Seplat’s PEARLs Quiz: Salvaging Education for National Development

Through its annual PEARLs Quiz competition for secondary schools in its host communities, Seplat Energy has continued to demonstrate its commitment to salvaging the country’s education sector to attain SDG4. The company also emphasised public and private sector collaboration for national development. Uchechukwu Nnaike reports

Seplat Energy’s Promoting Exceptional and Respectable Leaders (PEARLs) Quiz initiative is an annual competition open to all secondary schools in the company’s three host states of Delta, Edo and Imo. The initiative aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal four, which is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

The overall objective is to enhance academic performance and reward excellence in the host states and other parts of the country.

Now in its 11th year, the PEARLs Quiz educational empowerment initiative has continued to touch many lives and shape the future of Nigerian youths. Since its inception, the indigenous energy company has consistently focused on education, health and economic empowerment as its corporate social responsibility areas. In the education sector, the PEARLs Quiz competition, its flagship initiative, is strategically complemented by the Seplat Teachers’ Empowerment Programme (STEP) and the company’s scholarship awards. In health, Seplat sponsors the much sought-after ‘Eyes Can See’ initiative and health infrastructure development.

Participation in the highly anticipated competition is open to all secondary schools in rural and urban centres. The annual journey kicks off at the school level, where representatives emerge for the next stages through to the senatorial zones and finally to the inter-state grand finale, where the winners emerge. Participants are peppered with questions sieved through the approved school curricula.

Finally, the first three top-performing schools are rewarded with prizes for school project funding, ranging from N10 million, N5 million and N2 million for the first, second and third positions, respectively.

In addition, the students go home with scholarships of N100,000 each for the three students in the winning team, N75,000 each for students in the second-placed team, and N50,000 each for the third-position winners.

The annual programme has impacted 51,955 students from 10,391 schools for the first 10 years.

Research has shown that quizzes are designed to promote a fun way to study and help improve one’s general knowledge.​

Quiz competitions are said to be used in schools and universities to aid in language development and particular subject areas of study; some educational institutes use it as a brief assessment or tool to measure the growth in the knowledge, abilities and, or skills of their students either on a general level or restricted to specific fields.

Participating in quizzes also aids team-building, relieves the tension of the daily work routine, promotes group harmony, and helps build students’ soft skills.

Little wonder, encomiums have come from far and near, as private and public sector leaders have applauded Seplat Energy and its joint venture partner, the NNPC Exploration and Production Limited (NEPL), for sustaining the competition.

It is a general belief that private organisations play a crucial role in the development of host communities and others. Not only do they, by such interventions, generate growth and create jobs, but they also fundamentally and positively influence people’s well-being for the better.

With the impact of COVID-19, and other natural disasters and insecurity, corporate social responsibility initiatives should be sustained.

On a developmental level, especially for third-world economies, it arguably is not possible for the government alone to bring about sustainable development in society. Thus, businesses in the private sector need to be actively involved in the development of society.

Also, CSR represents the corporate world’s avenue to ensuring peaceful, harmonious and progressive co-existence between organisations and host communities on the one hand and guaranteeing a steady source of quality manpower that will help to drive organisational policies and processes far into the future in a sustainable manner, on the other hand. It captures a spectrum of values and criteria for measuring a company’s contribution to social development.

Although the concept of corporate social responsibility has been around for a long time, it has changed dramatically since its inception. Most notably, the scope of CSR started extremely narrow but has since widened to include many more issues and impact a wider range of business decisions. What started as a movement for businesses to give to charity and reduce working hours has blossomed into an initiative that has changed how business is done and affects every aspect of a business’ operations.

Seplat Energy has put social priorities at the heart of its decision-making to develop individuals and drive positive socio-economic benefits for the country and its host communities.

The Seplat’s PEARLs Quiz competition is implemented with the support of the ministries of education in Delta and Edo. The company has consistently shown its unwavering dedication to the long-term infrastructure improvement of the areas where it operates, as well as to the improvement of the human and intellectual potential of its residents. Specifically, it has invested in this CSR initiative to improve Nigeria’s education sector.

The grand finale of this year’s edition held in Benin City and had in attendance secondary schools from Edo and Delta, government officials, traditional rulers, various communities from both states, management of NEPL, staff, management and board members of Seplat Energy, among others.

Green Park Academy, Edo, emerged as the winner among 130 participating schools. It received the coveted prize of N10 million for a project award and a N100,000 scholarship for each of its three participating students.

Deeper Life High School, Warri, Delta and the University of Benin Demonstration Secondary School emerged as second and third, respectively. Deeper Life High school was awarded a N5 million project award and N75,000 scholarship each for its three students. UNIBEN Demonstration Secondary School was awarded a prize of N3 million project award and a N50,000 scholarship for each of its three participating students. N18.675 million was awarded to the three winning schools and their participating students.

Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, who commended Seplat Energy, stated that the initiative encourages students to take their studies more seriously. He said it has also brought students from Edo and Delta to square up in a friendly atmosphere.

The governor, represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Augustine Oghoro, added ‘’undoubtedly, they will all mix and chart new friendships, know themselves better and deepen the bond of unity and love among people from the two states.’’

He also appealed to other corporate bodies to emulate Seplat by identifying with their host communities.​

‘’There should be increased conscious efforts to impact positively on the lives of the people. Government cannot do it alone. Therefore the partnership with the private sector is essential to ensure that sustainable development permeates every sector of our national life,’’ Okowa said.

Commending the company for its commitment to education and national development, the Edo State Commissioner for Education, Dr Joan Oviawe, said Seplat Energy’s educational projects aligned with the government’s vision for education while describing the Seplat Teachers Empowerment Programme (STEP) as a big feat.

According to the Director of External Affairs and Sustainability, Seplat Energy, Dr Chioma Nwachuku, represented by the company’s Base Manager, Western Assets, Mr Emmanuel Otokhine, the programme also aims to rekindle the spirit of academic excellence and healthy competition in the youth by motivating, encouraging, and rewarding the scholarship and teamwork spirit in their young minds.

Similarly, the Managing Director of Western Asset at Seplat Energy, Ayodele Olatunde, expressed excitement to be part of the event. He stated that the competition has been encouraging the spirit of academic excellence and motivating hard work. He added that the programme is an avenue to pay back to society by building future leaders.

Mr Samson Ezugworie, Seplat Energy’s Chief Operating Officer, restated that the company has tasked itself with improving academic outcomes in its host communities. He explained that the Seplat JV PEARLs Quiz had been making a progressive impact, with 51,955 students participating. The initiative has also assisted the winning schools in developing legacy projects, including language laboratories, computer laboratories, libraries, school buses, classroom blocks, and other essential structural projects while increasing enrollment levels in the winning schools, Ezugworie noted.

Seplat PEARLs Quiz is implemented in two stages: the test and competition. In the test stage, all schools take an online test to qualify for the head-to-head competition, which determines the champions. All qualified schools from the test stage go home with Seplat-branded laptop bags, exercise books, and other prizes.

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