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InterswitchSPAK Backs innovators with STEM education

In a world with rapid technological advancements and complex global challenges, cultivating a passion for science and innovation among young minds is vital. Across the world, science competitions for secondary school students have emerged as powerful enablers in this endeavour, shaping the landscape of education and society at large.

In Nigeria, one of such science competitions is InterswitchSPAK, a CSR initiative of the Interswitch Group. InterswitchSPAK is a national science competition designed to recognise and reward the exceptional efforts of brilliant young minds striving for excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects.

The initiative was introduced for senior school students to develop, and chart a career path in the area of STEM education. The goal is to fully optimise their potential to create lasting solutions that solve Africa’s problems.

Some weeks ago, a new STEM champion was crowned. The brilliant Abraham Daramola of Hallmark Secondary School, Ondo State, emerged the overall winner of the fifth edition of InterswitchSPAK national Science competition. For this feat, Abraham received a university scholarship worth N7.5 million spread over five years, inclusive of a monthly stipend; a brand-new laptop, as well as the prestigious recognition as the best STEM student in Nigeria.

The duo of Emmanuel Omoegbeleghan of Crescent International School, Ogun State, and Emmanuel Angelo-Hyuwa from Ambassadors College, Ogun State, came second and third, thereby winning N4 million and N1 million scholarships, respectively.

Past winners of the competition are Orevaoghene Whiskey of Top Faith International School in Akwa Ibom State (2022), Jubril Dokun of Brainfield College, Salolo, Lagos State (2021), Oyindamola Aje of Jesuit Memorial College, Port Harcourt (2020) and Akachukwu Anumudu of Apostolic Faith Secondary School, Lagos (2019).

Speaking on the significance of the competition, Managing Director, Interswitch Cards and Tokens (Verve), Vincent Ogbunude, reaffirmed the InterswitchSPAK initiative’s dedication to promoting STEM education and fostering a culture of innovation and excellence among young Nigerians.

“We believe in the transformative power of education, and through this competition, we illuminate the path for the next generation to innovate, create, and lead in the world of science and technology.”

The success of this commemorative edition of the competition, Ogbunude stated, reinforces Interswitch’s position as a leading advocate for educational advancement and underscores the company’s relentless efforts in shaping the future of STEM in Africa.

To celebrate this commemorative edition of the competition, the organisers expanded the prize pool, with the 4th to 24th place winners receiving prizes up to N250,000.

Over the last five years, over 80,000 senior secondary students in Nigeria and Kenya have been impacted by this competition; thereby increasing interest in STEM subjects and rewarding excellence in these subjects. In 2023, about 17,000 students in Nigeria wrote the qualifying examinations and the best 81 of the lot were selected to participate in the national TV quiz. The top three winners of the competition emerged from the 81 SuperSPAKS all thanks to their lightning speed, laudable perseverance, incredible accuracy and expansive knowledge.

This year’s edition of the competition provided a platform for participating students to showcase their knowledge, creativity, and ingenuity. In the last couple of years, the competition has seen the emergence of more female contestants going all the way to the semi-finals and final stages, thereby bridging the gender and diversity gap in STEM by empowering underrepresented groups to pursue their passions and contribute to the scientific community.

The result of this evolution was the emergence of Orevaoghene Whiskey, the first-ever female winner last year.  Furthermore, participation in the competition over the years has helped the contestants prepare better for their external tertiary examinations such as WASSCE, NECO and UTME/JAMB.  An example is Orevaoghene who went on to attain all A1s in the 2023 West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE).

Two participants in InterswitchSPAK 1.0, Stephany Chizobam Ugboaja of Jesuit Memorial College, Port Harcourt and Favour Alozie of Marist Brothers Juniorate, Uturu, also emerged best overall and best male candidates respectively in the 2019 WASSCE.  While Stephany was the overall best WASSCE candidate in Nigeria, Favour was the best male WASSCE candidate from his state of origin.

Throughout the 13 weeks of the competition, participants were encouraged to push the boundaries of their understanding and explore the frontiers of science.   Participation in the InterswitchSPAK competition has cultivated critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential for success in the 21st century.

By nurturing a generation of scientifically stimulated citizens, competitions like this contribute to a more informed and engaged society, accelerating economic growth and innovation, as students translate their knowledge and skills into tangible solutions that address pressing societal needs.

The beauty of competitions like InterswitchSPAK is the pivotal role they play in spurring students to pursue careers in STEM fields, bearing in mind the growing demand for highly skilled professionals. This competition helps in demystifying STEM subjects, encouraging more young people to take up these problem-solving courses.

Beyond the competition, the organisers also implemented an informal mentorship programme where competition winners are connected with some of Interswitch Group’s C-suite executives who have established successful careers in related STEM fields. These interactions aim to provide invaluable guidance to the next generation of STEM leaders in Nigeria.

Apart from winning trophies or accolades, science competitions foster a culture of excellence, nurture critical thinking and problem-solving skills, inspire innovation, and empower students to pursue STEM careers. Platforms like InterswitchSPAK chart a pathway for a brighter and more prosperous future.

Evidently, for five consecutive years, InterswitchSPAK has remained a beacon of hope and opportunity, inspiring young minds throughout Nigeria. The extraordinary accomplishments of past participants underscore its role as a catalyst for excellence and innovation within STEM fields. InterswitchSPAK’s unwavering commitment to advancing STEM education sets a precedent for other organizations to emulate and wields significant influence on society by nurturing the brilliance and leadership potential of tomorrow’s African leaders.

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