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Finalists Share Experiences at InterswitchSPAK Masterclass

By Dipo Olowookere

The InterswitchSPAK Masterclass 1.0 might have come and gone but the experience will linger on in the minds of the 81 finalists who participated in the project.

The Masterclass, which was held on Monday, August 27, 2018, comprised three 45-minute sessions where top-notch speakers engaged the students in lectures on various subjects.

Students were intellectually motivated by high-profile speakers led by Mr Mitchell Elegbe, GMD, Interswitch Group  who discussed: ‘Emotional Intelligence and the Leadership Responsibility of Youths’; Mr Yinka Sanni, CEO, Stanbic IBTC Holdings Ltd, focused  on ‘Social Innovation – The Power of Transformative Ideas’ and Eloho Omame, MD, Endeavour Nigeria, on the topic ‘Entrepreneurship – A Tool to Creating Impact in Our Society’.

The students certainly had very rewarding experiences from the Interswitch Masterclass 1.0. Some of them were willing to share;

‘I have decided to study Medicine to stop politicians from travelling abroad for medical treatment’ – Rasheed Yekini, from Demonstration Standard College, Okene, Kogi State.

The word ‘medical tourism’ has become commonplace in Nigeria, no thanks to government officials and their likes travelling abroad for every little health challenge. This is the reason why Rasheed Yekini of Demonstration Standard College, Okene intends to study Medicine and Surgery.

“The other day, a former Minister fell sick and was flown abroad for treatment. Recently, the governor in my state had an accident and travelled abroad for medical attention. From the Masterclass, I learnt that I can achieve anything I want by putting my mind to it. I also learnt that people from poor homes have a better chance to see opportunities and find solutions to them,” he said.

‘The Masterclass has helped change my mind about running away from Nigeria,’ Glory Okoli, from Ambassador School, Ota, Ogun State.

Although she also dreamt of relocating abroad for greener pastures, Glory Okoli has had a shift in mindset, thanks to the inspiring sessions at the Masterclass 1.0.

“When I saw people like Mitchell Elegbe and Yinka Sanni who against all odds, schooled and made it here in Nigeria, I changed my mind about ‘running away”, she said. An aspiring paediatrician, Glory wishes to study at the John Hopkins University, USA, but promises she would return home as a qualified paediatrician to help save the lives of Nigerian children who are most susceptible to diseases.

‘The Masterclass made me understand that by inventing new things, I can solve existing problems,’ Uchenna Okoro, from Incubators Academy, Kaduna.

Uchenna Okoro has always had the desire to create new things. He said: “The Masterclass made me understand that by inventing new things, I can solve existing problems and make the world a better place to live”. On why he entered for the InterswitchSPAK science competition, the aspiring Genetic Engineer sees the platform as one that will fully groom his potentials.

‘It is more beneficial when one person grows a business to employ thousands of people; than many small businesses of two, three people,’ Kosiso Ugorji, from Lagoon Secondary School, Lekki, Lagos.

The aspiring biomedical engineer has big dreams of inventing something that will revolutionize the entire medical system, beginning from her state (Imo State).

However, she learnt the importance of not just starting small, but steadily growing a business to become large-scale.  She said: “I really gained a lot from the session by Ms Eloho Omame where she talked about scaling I learnt that it is important and more beneficial to the society when one person grows a business to become an employer of hundreds and thousands of people; instead of many small businesses of two, three people”.

‘My takeaway from the sessions is the need to imbibe principles, values, skills, wisdom and knowledge for a successful life,’ Asusu Cookey-Gam, from Jephthah Comprehensive Secondary School, Rivers State.

For Asusu Cookey-Gam of Jephthah Comprehensive Secondary School, Rivers State, coming to the competition was scary but the Masterclass was interesting and impactful. He said: “I learnt how to use technology to solve societal problems.

‘I plan to create a software which will help Nigerians become more tech-savvy,’ Feyisayo Adeaga, from the Ambassador School, Ota, Ogun State.

Feyisayo Adeaga, a student of The Ambassador School, Ota, was enlightened about the need to create a solution to a societal problem during the Masterclass.

Speaking on his experience, Feyisayo stated that he was ready to accept Mr. Sanni’s challenge of helping the country solve real problems to improve the lives of fellow Nigerians.

“I plan to become a Software/ Computer Engineer because I realize that many people in Nigeria are technologically illiterate,” he said.

‘Life goes beyond Physics, Chemistry and Biology; a good attitude is important,’ Oreofe Daniel, from Ambassador School, Ota, Ogun State.

For Oreofe Daniel, the Masterclass was super fun and interesting. The 15-year-old, who incidentally scored the highest marks in the InterswitchSPAK national qualifying examinations, also learnt that beyond knowing and passing Physics, Chemistry and Biology, it was important to apply the knowledge acquired to real-life situations and to develop a good attitude to life in general.

‘I want to impact my love of Math’s on the younger generation,’ Anuoluwa Aruleba, from Ambassador School, Ota, Ogun State.

Worried about the dearth of trained teachers in Nigeria and the resultant brain drain of Nigeria’s best educators, Anuoluwa Aruleba of The Ambassador School, Ota, wants to become a Mathematics teacher.

“Mathematics is my favourite subject and I want to impart my love and knowledge of Math’s on the younger generation”, she said. Her key takeaway from Mitchell Elegbe’s session of the Masterclass was that people will have expectations and perceptions about you and things around.

She said, “Expectations cannot be controlled but can be managed, so try to change people’s perception instead of lowering their expectations.”

‘Creating a positive impact is more important than making money,’ Gift Ukpoweh, from ECWA Model College, Oyo.

Ukpoweh Gift is a 14-year-old student of ECWA Model College, Oyo State. Probably one of the youngest finalists, Gift’s vision in life is to become a frontline architect due to her love for drawing and a desire to improve the field of architecture.

Her participation in the Masterclass further enhanced this vision as she learnt that impact should be the major reason for any venture.

She said, “I learnt that in everything we want to do in life, we should have a vision. I also learnt that in any field we want to go into, we must not go there only because of profit. Creating a positive impact is more important and should be our number one goal in life.  That is what I intend to do when I become an architect”.

Commendably, Interswitch has sparked off a huge ripple from this 135 minutes of mentoring at the InterswitchSPAK Masterclass. There is no doubt that the forum has changed the mindsets of the students that participated, rekindling their interest in STEM and helping them to refocus their purpose and career paths.

Indeed, the InterswitchSPAK project has all the trappings of a revolution that will hopefully change the face of STEM education in Nigeria, leading into the future.

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Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan.

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