Sterling Bank Plc has pledged to continue its support of players in the education sector in a bid to lift the sector out of its current situation, which is unacceptable to most Nigerians.
Education Lead at Sterling Bank, Mrs. Eniola Obe, disclosed this at the sixth edition of the Lafarge Africa National Literacy Competition held in Lagos recently with the theme, “Bridging the Literacy Gap Together.”
According to her, Sterling Bank decided to support the programme because education is one of the five sectors of the economy where the bank is presently focusing its investments. She added that the bank also supported the programme as part of an effort to ensure that children in school are able to engage in proper learning.
“The number of children who are out of school is too high and unacceptable. So we are trying to see how we can help turn around the education sector because it is obvious that the government alone cannot fund it,” Obe said.
She reiterated that the bank would continue to partner with Lafarge Africa and others who are interested in the well-being of the education sector so that it can reach the same level as what obtains in developed economies.
At the end of the competition, Rivers State emerged the overall winner, followed by Ogun State while Enugu State came third.
Rivers State was represented by Master Ledee Barikpoa and Emmanuel David, both of Community Primary School in the Pue Khama Local Government Area of the state.
The two overall winners received N250,000 each, second place winners receivedN200,000 each and the third place winners got N150,000 each. A total of 12 pupils qualified from six geographical zones of Enugu, Kogi, Rivers, Gombe, Katsina and Ogun states for the final competition, which involved literacy assessment and creative writing.
Also speaking, Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido, lamented that the Federal Government had not made education a priority in its yearly budget, adding that if education, especially that of the girl-child, is given priority, the nation would find solutions to most of its problems.
Calling on other private organisations to emulate Lafarge Africa by investing in the education sector, he said government alone could not fund education.
The Emir also called on the World Bank and other multi-lateral institutions to support the development of the education sector in the country instead of focusing only on roads and other infrastructure because it is educated minds that can use and maintain those infrastructure.
In his address, Mr. Mobolaji Balogun, Chairman of Lafarge Africa Plc, said the literacy competition was very important to the company in many respect because the deficit in the education sector is very high.
He noted that at least one out of six children of primary school age was out of school while a percentage of children who started school cannot continue.
According to him, national literacy figures show that about 50 per cent of the population is basically illiterate.
He, therefore, recommended that education should be an area for national emergency and intervention.
Balogun said the sector requires the collaboration of players in both public and private sectors because government alone cannot do it.
“If you look at our budget, the allocation to the education sector is less than 12 per cent, whereas for a nation like ours, it is important we get investment into education that is significantly higher and probably running four to five times of the current level,” Bolaji said.
The Lafarge Africa National Literacy Competition is a partnership project of the LafargeAfrica Plc and Ovie Brume Foundation, with the support of the States Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB).
The project commenced in 2014 with a mobile literacy initiative called “Books on Wheels,” which seeks to increase access to literacy enhancement opportunities. The initiative, currently being driven by the Lafarge Africa Volunteers, ensured the distribution of over 10,000 books as well as held over 500 reading sessions for public primary school pupils in Nigeria.
To demonstrate and celebrate the impact of “Book on Wheels,” a literacy competition was organised to provide a platform whereby pupils will display as well as improve their literacy skills by competing in literacy related activities.
At inception, the competition was held in the three geo-political zones where Lafarge Africa Plc plants are located. Presently, the Lafarge Africa National Literacy Competition is in all states of the federation as the biggest literacy improvement initiative engaging over 20,000 pupils on literacy development initiatives.