With CSR Initiatives, Etisalat Shows Commitment To Education Development, Capacity Building

From L-R: Vice President, Regulatory & Corporate Affairs, Etisalat Nigeria, Ibrahim Dikko; Intern of the Etisalat Telecommunications Engineering Programme, Mustapha Suleiman and Chief Technical Officer, Etisalat Nigeria, Stephane Beuvelet at the ETEP Internship Closing Ceremony recently held at the Etisalat regional office in Abuja.

From L-R: Vice President, Regulatory & Corporate Affairs, Etisalat Nigeria, Ibrahim Dikko; Intern of the Etisalat Telecommunications Engineering Programme, Mustapha Suleiman and Chief Technical Officer, Etisalat Nigeria, Stephane Beuvelet at the ETEP Internship Closing Ceremony recently held at the Etisalat regional office in Abuja.

Concerned stakeholders in the corporate world are leading the initiative to reinvigorate the nation’s education sector; notable among them is Etisalat, one of Nigeria’s fastest growing and innovative telecommunications companies. GREGORY AUSTIN NWAKUNOR reviews the brand’s seven years of corporate investment in social causes.

THE Nigerian education sector is challenged, no doubt. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimate that about 10.5 million kids are out of school.

Analysts point to deteriorating infrastructure and other challenges such as, inadequate qualified manpower and insufficient investment in the sector as possible reasons.

Nonetheless, socially aware and environmentally conscious organisations are showing commitment in their investments in education, health and environmental responsiveness.

Since its launch into the Nigerian market seven years ago, Etisalat, in keeping to its three-pronged brand positioning of innovation, youthfulness and customer centricity, has been at the forefront of innovative education programmes that impact the lives of Nigerians.

Headlined under the portfolio of the company’s Corporate and Social Responsibility (CSR), the initiatives include, the Etisalat Telecommunications Engineering Postgraduate Program (ETEPP), Adopt-A-School, Merit Awards Scheme and the Career Counseling Programme. Other supporting initiatives include, Teacher Training Programme, Etisalat Prize for Innovation and Etisalat Prize for Literature.

As the fourth entrant into the Nigerian market and with only seven years of service in the industry, yet with so much impact in the area of education and other social responsibility spheres, it is obvious that the network is on a mission to not only provide its subscribers with communication services that are second to none, but also to create a mark in the hearts of Nigerians as a company that cares about the psychological, social, educational and wellbeing of its consumers and the society at large.

Underlining the company’s commitment to education-inspired CSR initiatives, Matthew Willsher, CEO of Etisalat Nigeria, said, “we are driven by a sense of responsibility to create value through sustainable products and services; while ensuring fair and ethical standards in dealing with our stakeholders; and minimising our environmental impact. We believe that Corporate and Social Responsibility represents a complete and wholesome relationship between us and the society.”

He said that other laudable initiatives by which the company impacts lives include, the Career Counselling Programme (CCP), which is part of the company’s Employee Volunteering Scheme, a platform through which staff impact students within the telecom’s host communities, by delivering career enhancing sessions and mentorship to students in secondary schools, based on the employees’ fields of expertise. The programme runs in partnership with the Lagos Empowerment and Resource Centre (LEARN).

Speaking on the various education initiatives, Ibrahim Dikko, vice president, Regulatory and Corporate Affairs of the company, said, “On our education platform, we have granted scholarships to over 1,200 undergraduates. We have provided career counselling to more than 5,000 secondary school students. In partnership with British Council, we have trained English Language teachers in primary and secondary schools across the different geo-political zones, and have also invested significant financial sum in building or refurbishing our adopted schools.”

Some of the beneficiaries of the various initiatives, while commending the brand for its invaluable contribution to Nigeria, noted that the programmes so far embarked on are impacting lives. For example, being awarded best graduating students at their studies from the ETEPP at ABU, Zaria, some students — Elvis Obi, Shehu Atiku Muhammad and Risikat Folashade Onundi — said the training programme was one of the memorable experiences they will live to remember.

Obi said the intensive practical training he had received equipped him with the requisite skills to perform a VSAT network configuration, installation, planning and implementation.

He added that he was also equipped to be able to design GSM, UMTS/HSPA & WCDMA radio frequency; as well as construct optical fibre networks.

For Onundi, the only female among the first set of ETEPP beneficiaries, being a female in a male dominated profession has only made her push harder for success. She said, “I believe the major factors that led to my success was hard work, discipline and passion for the Engineering profession. Right from my undergraduate programme, I never felt deterred as a female amongst in male dominated profession and this did not change when I realised I was the only female at the post graduate level.”

Etisalat has been credited as the first network provider to launch a taught master’s programme in telecommunications engineering at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna, called the Etisalat Telecommunications Engineering Postgraduate Program (ETEPP). The ETEPP is a high-level capacity building programme that produces close to 20 postgraduate students every year as well as provides further training for lecturers of ABU to study at the PhD level in Telecommunications Engineering at the Plymouth University, United Kingdom.

Furthermore, as part of its commitment towards the programme, the company sponsors best graduating students from the ETEPP every year for a weeklong intensive training session at the Etisalat Academy, Dubai. While the curriculum for this programme was created with guidance from the Plymouth University and the Etisalat Academy, the technical laboratory for the programme was equipped with cutting edge tools provided by Huawei Technologies.

Through the Adopt-A-School initiative, the telco is actively supporting the Lagos State government to tackle the deplorable state of some public schools within the metropolis. It has adopted three public schools in the state, for life, namely Akande Dahunsi Memorial High School, Ikoyi; Edward Blyden Primary School, Lagos Island; and Rabiatu Thompson Primary School, Surulere. The brand has been committed to constant refurbishing and upgrading of facilities in these schools and has committed to working with other state governments within the country to further enhance this objective.

Another significant support to education is the Merit Awards Scheme, a platform that Etisalat leverages to uplift brilliant students from tertiary institutions by way of awarding them scholarships. Launched in 2009, the scheme supports students of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Computer Science and Business Management courses in their second and third year of study. To date over 1200 students that cut across the six geo-political zones of the country have benefitted from this meritorious scholarship scheme.

Over the past seven years, the Teachers’ Training Programme, a collaboration between the company and the British Council, has also impacted the teaching of English language in primary and secondary schools throughout the country. Launched in 2011, the training programme was designed to strengthen teaching skills in Nigeria, starting with English language in recognition of the pivotal role that the language plays in the country. The initiative is aimed at addressing the poor performance of primary and secondary school students in English language, which has also adversely impacted their grades in national and international examinations, employability, mobility and ultimately the national economy. So far, English teachers in primary and secondary schools in Kaduna, Rivers and Oyo States have benefitted from the programme.

Advancing literary excellence, creativity and innovation is another sphere where Etisalat is actively contributing to the development of human mind and capacity. Components from this sphere include the Etisalat Prize for Innovation and Etisalat Prize for Literature. “At Etisalat, we are not just about rewarding already existing talents and achievements, we believe in discovering and building new talents, which is the aim of this Pan-African literary prize and Prize for Innovation”, Willsher said.

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