For over seven years, one of the leading indigenous oil and gas exploration and production company, Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc, in collaboration with the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, has been making positive impact in the lives secondary school students in its host communities through the PEARLs quiz competition in an effort to contribute towards the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goal Four. Uchechukwu Nnaike reports
In keeping with the objective of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG4), which is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc (SEPLAT), in collaboration with its JV partner, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), has since 2012, been organising the SEPLAT PEARLs Quiz competition for public and private secondary school students in Delta and Edo States.
Among other objectives, the competition is aimed at promoting academic excellence, rewarding diligence and improving the quality of education in SEPLAT’s operational areas. Since 2012, over 608 schools have participated in the programme, the company has through the initiative awarded scholarships to 63 students; executed projects valued at over N30 million in more than eight schools; donated four brand new 16-seater buses, as well as consolation prizes to the last seven schools every year since inception.
Projects that have been delivered to schools through the initiative over the years include a language laboratory, three roofing projects, decked block of classrooms, interlocking stones for an entire school premises to prevent erosion, five computer laboratories in different schools, among others.
Last year, students of Preparation National High School, Benin, Edo State emerged the winner of the competition, defeating students of Lawrence Prentice Academy, Asaba, Delta State at the finals of the competition, which held at the Unity Event Centre at the Government House, Asaba, Delta State, while students of the University Preparatory Secondary School, Benin, Edo State came third.
The winning school got a N7 million cash prize, which will be used to execute a project in the school, while each of the students went home with N100,000.
The first runner-up N3 million prize money, while the participating students got N75,000 each. The second runner-up got N1 million cash prize, while each of the participating student was rewarded with N50,000.
The Operations Director of Seplat, Mr. Effiong Okon, who represented the CEO, Mr. Austin Avuru had said at the event that it was a constant discussion at Seplat to find out more ways in which the company can further give to its host communities.
“The Pearls Quiz programme is one of Seplat’s CSR initiatives, which we take very seriously not just because it inspires excellence in secondary school children in public and private schools in our host states, but also because it addresses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) number four.”
He said education was important to the company because “if you get education right, every other thing will fall into place and that is why we spend a lot of time at Seplat strategising to make the Pearls Quiz competition work and will keep expanding it.”
He commended the NPDC, which has been Seplat’s partner from the beginning.
Also, the General Manager, External Affairs and Communications, Dr. Chioma Nwachuku said the programme had been impactful on the educational careers of students in Delta and Edo States, which represent the company’s host and impact communities.
According to Nwachuku, “the programme directly impacts academic performance of the students as it has been shown that in preparing for this competition, students are encouraged to study their syllabus extensively. As a matter of fact, the questions are drawn from the secondary school syllabus in conjunction with the teachers. It also provides a platform for public and private secondary schools to interact, share ideas and experiences.”
This year, eight schools from Delta State: Federal Government College, Warri; Deeper Life High School, Opete; Peniel Academy, Agbor; Divine Academy High School, Sapele; and Dsc Technical High School, Aladja, made it to the knockout stage. Don Bosco Science Academy Ekpoma; UNIBEN Demonstration Secondary School, Benin; Pioneer Education Centre, Benin, were among the nine Edo State based schools that participated at the knockout stage this year.
After a rigorous and challenging competition, Don Bosco Science Academy, Ekpoma emerged the overall winner, while Peniel Academy, Agbor and Deeper Life High School, Opete emerged as second and third runners-up respectively.
The overall wining school received N7 million; the first runner-up received N3 million; while the second runner-up received N1 million. Students and teachers were also rewarded with laptops, cash prizes and learning materials, including stationeries.
Speaking at the event which held at Imaguero College, Benin City, the Chief Executive Officer, SEPLAT, Mr. Austin Avuru, who was represented by the General Manager Western Assets, SEPLAT, Mr. Chima Njoku, said: “This programme is designed to rekindle the spirit of academic excellence and healthy competition in our youths by motivating, encouraging and rewarding the scholarship spirit in them as they inculcate the principles of team work.”
Highlighting the impact of the competition in the lives of the students, Avuru said: “We have achieved a number of successes since the inception of the programme. At present, over 20 former participants are in various universities across the country; two have benefited from the undergraduate scholarship scheme; one has undergone industrial training with SEPLAT; while we are confident that these students provide a pool for future employment.”
Also speaking, the General Manager, External Affairs and Communications, Dr. Chioma Nwachuku said “SEPLAT PEARLs Quiz addresses Sustainable Development Goal 4 by ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for both public and private schools in Edo and Delta States, thus promoting lifelong learning opportunities for the teeming youth population.”
In his remarks, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, who was represented by the Commissioner for Education, Jimoh Ijegbai, thanked the company for instituting and sustaining the competition, as well as the management and staff of SEPLAT for their consistency in organising the PEARLs Quiz Competition for an uninterrupted eight-year stretch.
On his part, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, who was represented by the Commissioner for Oil and Gas, Emmanuel Amgbaduba, thanked the company for putting together an event that promotes the Sustainable Development Goals and promotes healthy competition among students.
Reacting to the victory, a visibly excited student of Don Bosco Science Academy said: “I knew we were very close to the prize, but how closer we were to it I could not tell.” The school was given an opportunity to choose a project valued at N7 million which will be wholly funded by SEPLAT.
Also, a student from Deeper Life High School said: “I am happy with the way all of us came together from Edo and Delta State to meet at Imaguero Girls College.”