The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) is co-sponsoring the 9th edition of the National Secondary Schools Science Fair and Quiz Competition which rounds off at the University of Lagos yesterday. Writing on this, a contributor, Precious Okolobo examines SPDC’s support for science education in Nigeria.For four days now, more than 250 students from 20 states of the federation have been participating in the biggest science fair for secondary schools in Nigeria. The 9th National Science Fair which is holding at the University of Lagos has seen students from 56 secondary schools exhibiting ideas and innovations through science projects and also answering questions in a keenly contested science quiz competition. Simultaneously, their teachers have been taking part in a two-day Educator’s Academy, where they learnt about current trends in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, education, including project management and mentoring of young scientists. This in a nutshell captures the activities that mark theNational Science Fair.As in previous years, the 2013 fair is being jointly sponsored by The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) Joint Venture, Intel Corporation and Interswitch Limited. The partners are keen to provide a basis for young minds to develop practical science and engineering solutions to challenges in their environment, through innovative projects. The National Science Fair is a suitable platform forachieving this objective, testing their theoretical understanding of science subjects through the quiz, andthe practical application of science and engineering principles through projects.
To give every school a chance, the respective state ministries of education nominate their best three science secondary schools after an exhaustive selection process. At the fair, the exhibition involves projects in different aspects of engineering and technology, while on the theoretical side, the quiz covers subjects such as English, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Agricultural Science. The science projects are assessed by a team of independent judges selected from Nigerian institutions of higher learning and industries. The best three science projects in each category as well as the best overall projects are selected for awards. SPDC JV will also award scholarships to the three best winners from both the Quiz and the Fair. This will mean scholarship awards for a total of 18 students starting from their current academic year.
But perhaps, the most exciting dimension of the National Science Fair is sponsorship of the winners to the Intel Science and Engineering Fair in the United States. This is the world’s biggest science fair for youths and attracts more than 1,500 participants from about 70 countries. By this sponsorship, the Nigerian students will have the chance to share ideas, exhibit projects and compete for honours on aglobal level.
The National Science Fair continues to improve yearly. For example, the 2012 edition of the fair which held in Port Harcourt was attended by students from 39 schools. This year, 56 schools have turned up in Lagos. Last year, the top three finishers participated in the Eskom Expo International Fair for Young Scientists which took place in Johannesburg, South Africa. The institutions namely, Community Secondary School, Aka-Offot Akwa Ibom State, Niger Delta Science School, Port Harcourt and Cavalry Arrows College, Gboko, competed for honours against over 500 entries in the competition, winning two bronze and one silver medal. The silver medalist, Cavalry Arrows College, Gboko also received the Kelvin Award in recognition for their outstanding project, a lawn mower powered by solar, electric and petrol.
The news from the fair this year is even better. The exhibition reveals projects on such sectors as the environment, agriculture, energy and even security. These show the zeal and enthusiasm of young Nigerians who desire to leverage science and technology in solving national challenges.
And that is how it should be. If Nigeria is to achieve its goal of being one of the top 20 economies in the world by 2020, it must take the development of science and technology very seriously and SPDC supports this aspiration. As early as in the 1960s, SPDC began a scholarship programme, giving young and bright Nigerians a chance to study for science qualifications abroad. At present, some 2,730 secondary and 750 university scholarships are awarded every year in addition to 180 students currently on full-board special scholarship scheme. SPDC has since commenced the Niger Delta Postgraduate Scholarship Scheme, under which 10 candidates from Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta states are sponsored for Masters Degrees in science courses in British universities. The company also sponsors several professorial chairs including establishment of centres of excellence in Geosciences and Petroleum Engineering in some Nigerian universities.
It is expected these and other efforts being made by Government and corporate bodies will equipNigerians with the competencies required to achieve advancement in science and technology.