BusinessDay

How Seplat Energy’s pearls quiz drives development through education

Seplat Energy’s Promoting Exceptional and Respectable Leaders (PEARLs) quiz initiative is an annual competition open to all secondary schools in the company’s three host communities of Delta, Edo and Imo States.

Aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal four (4) to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”, the initiative aims to ensure inclusive and equitable life-long learning opportunities for all.

The competitions which kicked off 11 years ago have continued to touch many lives and shape the future of Nigerian youths. Participation in the competition has been made accessible to all secondary schools, in rural and urban centres.

The overall objective is to enhance academic performance and reward excellence, in the host states particularly and Nigeria in general.

Seplat Energy has consistently focused on education, health and economic empowerment as its corporate social responsibility areas. In the education realm, the PEARLs quiz competition, its flagship initiative, is strategically complemented by the Seplat Teachers’ Empowerment Programme (STEP) and the company’s scholarship awards.

For the first 10 years of existence, this annual programme has impacted almost sixty thousand students (51,955) from over ten thousand (10,391) schools.

And for this year’s edition the grand finale of the programme, was held in Benin City, Edo State and had in attendance secondary schools from Edo and Delta States, government officials, traditional rulers, various communities from both States, media, management of the NNPC Exploration and Production Limited (NEPL), staff, management and board members of Seplat Energy, among others.

The annual journey kicks off at the school level where representatives emerge for the next stages through to the senatorial zones and finally to the inter-state grand finale where the winners emerge. Participants are peppered with questions sieved through the approved school curricula.

Finally, the first three top-performing schools are rewarded with various prizes for school project funding, which ranges from N10million, N5million, and N2million for the first, second, and third positions respectively.

In addition, the students also go home with scholarships of one N100,000 each for the trio in the first team, N75,000 for the second-placed team, and N50,000 for the third-position winners.

The 2022edition had Green Park Academy from Edo State emerging overall winners from among 130 participating schools and bagging the coveted prize of N10 million for a project award and one hundred N100,000 scholarship for each of its three partaking students.

Deeper Life High School, Warri, Delta State; and The University of Benin Demonstration Secondary School emerged as the second and third-place winners respectively. Deeper Life High school was awarded an N5 million project award and N75,000 scholarship each for its three partaking students.

Uniben Demonstration Secondary school was given a prize of N3 million project award and N50,000 scholarship for each of its three partaking students. A total of N18.675m was awarded to the three winning schools and their participating students.

Ifeanyi Okowa, the governor of Delta State who was represented by Augustine Oghoro, the state’s permanent secretary at the ministry of education, commended Seplat Energy for encouraging students to take their studies more seriously and for creating an atmosphere where students from Edo and Delta States could square up in a friendly contest.

Okowa said the development of the education sector should not be left to the government alone and called on other firms to emulate Seplat Energy in promoting learning and development in their host communities.

“There should be increased conscious efforts to impact positively on the lives of the people. Government cannot do it alone, therefore partnership with the private sector is essential to ensure that sustainable development permeates every sector of our national life,’’ he said.

Chioma Nwachuku, the director of external affairs and sustainability at Seplat Energy represented by Emmanuel Otokhine, the company’s base manager, Western Assets reiterated that the initiative is open to all secondary schools in Delta and Edo States with the main objective of improving academic performance in Seplat’s host states.

Nwachuku stated that the programme is also aimed at rekindling the spirit of academic excellence and healthy competition in the youth by motivating, encouraging, and rewarding the scholarship and teamwork spirit in their young minds.

Samson Ezugworie, Seplat Energy’s Chief Operating Officer, restated that the company has tasked itself with improving academic outcomes in its host communities.

He explained that the Seplat JV PEARLs quiz had been making a progressive impact with about 51,955 students participating so far.

The initiative has also assisted the winning schools to develop legacy projects including language laboratories, computer laboratories, libraries, school buses, classroom blocks, and other essential structural projects while increasing enrollment levels in the winning schools, Ezugworie noted.

Joan Oviawe, the commissioner for education in Edo State commended the company for its commitment to education and national development.

Oviawe on behalf of Edo state government appreciated Seplat Energy and its corporate social responsibility (CSR) team.

Private sector organisations play a crucial role in the overall development of host communities and indeed the larger society.

Not only do they, by such interventions, generate growth and create jobs, but they also fundamentally and positively influence people’s well-being for the better.

Hence, responsible corporate action – that is action that considers the economic, environmental, and social implications of business activities – is referred to as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

Two diametrically opposite schools of thought exist. First, businesses must be responsible in their actions, and responsible to the society that has allowed them to operate. Much like individual citizens, organisations must be good corporate citizens. Second, business, having paid its tax for communal development, exists only to make a profit, not to help society develop.

This latter school, especially with the impact of COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, etc, is fast waning. It is becoming a widely held fact that structuring activities in a sustainable manner along the entire value chain not only contributes to the well-being of the organisation’s financial stability and competitiveness but also of the larger society and the environment. Put differently, Corporate Social Responsibility is a win-win phenomenon.

On a developmental level, especially for third-world economies, it arguably is not possible for the government alone to bring about sustainable development in society. Thus, businesses in the private sector need to be actively involved in the development of society. This, they can do through well-articulated CSR contributions.

Broadly speaking, CSR represents the corporate world’s avenue to ensuring peaceful, harmonious and progressive co-existence between organisations and host communities on one hand and guaranteeing a steady source of quality manpower that will help to drive organisational policies and processes far into the future in a sustainable manner, on the other hand. It captures a spectrum of values and criteria for measuring a company’s contribution to social development.

It is in line with the above exposition that Seplat Energy Plc, a leading Nigerian independent energy company listed on both the Nigerian Exchange Limited and the London Stock Exchange has put social priorities at the heart of its decision-making, so as to develop individuals and drive positive socio-economic benefits for the country and its host communities.

Seplat’s PEARLS quiz programme falls into this laudable philosophy. A joint venture with its operating partners, the NNPC Exploration and Production Limited (NEPL), the competition is implemented with the unswerving support of the Ministries of Education in Delta and Edo states.

Seplat Energy has consistently shown its unwavering dedication to the long-term infrastructure improvement of the areas where it operates, as well as to the improvement of the human and intellectual potential of its residents. And specifically, has invested in this CSR initiative that is improving Nigeria’s education sector.

The widespread adoption of CSR has been relatively recent; the concept itself has been around for over a century. It has its roots in the late 1800s when the rise of philanthropy combined with deteriorating working conditions made some businesses reconsider their current production models. Business tycoons began donating to community causes, and some business owners (although somewhat reluctantly) reduced working hours and improved factory conditions, laying the foundation for responsible corporations.

Most notably, the scope of CSR started extremely narrow but has since widened to include many more issues and impact a wider range of business decisions. What started as a movement for businesses to give to charity and reduce working hours has blossomed into an initiative that has changed the way business is done and affects every aspect of a business’s operations.

This will not only promote productivity and efficient service delivery but also ensure peaceful co-existence within and outside the immediate environment. This also applies to organisations considering their pivotal role in the development of individuals on one hand and the socio-economic development of society on the other hand.

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