By Anthony Iwelumo
When normalcy is restored in the aftermath of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, the attendant casualties will not only be viewed in the column of lives tragically lost to the microbe but will encompass those whose lives were inestimably setback by the virus. It is somewhat soothing but critically dangerous to limit one’s perspective of this category to businesses and economies driven to the edge by the pandemic. Others who are also critically affected yet often ignored in this undesirable group are school children who have had their education slowed down by reasons beyond their control.
Exacerbating the myriad of issues facing them is the recent promulgation by the Federal Government that the general West African Examinations Council (WAEC) examinations will be shelved for the current year. Making matters even worse is the declaration that schools under the purview of the FG will not be reopened for resumption of academic activities until deemed safe, something most Nigerians have come to interpret as the closure of schools at all levels until 2021.
In the face of the uncertainty confronting our national education system and the ignoble failure of our government to adapt to the changing times by embracing technological innovations as its peers have done continentally, some private organisations have saddled themselves with the task of assuaging the impact of the freefall on students across the land.
Atop the list of responsible corporate citizens leading this charge is indigenous fintech and human capital management powerhouse, SystemSpecs. Founded in 1992 and having groomed many a great talent, the company is no stranger to nurturing potential, and when the window of opportunity presented itself to impact the lives of the future generation of Nigerian leaders and reinforce its dedication to national capacity development, it swiftly developed an essay competition for students to commemorate the annual Children’s Day celebration.
Dubbed the SystemSpecs Children’s Day Essay competition, entries for the junior category were open to youngsters between the ages of 9 and 12 while the senior category section was for students between 13 and 16 years of age. Recognising the disparity in the intellectual depth of both categories, the organisers tailored their requirements accordingly by ensuring that junior entries were no more than 1000 words while entries for the senior division did not exceed 1,500 words. As widely expected, the theme revolved around technology and hope for a better Nigeria.
A fortnight after announcing the competition and 2,000 entries later, the company proclaimed a halt to new entries and subsequently proceeded to unveil the judges of the competition comprising of some household names in the technology and journalism sectors. It is worth noting, as a side note, that all but 7 states nationwide were represented during the competition and some interesting facts could be discovered if further investigation is carried out into why school students in these states failed to take advantage of the opportunity despite the FG-ordered lockdown.
In any case, winners emerged after a rigorous selection process that saw the judges emphasize understanding of the subject matter; logical presentation and clarity of expression; depth of thought and originality of projected ideas; strong conclusion and commitment to vision realisation; and sound technology content.
Consequently, the company hosted an award presentation webinar for the winners that was widely attended by representatives from over 20 schools and major stakeholders in the technolog6y sector. By and large, the participants were effusive in their praise for SystemSpecs for stimulating creative thoughts in them at such trying times through the essay competition. The firm also raised the bar by offering internship opportunities to the top-three contestants in both categories.
‘’I thank God for winning the competition and also like to thank SystemSpecs for organising the competition at a time where many of us students desire to task our brains and remain innovative while pushing the frontiers of technology knowledge,’’ said Ugochukwu Kalu, the 15-year-old winner of the senior category.
Surprisingly, the company revealed that entries were received from younger schoolchildren who did not fall within the stipulated age limit and were automatically disqualified, however, their courage was recognised as they were named the ‘’Aspiring Tech Titans’’ and also received certificates of participation along with other entrants.
It is unarguable that Nigeria requires a technological revolution if it is to reach the lofty heights it was once destined for, and private organisations have a huge role to play in actualising the national dream. From its public-private partnerships to organising the Remita Summer Coding Camp, SystemSpecs has continually exemplified itself as a responsible corporate citizen, showing its peers what is expected of them.
Iwelumo writes from Lagos.