Empowering Future Nigerian Leaders

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Chiamaka Ozulumba writes that FirstBank, in its mission to change Nigeria’s learning culture, is empowering the next set of Nigerian leaders, innovators and creatives

The Nigerian educational sector has had to suffer a decade’s long decline in quality, standards and funding. There are many reasons for this decline; institutional neglect that manifests as slow development, poorly thought-out and implemented policies that cripple progress, corruption at all levels. Whatever the reason, this reality is that generations of Nigerians have been handed a substandard education, a problem that has mitigated the country’s national, cultural, and socioeconomic progress.

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However, the past decade has seen private corporations like Nigeria’s premier financial institution, FirstBank, taking up the mantle and contributing its quota towards correcting the neglect of the educational sector which by default, impacts the contribution and growth of various industries to national development.

For FirstBank, empowering the next set of Nigerian leaders, movers, innovators and creatives, via the most up-to-date, reformed and responsive learning processes available is integral to the organisation’s commitment and an important part of the service they render to Nigerians. Since inception, the bank has taken up, established and invented numerous means to support Nigeria’s educational sector. In February 2012, FirstBank set up the FirstAcademy, a corporate academy designed to deliver the right corporate learning. The academy would go on to produce 104 graduate executive trainees.

In a country with growing interest in expanding the scope of corporate culture as we know it, FirstAcademy which is a centrefor structured talent development and knowledge management, remains a forerunner in enabling the easy accessibility to specialised education for emerging business leaders.

The academy has thus far earned its position as the premier corporate academy and hub for talent development in sub-Saharan Africa, and this is due to its active push for the conversation around flexible corporate learning, a nascent culture in Nigeria. FirstAcademy, which is an affiliate of Global Association of Corporate Universities & Academics (G – ACUA), and the World Institute of Action Learning (WIAL), has also been designed to elevate the process of manpower development, particularly in the banking sector.

The academy is currently structured across four multi-level schools as well as working partnerships with select Ivy League Institutions for FirstBank’s Leadership Development with a learning strategy that adopts the 70:20:10 mix, incorporating the three prongs of Experience, Exposure and Education.

The training programmes are delivered using blended methodologies such as Instructor-led, eLearning, In-plant or Open programmes. FirstAcademy also leverages on a robust Learning Management System (LMS) which is accessible online or via a mobile.

In response to the lockdown of schools at the early stage of COVID-19 in Nigeria, FirstBank launched an eLearning intiative to drive one million students to eLearning and has secured partnerships with Robert & John, IBM and Curious Learning.

A virtual learning system that enables Nigerian students at various levels to access quality learning, even as their physical learning spaces have been temporarily shut down. This project has been targeted to reach at least one million Nigerian students, a whopping feat that will make an active difference at a time where many schools in the country aren’t able to independently transition to virtual learning.

Through Robert & John, the Roducate e-learning solution supports education with access to government accredited curriculum-based content from Primary, secondary all the way to higher level education. Roducate is a subscription-based e-learning initiative positioned to help fill the learning gap that has been created in the education sector by the global pandemic.

The app is a safe place for learning and it has been designed to keep distractions off as students using the app can’t access the internet beyond its learning restrictions. It can also be used online with data and preloaded offline for students in underserved communities with minimal access to the internet.

The partnership with Curious Learning gives student an early learning stage access to ‘Feed The Monster App’ and Read WithAkili App’ which curates and localises numerical and literacy content.

IBM partnership offers the Digital-Nation Africa program, an online youth-focused learning program that enables innovation and skills development on emerging technologies through focus areas such as Artificial Intelligence, Coding, Cloud, Internet of Things, Blockchain, Data Science and Analytics, and Cybersecurity.

The immense strides FirstBank continues to make in supporting education in Nigeria have tactile proof of the need for aggressive investment in the country’s educational sector. It speaks to FirstBank’s understanding of where our learning ecosystem needs to move to, and with its track record, the financial powerhouse seems to know the way to reaching that destination.