Uchechukwu Nnaike reports that the three-month training programme for 200 teachers and six chief inspectors of education in Edo and Delta by Seplat Energy Plc. and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company is to promote teachers’ creative thinking and higher student engagement
Among the challenges confronting the Nigerian education system is poor teacher welfare. This has over the years affected their attitude to work, resulting in poor performance of students across the board. The poor condition of teachers has made the profession the least desired, often the last resort for those seeking employment in other, more lucrative fields.
As such, admission into colleges of education and faculty of education in universities was less competitive, unlike other specialised fields and programmes. Teachers’ unions have gone on strike to demand improved welfare from successive governments.
The Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) audit revealed a significant deficit in the number of qualified teachers at the basic level in both public and private schools.
A statement credited to the Executive Secretary of UBEC, Dr. Hamid Bobboyi, noted that the National Personnel Audit (NPA) outcome indicated that about 277,537 qualified teachers are required to fill existing gaps at the basic education level.
The audit specifically revealed that while 73 per cent of teachers in public basic schools are qualified, only 53 per cent of the teachers in the private schools are eligible to teach at the basic level.
However, there is a gradual improvement, as the federal and state governments have realised that improving teachers’ skills will enhance students’ performance. The private sector has also keyed in, with investment in infrastructures, technology and teacher training, as well as other initiatives to reward exceptional teachers, thereby inspiring others to work hard.
One of such private sector initiatives is the SEPLAT JV Teachers Empowerment Programme (STEP), set up by an indigenous energy company, Seplat Energy Plc. and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), to promote teachers’ creative thinking skills, enabling higher student engagement, to improve the standard of education in Delta and Edo.
The second edition of the programme, which commenced recently, involves 200 teachers and six chief inspectors of education (CIEs) from both states. They would be trained on modern learning techniques, critical thinking skills, problem-solving skills, and lesson notes for three months.
Speaking at the formal inauguration of the programme in Benin, the Director, External Affairs and Sustainability, SEPLAT, Dr. Chioma Nwachukwu, said the process for the selection of the benefiting teachers commenced with an online test for 874 teachers that registered from all schools in Edo and Delta.
Nwachukwu, represented by the Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility, Seplat, Esther Icha, added that the beneficiaries were drawn from 28 schools each from both states; five teachers each, representing every public school and two from private schools. The training commenced with a three-day workshop in Benin, designed to empower teachers to access the Seplat Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) app.
“They are now going to apply learning and demonstration, and that is why the STEM training is very critical in nation-building,” Nwachukwu said.
She added that the training would end with the award of certificates to successful teachers in February 2022. Beneficiaries are expected to set up a STEM club in their various schools.
“STEM club will usher in an exhibition where the use of STEM to proffer solutions to world problems will be showcased,” she added.
Through Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) education, students are engaged in several activities that establish 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 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 in its host states.
The Edo State Ministry of Education and Science and Technology officials and Delta State Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, respectively, expressed delight about the collaboration with SEPLAT. They pledged to ensure the success of the initiative.
The Permanent Secretary, Edo education ministry, Stellamaris Imasuen, explained that the Seplat mandate was in line with the state government’s vision for education.
Represented by the Executive Director, Science Vocational and Technical Education, Odegua Kushe, she stated: “The impact of the training, which Seplat started last year, is evident in the increase of students participating in science and technology competitions at both local and international levels.”
Also, the Delta State Commissioner for Basic and Secondary Education, Rose Ezewu, commended the company for collaborating with the government to equip teachers with modern techniques for improved classroom experiences.
Ezewu, represented by the Director of School Services, Ufuoma Oduma, said over the years, teaching and learning in the country had suffered huge setbacks in the face of modern technology.
“But with intervention from a company like Seplat in collaboration with government, a new era of nourishing classroom experiences has been ushered in,” said Ezewu.
On his part, the Managing Director, NPDC, Alli Zahra, represented by Bassey Etim Bassey, highlighted the purpose and impact of teachers in nation-building, hence the need for such training.
One hundred teachers and 43 CIEs benefited from the first edition of the programme, which started in November 2020 and beneficiaries certified in March 2021.
An education roundtable complemented the certificate presentation ceremony to emphasise the company’s stand on providing quality education as a national priority.
Some of the beneficiaries said the training would be an opportunity to change the narrative in their daily activities.
Ejoma Emiliana, a CIE and a beneficiary from Oshimili South Local Government Area, Delta State, said the programme was an opportunity for her at the supervisory end.
She said the programme “has increased and enhanced my knowledge, and I thank Seplat for coming to better my ideas in different ways.”
Godfrey Edobholo, a teacher representing Federal Science and Technical College, Uromi, said: “We have seen how our minds have been refined because a mind refined is a life transformed. We have seen how important it is because, as a teacher, you are a leader.
“We have seen the bridge and the link between a teacher and a leader because leadership itself is programming to securing the present which is the now; and also capturing the future.”
Edobholo added, “So generally, the Seplat empowerment programme is for us to secure the future of our children and also capture the future because if you train a child, you have educated a nation.”
The company also organises the Seplat PEARLs Quiz for schools in Edo and Delta States. The competition aims to promote and reward academic excellence among secondary school students.
The educational intervention is said to be at the heart of the SEPLAT Chairman, Dr. A.B.C Orjiako, whose drive for excellence is unparalleled.
While commending the company for the initiatives, stakeholders called on other corporate organisations to replicate the gesture in other areas to move the country forward.