By Nnamdi Odumody
Over the years, the quality of STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education in Africa has gradually and steadily declined. This is as a result of various challenges such as poverty, inadequate funding, lack of interest from students, unqualified teachers, inadequate learning aids, and incessant strikes just to mention a few.
In promoting various opportunities for sound education of the African student, especially with STEM, InterswitchSPAK Switch-a-Future Initiative is being introduced predominantly for high school students to chart the ideal career paths and drive them towards full optimization of their potentials. The motivation: to help in the fulfillment of their dreams as inventors, entrepreneurs, workers and scholars, to transform Africa to a prosperous continent. Interswitch SPAK switch-a-future initiative is a unique concept developed to identify, promote and ignite the right support and reward for STEM students in Africa.
Over the years, research has revealed that the quality of STEM education; like other core areas in Africa has steadily and gradually declined. This is as a result of various challenges such as poverty; inadequate funding; lack of interest from students; unqualified teachers;inadequate learning aids, incessant strikes/ industrial actions, just to mention a few.
In promoting the various opportunities for sound education/background for the African student especially as it relates to STEM, InterswitchSPAK Switch-a-Future Initiative is being introduced predominantly for high school students to chart the ideal career path and drive them towards full optimization of their potentials / fulfillment of their dreams (either as an inventor or entrepreneur) thereby making Africa a better place to live in!
InterswitchSPAK switch-a-future Initiative is a unique concept developed to identify, promote and ignite the right support and reward for STEM students in Africa.
Interswitch SPAK organized the Interswitch SPAK 1.0 Innovation Challenge competition where secondary school students in nine teams were tasked with developing technology-driven solutions to problems in healthcare, public transportation and education for out of school children. Each of the teams had Interswitch staff who volunteered as mentors. Team Neptune made up of nine SS2 students emerged winners of the competition and received medals, laptops and will partake in a two-week internship programme at Interswitch Group Head Office during their holidays.
The students were tasked to propose a solution that promotes an all-inclusive health insurance scheme that leverages technology. Their solution which integrated the National Health Insurance Scheme makes provision for web doctors and policy holders. It has node for telemedicine. Noting that Nigerians prefer going to pharmacies for treatment, Team Neptune also proposed that neighborhood pharmacies be empowered with the health insurance scheme so that patients who consult the web doctors can purchase prescribed drugs from partner pharmacists in their localities. The criteria used in deciding the winners were ideas and presentation. The jury considered the integration of technology, attempt at defining the possibilities, feasibility of the idea, how impactful and disruptive it was. Team Neptune’s solution utilized blockchain technology which boosted their chances of emerging winners.
The InterswitchSPAK National Science Competition saw 16-year old Akachukwu Anumudu, a student of Apostolic Faith Secondary School, Lagos, emerge winner, beating eight other contestants, in a quiz session to win the star prize of N7.5 million worth of tertiary education scholarship spread over five years, a laptop and monthly stipend during the course of the scholarship. Henry Umunna, a 16 year old student of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja was first runner up, getting a scholarship of N4 million spread over three years while 16 year old Onyedikachi Kanu from Dority International School, Aba got a one year scholarship worth N1 million.
Nigerian organizations should take cue from Interswitch, and invest in STEM education, for the future of the young generation, to take Nigeria to the league of industrialized nations in The Fourth Industrial Revolution. The talent pipeline is there – the nation must ensure they flourish.