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Published On: Sun, Jul 27th, 2014

Promoting science/technical education in Nigeria: the NNPC initiative

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By Francis Alu Akogwu

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has never failed to identify with the cause of Nigerians. In its almost four decades of existence as a government agency which supervises and protects the interest of the Federal Government in the nation’s hydrocarbon business, the NNPC has always lived up to the huge expectations rightly depicted in its motto of touching the lives of Nigerians in many positive ways.

From the statutory function of safeguarding the Federal Government’s interest in its dealings with international stakeholders in the hydrocarbon value-chain to ensuring and sustaining a stable petroleum products supply to the nation’s filling stations, the Corporation has never shied away from its core responsibilities. This, indeed, is a fact of life not only for Nigerians, but also for foreigners as well.

Education is the foundation on which nations are built. Most importantly, science and technical education remains the cornerstone of industrial growth and advancement especially among the global super powers.

It is for this reason that NNPC decided to make science and technical education as one of the key fulcrums upon which an appreciable percentage of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is anchored. This burning desire to redefine the concept of CSR led the Corporation to, in 2001, establish the NNPC Annual National Quiz Competition.For starters, the NNPC Annual National Quiz Competition was an off-shoot of an NNPC-sponsored Niger Delta Science Quiz Competition held in 2000. Following its resounding success that year, the NNPC moved a notch higher to sponsor and stage the competition at a national level and ever since, the Corporation has never looked back. Fourteen years later, the rest as they say, is now history.

Every year, the competition starts from the grassroots level where students of various secondary schools within a state slug it out in core science subjects of English, Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. After the state level contests, three winners from the state move to the zonal contest where the various states in the nation’s six geo-political zones compete among themselves. From there on, the best six states will emerge to represent their zones at the Grand Finale which usually takes place at the NNPC Towers in Abuja.

Ever since it commenced, the competition has been characterized by very keen and healthy contest from the participating states, all borne out of the sincere desire and commitment of the participating students to do well.  It is indeed noteworthy that in such healthy rivalry, the students adequately prepare themselves towards the rigours of their Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE) which usually comes up shortly after the quiz competition, as well as the challenges of tertiary education. The state governments and no least the students are very proud to be part of this positive development.

 This is because the competition aims to achieve the following objectives: supporting the massive Federal Government campaigns towards uplifting the standard of education in the country; stimulating the interest of the younger ones in the study of sciences; creating an atmosphere of challenge within the nation’s schools in order to improve teaching and learning processes; sharing ideas and building a solid foundation for science development within Nigeria; and promoting unity among the various youths of the country.

Apart from these objectives, it is also safe to say that the NNPC Annual National Quiz Competition presents a great challenge to the participating students. This is the challenge of working hard to do a great deal of honour to themselves and their families, as well as putting their respective schools and states in the national limelight and for the right reasons. It has always been a heavy responsibility, which, happily the students’ young shoulders have learnt to carry.

It is, therefore, heart-warming to say that from the responses the Corporation has obtained over the years, these cardinal objectives have already being met. A number of students, who were -or are still- on NNPC’s sound scholarship scheme (where each member of the victorious state at the national finals receives the sum of N100, 000 each year as bursary throughout their study duration) have excelled- and are still excelling – in their respective disciplines in the nation’s tertiary institutions.

For instance, Mr. Sunday John Aliu from Edo State, who was among the winners of the inaugural competition in 2001, went ahead to bag a First Class degree in electrical/electronics engineering from the University of Benin and a Distinction in his Masters (computer science and engineering) at the African University of Science & Technology, Abuja. He also did another Masters -with Distinction- at the prestigious Imperial College, London. Currently, Aliyu is an employee of Total Upstream Nigeria Limited where he works as a Database Engineer on their Egina Project in Lagos.

 Also, a past winner of the 2010 annual competition, Master Olatunde Kehinde Israel represented Nigeria at a contest to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in Vienna, Austria. At the competition which saw the 12 member countries of the organisation taking part, Nigeria emerged second, just few points behind the eventual winner, Venezuela. This was a no mean feat not only for Master Olatunde and his state but also for NNPC and Nigeria.

Alu Akogwu Francis is the Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC (alufrancisoz@yahoo.com)

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