By Dorcas Omotayo
Improving the education sector should be on the front burner of every conversation and the collaborative effort of both the public and private sectors is required in achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (4), which is to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
With the number of Out of School Children which currently stands at 13.2 million according to the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), strategic efforts must be established in order to drastically reduce the numbers of Out of School Children as well.
Although the government recently laid out plans and policies in reviving the education sector during the 2020 World Teachers’ Day celebration. Among the policies stipulated by the government include the implementation of the new teachers’ salary scheme, increase in the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65, and the number of service years from 35 to 40, the reintroduction of bursary award to education students in Universities and College of Education and an assurance of automatic employment upon graduation among others.
Moreover, key to improving the education sector is the provision of state of the art facilities across the nook and cranny of the country as that will uplift the feel and experience of studying in Nigeria, irrespective of where one is.
However, First Bank of Nigeria Limited, Nigeria’s premier and leading financial inclusion services provider, has continued to implement several initiatives to bolster the education sector. The most recent contribution is its partnership with Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) in a matching fund scheme. The scheme aims to cushion the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on low-cost private schools by ensuring lending at an attractive interest rate. The programme will also provide access to finance, where participating schools can each be availed up to N5 million as well as capacity development, business and financial advisory. The scheme is intended to improve the facilities of schools in the state.
Furthermore, FirstBank partnered with the Lagos State government, Robert & John, IBM and Curious Learning with a resolve to enable the education of 1 million Nigerian students through innovative eLearning solutions that will drive sustainable efforts towards improving education for all. As part of the partnership, the Bank donated 20,000 units of e-learning devices to the Lagos State government. The digital learning devices are enabled mobile phones, using free mobile data provided by MTN. The devices have Road to Education (RODUCATE) applications installed on them to allow users learn from all approved curricula.
So far, the Bank has enabled over 9,000 free sign-ups to the e-learning platforms with the goal to empower one million students across various initiatives and partnerships.
In a bid to drive engagement and participation on the e-learning initiatives, several competitions have been done and are ongoing to ensure the students are learning on the platform, thereby making learning fun and improving their productive proficiencies.
Speaking on the initiative, Adesola Adeduntan, FirstBank CEO said, “We call on well-meaning organisations and individuals to join us and collectively rise to address the challenges this current pandemic presents to our children and youth and are reaching out to other organisations with complementary solutions to also partner on this initiative for the youths who are our future. They must not be lost in this pandemic.”
Moreover, in the past, FirstBank held a Business Clinic to promote the growth and sustainability of the education sector which aimed at reinforcing its leading role at enabling the growth of the sector in the country. Mr. Gbenga Shobo, Deputy Managing Director, FirstBank was reported to have said, “the education sector remains the bedrock of the growth and development of any nation – without a viable educational system, the human capital would be incapable of driving national growth and development.”
Recall that in 2019, FirstBank reiterated its support for the education sector through its educational products and solutions such as, the FirstEdu Loan, Operational Vehicle Loan, Term Loans for constructing new sites and extension of existing sites, Personal Loan against Salary (PLAS) and Salary Overdraft (SODA) which enhances parents’ capacity to pay their children’s school fees.
Meanwhile, during the heat of the pandemic, FirstBank rolled out other initiatives such as, a 60-day loan moratorium on FirstEdu loan, which is a form of financial support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs In Education Sector) to cushion the effects of the COVID -19 pandemic. The FirstEdu loan provides funding advancement for schools with a minimum of 100 students with school fees collection domiciled at FirstBank.
In addition, as part of its corporate social responsibility, FirstBank is committed to promoting financial inclusion in the country which is why it implemented the “FutureFirst” programme designed uniquely to ensure youths of the nation are financially independent through fulfilling careers and the right financial knowledge. The programme is built around Career Counselling, Financial Literacy and Entrepreneurship which has impacted over 85,000 secondary students, across the regions of the country.
Owning to the array of blueprint initiatives and offerings by FirstBank to strengthen and sustain the education sector in Nigeria, the bank is playing its role of being a key enabler in ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for Nigerians whilst exposing the youth to multifaceted opportunities that will achieve their contribution to national development.