Recognising the importance of nurturing forward-thinking and proactive young minds as well as promoting sustainable development in Africa, Interswitch, a leading African digital payments and commerce company, has taken significant strides towards supporting STEM education in Africa through InterswitchSPAK, its flagship CSR initiative, Precious Ugwuzor reports
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the critical role that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education plays in shaping the future of nations across the globe. Africa in particular, with its rich potential and youthful population, stands to benefit significantly from a robust emphasis on STEM education.
STEM education equips individuals with the necessary skills to address pressing challenges facing the continent. As Africa continues to strive for sustainable development, the expertise gained through STEM disciplines enables young minds to devise innovative solutions for issues such as healthcare and agriculture, among others.
STEM education also serves as a catalyst for economic growth and job creation. By nurturing a workforce with proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, African nations can attract and support the proliferation of industries that drive technological advancement.
This consequently cultivates an environment favorable to entrepreneurship and innovation, reducing dependence on conventional sectors and creating a knowledge-based economy.
Recognising the importance of nurturing forward-thinking and proactive young minds as well as promoting sustainable development in Africa, Interswitch, a leading African digital payments and commerce company, has taken significant strides towards supporting STEM education in Africa through InterswitchSPAK, its flagship CSR initiative.
InterswitchSPAK was birthed in 2018 to recognise and reward the outstanding efforts of brilliant young minds striving for excellence in STEM subjects, by creating a platform that encourages healthy competition.
The InterswitchSPAK National Science Competition brings together talented senior secondary school students from diverse backgrounds to showcase their remarkable Speed, Perseverance, Accuracy and Knowledge in line with the SPAK spirit.
The competition also provides a unique opportunity for participants to interact with industry professionals, gaining insights into real-world applications of STEM and fostering mentorship opportunities.
In the last five years, the competition has witnessed notable success stories, with students who emerged as winners subsequently carving their niche across diverse STEM disciplines, within and outside Nigeria.
Having past winners of InterswitchSPAK attend prestigious tertiary institutions such as the University of Lagos, Texas A&M University, and Howard University both in the USA, underscores the far-reaching impact of the initiative.
The continued success of these students on the global stage exemplifies their capacity to thrive and excel in varied academic landscapes, reflecting not only their dedication to excellence but also their relentless spirit fostered through their participation in the InterswitchSPAK competition.
Now in its fifth year in Nigeria, the initiative has directly reached over 80,000 students, and in Kenya where the competition has run for four years, over 7,000 students have been directly impacted. These numbers are a testament to the expansive reach of the initiative across both counties and beyond.
In Nigeria, the fifth milestone edition began with a national qualifying examination, with registrations received from over 17,000 students from private and public secondary schools nationwide.
Of the lot, the top 81 students were selected to compete in the InterswitchSPAK 5.0 TV Show.
From this pool of 81 outstanding students from various secondary schools across Nigeria, the participants were further narrowed down to the top nine finalists.
In a dazzling display of brilliance, Abraham Daramola of Hallmark Secondary School, Ondo State, emerged as the overall winner of the fifth edition of the InterswitchSPAK National Science Competition.
For his exemplary performance, Abraham received a university education scholarship valued at N7.5 million, spread over a period of 5 years, inclusive of a monthly stipend plus a brand-new laptop, and the prestigious recognition as the best STEM student in Nigeria.
Emmanuel Omoegbeleghan from The Crescent International School, Ogun State, secured the second-place position, while Emmanuel Angelo-Hyuwa from The Ambassadors College, Ogun State, clinched the third place, earning them scholarships of N4 million and N1 million each, respectively.
Beyond the competition, Interswitch has also implemented an informal mentorship program which connects the competition winners with some of its senior management staff who themselves are experienced professionals in STEM fields. These interactions aim to provide invaluable guidance to the next generation of STEM leaders in Nigeria.
Speaking at the grand finale of the competition, Vincent Ogbunude, Managing Director, Interswitch Cards and Tokens (Verve) said, “We believe that investing in STEM education is not just an obligation but a strategic initiative for shaping the future of Nigeria.
” Through the InterswitchSPAK initiative, we are proud to contribute to the development of a skilled workforce that will drive innovation and excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics”.
Also speaking on the laudable initiative, the Divisional Head, Brands and Communication, Interswitch, Tomi Ogunlesi said “By empowering innovative young minds to drive progress in STEM, fostering a culture of healthy competition and providing mentorship opportunities, we aim to empower the young minds and catalyze positive change in the educational landscape.
Interswitch is committed to being a catalyst for Nigeria’s progress, and initiatives like InterswitchSPAK reflect our dedication to nurturing the next generation of STEM leaders who will shape the nation’s technological future.”
STEM education nurtures core critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical skills that are essential for developing well-rounded and adaptable individuals.
These skills are not only valuable in the professional realm but also in everyday life, contributing to the overall resilience and capacity required for innovation within the African landscape.
Looking ahead, it remains crucial to foster the active participation of more students in initiatives like InterswitchSPAK. Interswitch, as a company, is committed to continuing its support for such initiatives, enabling platforms that fuel the burgeoning interest of African students in STEM.
Through sustained efforts, InterswitchSPAK will play a pivotal role in nurturing a generation of STEM leaders, charting a course toward a brighter and more innovative future for Nigeria and beyond.
Looking ahead, it remains crucial to foster the active participation of more students in initiatives like InterswitchSPAK. Interswitch, as a company, is committed to continuing its support for such initiatives, enabling platforms that fuel the burgeoning interest of African students in STEM