SEPLAT: Promoting Quality Education through Investment in Teachers, Students

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To boost teachers’ creative thinking, for higher student engagement, an indigenous energy company, SEPLAT Petroleum Development Company PLC, inaugurated the SEPLAT Teachers Empowerment Programme last November, which trained 100 secondary school teachers and 43 Chief Inspectors of Education from Edo and Delta States. At the certificate presentation ceremony recently, the company also hosted a roundtable to further explore the right policy formulation for quality education. Uchechukwu Nnaike and Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City report

It has been said that a student is only as good as his teacher because the performance of the student is dependent on the teacher’s knowledge and input. Thus teachers’ continuous capacity development cannot be overemphasised.

Though teachers brought their creativity to bare during the COVID-19 lockdown era, when they had to employ several methods of educating their students, a lot is expected of them post COVID-19 and subsequently, so any programme that seeks to boost teachers’ creative abilities should be applauded.

An indigenous energy company, SEPLAT Petroleum Development Company Plc (SEPLAT), set out to improve teachers’ creative thinking, allowing for higher student engagement, through its SEPLAT Teachers Empowerment Programme (STEP). The programme, which aims to promote and offer a well-rounded education for its recipients commenced in Benin City, Edo State on November 23, 2020.

Beginning with a five-day residential workshop introductory, STEP ushered a six-month programme specially designed for teachers, providing training on teaching applications for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM), as well as leadership and self-improvement training.

The company stressed that raising a generation of critical thinkers whose education is rooted in their problem-solving abilities is critical to national development.

“Also, the importance of STEAM cannot be overemphasised as it has been proven to help teachers incorporate multiple disciplines, and at the same time promote learning experiences that allow children to explore, question, research, discover, and exercise innovative building skills.”

According to the Director, External Affairs and Communications, SEPLAT, Dr. Chioma Nwachukwu, the company is poised to play an invaluable role in enhancing the quality of education with the many educational programmes offered through its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. “With the STEP programme, the company now has a full boutique of programmes to address the entire education value chain.

“Our programmes now cover improving school infrastructure, enhancing the academic performance of students and building the skills and competencies of teachers. A total of 100 teachers and 43 Chief Inspectors of Education (CIEs) drawn from Edo and Delta States are benefitting from this maiden edition,” Nwachukwu said.

She disclosed that after the maiden edition, the training continued online for over six months with teachers receiving customised training modules on efficient pedagogical methods for STEAM education, as well as leadership and self-improvement training. In keeping with the times, SEPLAT has developed an Online Teachers Resource Centre which provides the teachers access to inclusive learnings highlighting best techniques and practices for implementing STEAM teaching methods and assists them to learn to use such methods in the classrooms.

The e-platform provides and connects teachers to a collection of STEAM resources to enable them to understand, teach and demonstrate effectively to their students.

The company also went a step further to provide electronic devices and internet data for the teachers for the period of the training.

According to a recent report, through STEAM education, students are engaged in several activities in their daily lives aimed at establishing communication skills like critiquing art, presenting research, collaborating with peers for group projects, and communicating results in research papers.

Along with creative thinking, STEAM education creates an environment where students can learn to express themselves in a supportive and accepting climate in the classroom, giving them the chance to explore more of themselves.

There are also indicators that point to the fact that teachers who are well-equipped to teach STEAM, play an important role in guiding children, resulting in superior performance than less experienced teachers. These, among others, the company said has spurred it to continue making notable strides with its drive to improve the standard of education in the country, particularly for its host states.

The Chief Executive Officer, SEPLAT, Roger Brown, noted that the STEAM programme is not the company’s only foray into the Nigeria education sector, as it has invested significantly in various educational CSR programmes that support goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).

The SDG4 of the United Nations, aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Achieving inclusive and quality education for all reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development. This goal ensures that all girls and boys achieve free primary and secondary education by 2030. It also aims to provide equal access to affordable vocational training, to eliminate gender and wealth disparities, and achieve universal access to a quality higher education. According to findings from a survey conducted by the Nigerian Centre for Reading Research and Development (NCRRD), only 1.5 per cent of children surveyed were able “to read and answer comprehension questions.” It further states that over 72 per cent of them cannot read a word in the English Language. The national average is 60 per cent. The findings by NCRRD helps to put in proper perspective the Human Capital Index (HCI) launched by the World Bank in 2018. HCI conveys the productivity of the next generation of workers compared to a benchmark of complete education and full health by measuring the amount of human capital development a child born today can expect to attain by age 18.

The company recently concluded another flagship educational programme, SEPLAT PEARLs Quiz, which had 574 participating schools from Edo and Delta States. The competition aims to promote and reward academic excellence among secondary school students; it runs for six months with the students and schools contesting to win the coveted prizes. This he said is rooted in Seplat’s belief that education is the bedrock for national growth.

The STEP initiative is also in line with the underlying philosophy of the founders of the organisation, like its Chairman, Dr. A.B.C Orjiako.

To commemorate the certificate presentation ceremony recently, Seplat hosted an education roundtable with the theme: ‘Provision of Quality Education: A National Priority’; to further explore the right policy formulation for quality education.

The Seplat certificate award ceremony, alongside the education roundtable, featured educational experts and professionals in an engaging panel session moderated by Professor Pat Utomi. The keynote speaker for the day was the former Edo State Commissioner for Education, Prof. Ngozi Osarenren.

Brown, who was represented by Nwachukwu at the event, stated: “Seplat has invested significantly in various educational CSR programmes which support Sustainable Development Goals, Goal 4, because of our strong belief that education is the bedrock for national growth.

Worldwide, having a team of competent teachers is a critical success factor for achieving quality education.” That easily tells the impetus behind the well-targeted programmes. And while we all agree that this is indeed a laudable initiative, and look forward to future editions, and more teachers and students being empowered through the programmes, here is a call on more organisations, corporate bodies, groups and well-meaning Nigerians to join in the drive to take Nigeria’s education sector out of the doldrums and set it on albeit slow, but steady path towards joining the rest of the world to provide quality education for our children, the leaders of tomorrow.”

Utomi, while commenting on the state of education in the country, said society must appreciate and show esteem for teachers, adding that the impact teachers make in the lives of students and community remains immeasurable.

He said teachers need to continue to exhibit a strong passion for their profession with the undying commitment to sustaining the future generation, adding that misery amongst the people could only be effectively addressed by quality education.

In the same vein, a Professor of Guidance and Counselling, Ambrose Alli Universty, Ekpoma, Oyaziwo Aluede said education is critical to combating poverty, and that qualified teachers are the genuine agents needed to actualise this in Nigeria. He therefore stressed the need for the right curriculum, the requisite skill sets and effective partnership among stakeholders, as is being exhibited by Seplat.

Also speaking, Professor of Educational Management, University of Ibadan, Benedict Emunemu urged everyone who needed to become a teacher to acquire the minimum qualifications, pointing out that failure to do so would only result in wrong output from the sector.

The Principal Managing Partner , Teach Smart Eduservices, Sola Okunkpolor, in her submission, advocated for a robust database in the education sector to allow for good planning, monitoring and decision making. “Continuous data mining process is needed to enable us to know how many children are in school, how many are graduating, how many are progressive, how many are being engaged upon leaving school, and so on,” Okunkpolor added.

On her part, Nwachukwu cited the high numbers of out-of-school children in the country, the poor budgetary allocation to education, misplaced priorities leading to value erosion in the society as significant setbacks that must be addressed for an improved standard of education. She noted that technology advances must be applied appropriately to schooling, as new competencies could become game-changers for the country and the Nigerian people.