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Interswitch Stakes N12.5m For National Science Competition

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Interswitch Stakes N12.5m For National Science Competition, SiliconNigeria

Interswitch Group, the pan-African digital payment and commerce company said its staking N12.5 million for winners of this year’s InterswitchSPAK 3.0 National Science competition which has been extended till Saturday, June 5.  

It advised parents, guardians and secondary school administrators to utilise the extended registration window to get their best science students in Grade 11 or Senior Secondary 2 (SS2) for the competition to register on the InterswitchSPAK portal.

InterswitchSPAK is an annual pan-African competition aimed at re-igniting and incentivizing the study of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects among secondary school students.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the qualifying examination for this edition will be conducted online, there are options to pick from between Sunday, June 6 till Tuesday, June 8, 2021 any time between 8am to 6pm. Demo materials are also available on the examination portal link which will be shared with qualified candidates only.

Cherry Eromosele, Group, chief marketing and communication officer, Interswitch, stated that the competition is returning after the one-year hiatus and it was only logical to extend the registration period to give another opportunity to students and schools who would love to participate in the competition however couldn’t meet up with the initial timeline. Despite the disruption caused by the global pandemic, she encouraged more girls to participate in this third edition of the on-going registration.

Eromosele said: “This year, we are quite excited about this edition. Following the long hiatus caused by COVID-19, we trust that there will be increased participation in this competition. There has been an increase in the number of girls participating in the competition. Our commitment at Interswitch is to continually inculcate knowledge, aptitude and confidence, with a focus on improving the standard of education in Nigeria.”

She encouraged teachers, school administrators, parents and guardians to ensure their students are registered.  She also encouraged the students to take hold of this opportunity to pursue their dreams.

The coveted prize is N12.5 million worth of university scholarship for the top three winners. The first prize winner gets N7.5 million tertiary scholarship spread over five years, a laptop and monthly stipends. The second prize is N4 million spread over three years and a laptop and the third prize is N1 million for one year.

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Education

Encouraging Girls in Science to Bring Fresh Perspective to Problem-Solving

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Encouraging Girls in Science to Bring Fresh Perspective to Problem-Solving, SiliconNigeria

By Tolu Oyekan, Partner, Boston Consulting Group (BCG)

Over the years, the study of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has increasingly gained grounds across the world.  Nigeria is not left out as many young people are becoming more interested in studying science subjects at secondary and tertiary levels of education.

This is no surprise as our world today is largely driven by technology.  Technology encompasses practically every facet of our lives.  Life has become easier through the application of technology.  For instance, Information and communication technology (ICT) has proven to be invaluable as the world tries to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic challenges. The application of ICT tools kept people connected, made essential services accessible and sustained businesses.

The 21st century brought about lots of scientific innovations which have propelled the need for students at different levels to become more proficient in the knowledge of STEM. Besides Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics; other STEM subjects include Actuarial Science, Statistics, Psychology, Robotics, Information Science, Atmospheric Sciences and Educational Research. 

Experts have discovered that early exposure of students to STEM and technology-related subjects will help young people develop a passion for technological pursuits and eventually help them pursue a job in a STEM field.

Right now, the fastest growing job categories are related to STEM with recent studies indicating new jobs in areas such as data analysis, software development and data visualization, virtual reality, artificial intelligence etc.

However, girls are highly under-represented in STEM and ICT classes; globally the percentage of young girls undertaking ICT courses range from 8.9% in Switzerland to 20.0% in United States, except for India with 50.5%. What this means is that except this trend changes, women will remain under-represented in the future workplaces.

This year, the International Girls in ICT Day held on April 22 with the theme: ‘Connected Girls, Creating Brighter Futures’. On this day every year, stakeholders in the technology space and indeed all of us, should seek opportunities to empower girls to develop digital skills so as to pursue careers enabled by technology.

As these young girls move on to take up various careers in the ICT sphere, they are faced with several challenges, particularly finding a perfect work-life balance. Conditions like pregnancy, breastfeeding and child care pitched against rigorous work hours, put many women in disadvantaged positions. In many cases, childcare centres are not found close to places of work resulting in women working part-time or accepting lower paying jobs to focus on their homes or quitting their career early.

There is also the glass ceiling issue affecting females in ICT such as gender biases during appointments, promotion and career improvement opportunities as well as harassment, biased evaluation by peers along with familial responsibilities, which could cause increased stress.

There could be several factors which account for the under-representation of girls in STEM. One which is quite obvious, is the issue of the environment, culture as well as the emphasis on gender equality and encouragement of growth mindset. A report from the American Association of University Women (AAUW) shows that the learning environment and social belief system affect girls’ interest and achievements in STEM/ICT subjects.

Another study showed that in countries like Sweden and Iceland where gender parity prevails, girls perform better than boys on Math tests. On the other hand, girls from countries like Turkey where gender discrimination is greater, don’t do well in Math tests.

Research also shows that majority of people view STEM fields as which should be ideally dominated by men; a view which still holds sway to this day. Society views women in science and engineering jobs as less competent than men unless they are exhibiting success tendencies.

No doubt, there are many women who are exceling in science and ICT-related fields.  Some examples of women excelling in ICT globally include Sheryl Kara Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer, Facebook and founder of LeanIn.org; Ruth Porat, Chief Financial Officer of Alphabet Inc and its subsidiary, Google and Ginni Rometty, Former Chairman, President and CEO of IBM, In Nigeria, worthy role models for girls are Funke Opeke, founder, Main One Technologies; Omobola Johnson, former Nigerian Minister for Communication Technology; Juliet Ehimuan, Country Manager Nigeria, Google; and Cherry Eromosele Group Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Interswitch, to name a few.

The beautiful thing is that girls definitely bring a fresh sense of perspective to problem solving in the classrooms and workplaces as professionals. One of such ways is using her ‘voice’; by this, I don’t just mean talking. It is when a girl challenges the status quo, excels at her studies, contributes in making policies or suggests an idea that moves their schools or organisation towards a new course of action.

Some studies have shown that teams with women as leaders were more successful when facing tasks that are more mentally challenging and required complex problem-solving abilities.  But this good performance only showed if the women spoke up, if the men believed that women were capable contributors, and if the team acted on the women’s suggestions.

To ensure girls are more interested in STEM and ICT careers, women already in these fields should get more involved in the development of STEM policies which will favour and encourage girls to develop interest in these subjects. These will include exposing girls to STEM fields, encouraging participation in STEM programmes, providing scholarships, as well as supporting learning opportunities in communities.

And men can be effective allies in the gender equality conversations. They can start with listening their female conterparts and taking their concerns seriously. Men in position of authority can bring their influence to bear by amplifying women’s voices, educating other men against stereotype, credit women’s work and ideas fairly, advocate for policies that removes bias and advances equality. More importantly, men should show their support, at home, workplace and other social circles.

At Boston Consulting Group (BCG), the education and encouragement of girls to fit adequately into the future of jobs, is a core aspect of our ‘Back to The Future’ agenda. Currently, there are more women in the BCG workforce in Lagos, than there are men. Working with this crop of brilliant women have brought interesting and insightful perspectives to problem- solving. So, I know first-hand that women bring fresh perspective to problem-solving.

I hope that more girls will begin to have affinity for STEM subjects and capacity will be built in ICT-based endeavours to gain new skills and enhance problem solving.

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Education

MainOne Partners STEMCafe to Bring Scratch Programming to Schools

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MainOne Partners STEMCafe to Bring Scratch Programming to Schools, SiliconNigeria

Mainone has partnered with STEMCafe to train students on Scratch Programming (BlockCoding) in four primary schools in Lagos State, Nigeria.

 Mainone, a broadband infrastructure company providing innovative telecoms services and network solutions across West Africa has set out to empower young children as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility by providing them with sponsored training on Scratch Programming.

 The program will be facilitated in these schools by STEMCafe – a maker space for kids to explore and discover STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in a fun interactive way. 

According to both organizations, this pilot program will contribute enormously to the early exposure to STEM education as well as empower these young future innovators. It is set to impact the students of these schools with resources and requisite skills that will help nurture their 21st century skills by integrating their creative ideas.

The schools benefiting from this partnership include: 2 public schools (Bonny Camp Primary School, VI and Kuramo Primary School, VI) and 2 private schools (Prudence City College, Yaba and Ken-Ade Primary School, Makoko). 

The Head, Corporate Services & Development, MainOne, Tinuola Ipadeola reiterated the company’s commitment to impacting the lives of children. She said “MainOne prides itself in being a socially responsible organization and a key component of our CSR activities has been education. We are always happy to support initiatives such as STEMCafe science maker clubs which nurtures young pupils across every social strata’s interests in STEM and encourages a generation of innovators and talents in science and technology across Africa. We will continue to provide support in every way we can to grow the MainOne Maker Space as we seek to change lives and impact the lives of the children – our future.”

Speaking on the partnership, Bosun Tijani the founder of STEMCafe said “The opportunity to expose more young people to science through play and projects takes us a step closer to fulfilling our goal of raising a new generation of makers across Africa. We are grateful for MainOne’s support to reach more kids who would have traditionally been excluded.”

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Education

Halogen Group Calls For Inclusion Of Security Education In Schools

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Halogen Group Calls For Inclusion Of Security Education In Schools, SiliconNigeria

Halogen Group, Nigeria’s leading security risk management organization has called for inclusion of security education in the basic and secondary school curriculum.

The company gave this counsel as it announces plans to host an online summit on school safety and security in partnership with IA- Foundation. The summit seeks to address the recurring issues of safety as it relates to the education system in Nigeria.

The chief executive officer, Halogen Group, Mr. Wale Olaoye noted that “security education is key to growing a safer and peaceful learning environment in the country. There is no better time to include security awareness education and safety knowledge in our school curriculum. This is why Halogen is partnering IA- Foundation a United Kingdom (UK) registered educational charity set up to transform lives through education in Nigeria and Africa.”

 He said, “It is essential for our children to have good knowledge of security and safety tips. As parents, guardians, teachers and carers, we should start teaching our children and pupils some basic security tips. They must learn to speak out when they see something strange. Children need to develop and practice keen observation of their environment by identifying strange developments or movement around them.”

 The online safety and security summit which is scheduled to hold by 10 am Nigerian time on Friday, June 4th will feature Thought Leaders from various industries like risk management, media, education, civil society and government establishments as key speakers.

They include Mr. Babajide Kolade-Otitoloju, Group Controller, Current/Public Affairs, TVC; Dr. Abdulrasaq Balogun, CEO, Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF); Mr. Jason Destein, Expert, Targeted Violence; Mrs Folashade Adefisayo, Lagos State Commissioner for Education and Mrs Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, a notable social commentator and other experts.

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