Worried by the poor quality of teachers in Nigerian schools and the urgent need to improve teachers’ quality, an oil firm, SEPLAT Petroleum Development Company Plc (SEPLAT) has intensified efforts at changing the narrative and ensuring an effective teacher development.
This is as the oil firm is set out to ramp up teacher’s creative thinking, allow higher student engagement through its pet-project, SEPLAT Teachers Empowerment Programme (STEP), an educational programme initiated to promote and offer a well-rounded education for the beneficiaries.
The programme, which was kicked off on November 23, last year, at Benin, Edo State, is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals 4 (SDG 4) of the United Nations that aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Beginning with a five-day residential workshop introductory, STEP ushered in a six-month programme specially designed for teachers towards providing training on teaching applications for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) as well as leadership and self-improvement training.
No fewer than 100 teachers and 43 Chief Inspectors of Education (CIEs) selected from Edo and Delta States benefitted from the maiden edition of the training, geared towards enhancing quality, efficiency and effectiveness of teachers, and challenging their multidisciplinary approach to teaching pedagogue.
According to the firm, the importance of raising a generation of critical thinkers whose education is rooted in their problem-solving abilities is critical to national development.
Besides, it stressed that the importance of STEAM could not be overemphasised as it has been proven to assist teachers to integrate multiple disciplines, and promote learning experiences that allow children to explore, question, research, discover, and exercise innovative building skills.
On the significance of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative programme, the SEPLAT Director, External Affairs and Communications, Dr. Chioma Nwachukwu, however, noted that the firm was poised to play invaluable role in enhancing the quality of education through its various educational programmes offered under the initiatives.
“With the STEP programme, the company now has a full boutique of programmes to address the entire education value chain. Our programmes cover improving school infrastructure, enhance the academic performance of students and build the skills and competencies of teachers,” Nwachukwu said.
He further pointed out 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.
Meanwhile, in order to keep in tune with these challenging times, SEPLAT had developed an Online Teachers Resource Centre (OTRC), which provides the teachers with access to inclusive learning, highlighting best techniques and practices for implementing STEAM teaching methods and assists teachers to learn to use such methods in the classrooms.
The E-Platform, according to her, provides and connects teachers to a collection of STEAM resources to enable them to understand, teach and demonstrate effectively to their students. Similarly, the platform also provides electronic devices and internet data for the teachers throughout the period of the training.
A recent report, however, indicated that through STEAM education, students were engaged in several activities in their daily life that aimed at establishing communication skills like critiquing art, presenting research, collaborating with peers for group projects, and communicating results in research papers.
Aside from creative thinking, STEAM education also creates an environment where students could 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.
This, among others, has spurred SEPLAT to continue to make notable strides with its drive to improve the standard of education in the country, particularly for its host states,” Nwachukwu added.
The Chief Executive Officer, SEPLAT, Roger Brown also noted that apart from the STEAM programme in the nation’s education sector, the firm had invested significantly in various other educational programmes under its CSR that support the Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 4).
According to Brown, the company recently concluded another flagship educational programme, SEPLAT Pearls Quiz in which over 574 schools selected from Edo and Delta States participated in the competition, which is aimed at promoting and rewarding academic excellence among secondary school students.
The competition that is ingrained in SEPLAT’s strong belief that education is the bedrock of national growth, he added, runs for six months with the students and schools contesting to win the much-coveted prizes.
Describing the STEP initiative as highly commendable given the underlying philosophy of the founders of the organisation, especially the Chairman, Dr. A.B.C Orjiako, he said that the programme had a laudable track record in enhancing the quality of education through its various CSR programmes.
As part of activities lined up to commemorate the certificate presentation, which took place on March 19, 2021, the firm organised an Education Round Table to further explore the right policy formulation for delivery of quality education.
Renowned education experts and professionals were the discussants at the highly engaging panel session of the round table with the theme: “Provision of Quality Education: A National Priority,” which was moderated by Prof. Pat Utomi, and with Prof. Ngozi Osarenren, the former Edo State Commissioner for Education as the keynote speaker.
Brown, who was represented also by Dr. Nwachukwu reiterated: “Seplat has invested significantly in various corporate social responsibility programmes in the education sector to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG Goal 4) because of its strong belief that education is the bedrock for national growth.
Having a team of competent teachers is a critical success factor worldwide for achieving quality education.”
He, however, reiterated that the programme is laudable, saying that stakeholders are looking forward to future editions, while more teachers and students would be empowered.
Brown called on corporate organisations and bodies, groups and wellmeaning Nigerians to join in the drive to take the nation’s education sector out of the doldrums and set it on albeit slow, but steady path toward joining the rest of the world to provide qualitative education to the children.
Utomi, in his appraisal of the state of education in the country, charged the society to appreciate and show esteem for teachers, adding that the impacts teachers make in the lives of children and community remain immeasurable.
The don, who noted that teachers needed to exhibit a strong passion for the profession with the undying commitment to sustaining the future generation, added that misery among the people could only be effectively addressed through provision of quality education.
Similarly, Prof. Aluede, however, described education as critical to combating poverty, saying qualified teachers are the agents needed to actualise objectives in the country. He, therefore, stressed the need for the right curriculum, the requisite skill sets and effective partnership among stakeholders, as is being exhibited by the oil firm.
Also, on his part, Prof. Emunemu urged all would-be teachers to acquire the minimum qualifications, pointing out that failure to do so would only result in wrong output from the sector.
Meanwhile, Sola Okunkpolor, in her remarks, advocated a robust database in the education sector to allow for good planning, monitoring and decision making, stressing that “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.”
Dr. Chioma 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 society as significant setbacks that must be addressed for an improved standard of education.
She noted that technology advancement must be applied appropriately to schooling, as new competencies could become game-changers for the country and the Nigerian people.
As a nation struggling to cover lost grounds in the education sector, the oil company stressed that the importance of capacity building for Nigerian teachers could not be over-emphasised, saying that “education is the passport to the future.”
The company, which recalled that achieving inclusive and quality education for all reaffirms the belief that education is one of the most powerful and proven vehicles for sustainable development, added that 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,” the firm said.
According to it, findings from a survey conducted by the Nigerian Centre for Reading Research and Development (NCRRD), indicated that 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 helped 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.