial literacy as well as sponsored them on various Continuous Professional Development Programmes through its partner initiatives.

She says the bank also sponsored 85 teachers for certificate courses at the Queensland University through the One Million Teachers initiative as well as trained over 1,000 teachers at its quarterly face-to-face trainings by The Teaching Network Foundation (TTNF).

Apart from this, the bank deployed a state-of-the-art e-library at the College of Education in Ikere-Ekiti, Ekiti State and also financed the school expansion and growth of more than 200 primary and secondary schools to the tune of N2 billion.

She adds that Sterling Bank financed hostel construction projects in three tertiary institutions and sponsored more than 300 teachers on various local and international continuous development and capacity building programmes.

The bank has helped to improve financial literacy education in young people with the distribution of 10,000 copies of the bank’s financial literacy book (Me and my Money) nationwide.

The bank has also expressed its willingness to partner with stakeholders to raise standards in the education sector. In this regard, the bank partnered with Total School Support Seminar and Exhibition (TOSSE) and other stakeholders to organise the 10th edition of the programme in Lagos recently.

She explains that the One Education unit was set up four years ago by the bank to create a system that continuously seeks out and executes ideas that will champion the advancement of the education sector in Nigeria.

She adds that the unit, through strategic partnerships, provides services that are relevant across the entire value chain in the educational sector, including but not limited to students, parents, teachers/lecturers, vendors, school administrators and non-academic staff members.

Obe says, “We will continue to support operators in the education sector as we collectively address some of the issues in the sector. Ultimately, our goal is to improve the quality of graduates churned out by schools at all levels in Nigeria.”