• Tuesday, December 05, 2023
businessday logo


CSR: Building bridges across educational barriers


Rarzack Olaegbe

In today’s environment, the concept of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has put many organisations on a platform that demands moral and professional obligations. Business managers have realised that a company’s reputation lies in the hands of the people it serves. Thus, the CSR strategy has become an indicator of a company’s successful turnaround, and how it shows appreciation by allowing others to enjoy a piece of it.

Because of this, companies have adopted a new rule that involves giving a percentage of their earnings to the society. Why should a company give a certain percentage of its profit to the public? How can a generous contribution of a company’s hard work help the company to develop? According to the International Business Machine (IBM) survey that was conducted on 250 businesses worldwide, companies which outperformed their peers already showed a grasp of the benefits of a well-planned CSR strategy.

Well, now companies are managing their business processes by ensuring that the business processes produce an overall positive impact to society. Because of this, almost all the companies in Nigeria are involved in one CSR project or the other. It has been proved that, that is the only sure visible way conglomerates, medium and small companies can ‘give back’ to their various host communities. Through giving back, these companies have improved the conditions of the locations or the people that reside in those locations.

Recently, Interswitch, Nigeria’s leading electronic transaction switching and payment processing company and Freedom Foundation, an NGO committed to pioneering social reform by mobilising the efforts of government and the private sector, activated a CSR project, Switch-A-Future, aimed at heightening public awareness and engender the citizenry’s empathy and action to change the plight of Nigerian children, who otherwise would have no hope.

It works this way. Each time an Interswitch cardholder uses an Interswitch ATM Verve or Debit card on another bank’s ATM, Interswitch will make a donation and by doing so ‘Switch-A-Future’ for a Nigerian child. The Switch-A-Future initiative is designed to examine how the future of Nigerian children is being tragically reduced because they are disadvantaged or orphaned without a care for them. The campaign focuses on providing educational support for neglected children in poor communities.

The culmination of Switch-A-Future initiative was the adoption of Bethesda Nursery and Primary School by Interswitch. The Bethesda school is run by Bethesda Child Support Agency, which was set up by Freedom Foundation. The primary focus of the agency is providing scholarships to children from economically disadvantaged families whose parents are unable to accord them the benefit of a good education.

Tito Aderoju, chief marketing officer of Interswitch; Teni Awoyemi, and Katja Nwator of Freedom Foundation, the large turnout were at the school premises to construct the school’s fence. Dressed in jeans, branded T-shirts and trainers, the ladies and gentlemen from the two organisations numbering about 50, assisted the masons to mix cement and sand, plaster the wall with cement, clear the rubbles and engage the pupils in their school work.

On hand to receive the entourage were the teachers and the pupils’ parents who came out in large number to witness the construction and the ‘workers’. Throughout the period of the exercise, which incorporated the distribution of stationery and writing materials to the pupils and teachers by Interswitch, the parents sat patiently while representative of the community shared in the camaraderie and later led the teams round the neighbourhood.

Coincidentally, the day fell on the International Day of the African Child, a day dedicated to honour the memory of thousands of black school children who were killed in South West Township (Soweto), South Africa, for protesting against the poor quality of their education and demanded to be taught in their local language.

The Switch-A-Future CSR initiative is coming right on the heels of the call by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to scale up efforts towards eradicating pervading illiteracy among the E-9 group of countries such as Nigeria, Brazil, Egypt and India among others. Countries in the E-9 group are those with a very high number of illiterates who cannot read, write or communicate in any way.

According to official records, Nigeria remains the only E-9 country in sub-Saharan Africa facing serious challenges of turning around the illiteracy rate among its youths and adults by the 2015 timeline set to achieve education for all (EFA) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).