Leveraging education for strategic investment into the future

According to Noir Adam, who chairs the Medile School Management Board in Medile community in Kumbotso Local Government Area of Kano, “There was nothing here until Coca-Cola came and helped us improve our education status in Medile Primary School.”

Adam cuts a distinctly weather-beaten figure, with eyes that announce loudly that he has been through a lot in life considering the recent happenings in the northwest region of the country.

However, whenever he has the opportunity to talk about the children in his school, Adam’s eyes suddenly light up and a smile dances around the edges of his face. These children, after all, are all that this dusty community in Kumbotso, Kano State really has going for it.

Adam’s weary eyes have seen multiple years come and go, while nothing fundamentally changed about life as a headteacher at Medile Primary School. The “school” could only be described as such using the most liberal interpretation of the word. Instead of chairs, tables and chalkboards, pupils had to make do with nothing.

Understaffed, under-resourced and ill-equipped to change the existing situation in any significant way, Adam could only watch in frustration as his fresh-faced, bright-eyed students were unable to scale educational heights through no fault of their own. Nothing was ever going to change about life in Medile, barring a miracle.

Leveraging education in creating hope

“They constructed a block of two classrooms and a headmaster’s office, and they also provided furniture. They also provided scholarships for 10 best students. You can see the conducive learning environment and the impact it has on the children. You can see how excited they are. The community is equally happy,” said Adam, while describing what happened next to the school.

The sheer force of enthusiasm radiating from him is palpable as he gestures at the children. What made this even more important was the effect that it had on the adjoining educational institutions. Describing what the gesture led to, Sani Yakassai, proprietor of the nearby City Science Academy said, “What Coca-Cola did is really appreciated. We were so inspired by this scholarship that we emulated them. So far, we have sponsored six students”.

From the various accounts, what emerges is the story of a community that thought of itself as completely forgotten until the actions of Coca-Cola sparked a strongly positive response. Now Noir Adam’s smile is impossible to ignore as he looks at the eager faces of his charges. They might be unaware of the fresh ray of hope that has found its way into their lives, but he certainly is not.

Read also: Lagos-based Greenwood House School represents Africa at Commonwealth Secretariat COP26 event

Abdulsalam Iliya, the principal of Hamdala Science College, Medile sums up the mood in the town when he said, “No company had ever sponsored students in this community. Only Coca-Cola did this, and it is a welcome development. Thank you so much for doing this”.

Yinusa Abdullahi, the district head of Karon Majigi Community in the Federal Capital Territory is more reserved with his reaction, even though his community’s story is similar, and it is easy to tell that it has left him just as excited. According to him, not only did the company build a new set of two classrooms and an office, but it also equipped the school with 60 units of 3-seater chairs and tables for the students. As if that were not enough, the Coca-Cola System, comprising Coca-Cola Nigeria and its bottling partner, Nigerian Bottling Company, also supported his community during the lockdown with palliatives.

Tuition fees and technology integration

In addition to these interventions in providing physical learning to Nigerian children in educationally underserved communities, Coca-Cola has also taken the extraordinary step of ensuring that students in such communities were not left behind as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. In 2021, The Coca-Cola Foundation awarded a grant to the Bunmi Adedayo Foundation to implement the Tech-Relevant Teacher Project.

Targeting 200 low cost and middle-cost schools across Lagos, the TRT project trained school heads and teachers in virtual teaching skills and technologies. Thus, virtual learning was introduced to schools that did not otherwise have the resources and skills to implement them, which in turn helped ensure that these students did not suffer a disruption in their education during the pandemic period.

Following the conclusion of the evaluation period, 30 of the 200 schools were selected and recognised for their stellar performance since the commencement of the project. Each of the 200 schools was given a mini-content production suite to help teachers obtain digital production skills and thus expand their teaching horizons. The production suites consisted of a computer, a PC external speaker, a headset, and a microphone. In total, between February and June 2021, 600 beneficiaries, including 200 school heads, 200 Math teachers and 200 English teachers directly benefited. A total of about 1,400 teachers were also indirectly reached through this project.

Also in 2019, the company launched the Recycles Pay program, which sought to provide low-income parents with an opportunity to pay their kids’ tuition fees using plastic bottles. The impact would be to deliver an environmentally friendly solution (plastic recycling) while giving these parents a reliable and dignified means of earning money to pay for their kids’ education.

In total, grants worth over $120,000 were disbursed by The Coca-Cola Foundation for this purpose. Targeting 56 schools across the 6 geopolitical zones of Nigeria, this project successfully impacted 2,573 children spread out across 45 private schools and 11 public schools.

From Noir Adam to Yinusa Abdullahi to the teachers empowered under the TRT project and the parents empowered to pay tuition fees via the Recycles Pay program, one constant outcome through the various initiatives is that Coca-Cola genuinely believes that offering education to Nigeria’s youth is a sustainable and equitable solution.

The people in Medile might not completely understand why this big corporate decided to stage such a dramatic intervention in their little town; but there is a strategy that brings together Medile, Lagos, FCT and every other state and region across Nigeria – the use of education as a strategic investment into the future of one of Coca Cola’s largest markets on the continent.

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