A total of 143 comprising 100 secondary school teachers and 43 Chief Inspectors of Education (CIE) from Edo and Delta states were proud recipients of Seplat Teachers Empowerment Programme (STEP) Certificates, having concluded their three-month training on the programme. The STEP initiative is an educational programme created by the leading indigenous energy company, Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc and its partners, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), to improve the country's standard of education, particularly for host States.
Over the years, SEPLAT made significant impacts with critical initiatives focused on providing quality education for states of its operations and the country. To consolidate its achievements on Sustainability Development Goal 4 for inclusive and equitable quality education, the Company introduced STEP (Seplat Teachers Empowerment Programme), a customized training programme for secondary school teachers. STEP is a three-month intensive training programme that equips teachers with tools to teach STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics).
In November 2020, the 143 certificate awardees from Delta and Edo states began their training with an initial five-day residential retreat. After that, they continued training via the E-Learning platform developed for the programme.
To commemorate the certificate presentation ceremony held on March 19, 2021, Seplat hosted an Education Roundtable further to explore the right policy formulation for quality education. The theme for the round table was Provision of Quality Education: A National Priority.
The STEP Certificate Awards Ceremony took place on March 19, 2021, in Benin City, Edo State, alongside the Seplat Education Roundtable, which had educational experts and professionals in a highly engaging panel session moderated by Professor Pat Utomi. The keynote speaker for the day was the former Edo State Commissioner of Education, Prof. Ngozi Osarenren.
The panellists comprised the Director, External Affairs and Communications, Seplat, Dr Chioma Nwachuku; Professor of Guidance and Counselling at Ambrose Alli University, Oyaziwo Aluede; Director, Centre for Gender Security Studies and Youth Advancement, University of Abuja, Prof. Ocholi Ekundayo Fehintola; Professor of Educational Management, University of Ibadan, Benedict Oyovwevotu Emunemu and the Principal Managing Partner, Teach Smart Eduservices, Sola Okunkpolor.
The programme provided training on teaching applications for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) and leadership and self-improvement. The testimonies of recipients of the maiden STEP highlighted the numerous benefits they gained from the programme, including enhancing their creative thinking, allowing for higher student engagement, and offering a well-rounded education.
The Edo State Governor, His Excellency Godwin Obaseki represented by Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Edo State, Mrs. Stella-Marris Imasuen and many other government officials graced the event. In attendance also were traditional chiefs, community leaders and other stakeholders.
Roger Brown, the Chief Executive Officer, Seplat, represented by Dr. Chioma Nwachuku, Director of External Affairs and Communications, Seplat said: "Over the years, Seplat has invested significantly in various educational Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes, to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Number 4, which speaks to education for all.
He further affirmed that "at Seplat, we strongly believe that education is the bedrock for national development and our STEP deployment aims to enhance teachers' competencies and empower them with the knowledge and skills to implement STEAM education, amongst other benefits. Seplat is committed to providing this programme annually because of its relevance and positive multiplier effects on boosting quality education."
Dr. Chioma Nwachuku, in her remarks, said: "Seplat is playing an invaluable role in enhancing the quality of education with the many educational programmes offered through the Company's CSR initiatives. With the STEP programme, the Company now has a full boutique of programmes impacting the entire education value chain. Seplat educational programmes now cover improving school infrastructure, enhancing students' academic performance, and building the skills and competencies of teachers, amongst others.
"Teachers are the critical success factor for the implementation of STEAM model; thus Seplat has embarked on empowering teachers with the STEAM knowledge and skillsets to enable them to deliver", she added.
Prof. Osarenren, in her keynote, said what Seplat has done cannot be quantified as it will continue to drive critical thinking and generate problem-solving skills. She, therefore, urged the recipients of the programme to utilize the acquired knowledge to bear positive impacts on their students whilst remaining change agents, mentors and character builders, adding that: "Nobody can make you inferior without their consent."
Prof. Utomi, while commenting on the state of education in the country, said society must appreciate and show esteem for teachers, adding that the impacts teachers make in the lives of students and community remain immeasurable.
According to Utomi, teachers need to continue to exhibit a strong passion for their profession with the undying commitment to sustaining the future generation. Misery amongst the people could only be effectively addressed by quality education.
In the same vein, Prof. Aluede said education is critical to combating poverty, and qualified teachers are the genuine agents needed to actualize 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, Prof. 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.
Sola Okunkpolor, in her submission, advocated for a robust database in the educational 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.
Dr Chioma Nwachuku 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 advances must be applied appropriately to schooling, as new competencies could become game-changers for the country and the Nigerian people.