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Ambrose-Medebem: Lafarge Africa literacy competition will enhance pupils cognitive skills


Folashade Ambrose-Medebem

Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, is the Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainable Development Director for Lafarge Africa Plc. She spoke with GBENGA AKINFENWA on the prospects of her firm’sNational Literacy Competition, and efforts to make a lasting impact on the country’s education sector through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.

The Lafarge National Literacy Competition, a CSR initiative of your firm is in its third year, what brought about this initiative?
From a CSR standpoint, we are particularly clear about our objectives. Our initiatives are driven by our commitment to sustainability, which is evident in the four pillars of our 2030 Plan: Climate, Circular Economy, Water and Nature, People and Communities. Sustainability is so important and that is part of my roles.

Wherever we are present, we always seek projects that will make a lasting impact on education, through our CSR initiatives. Whether through the donation of books, or construction of schools and libraries.


Hence, Lafarge Africa Plc, a member of the LafargeHolcim Group, in line with its CSR policy, launched the Lafarge Africa Literacy Competition in 2014, with the support of the Ovie Brume Foundation (OBF), as an annual contest conducted at the state, regional and national levels.

About 65 million Nigerians are still illiterate, while 10.5 million children are out-of-school. What good can this competition do in such a pathetic scenario? 
The numbers are worrying, and the challenge is staggering. There are also huge variations in the level of literacy depending on region (state), location (urban and rural) and gender (male and female). As a building solutions company, we know how important it is to get the foundation right. Thus, our approach with the Lafarge Africa Literacy Competition is to target public primary schools’ children between the ages of nine and 13.

The theme for this year is “Bridging The Gap Together.” No one can tackle a challenge of this scale alone. Therefore, from the onset we worked with the ministries of education at the national and state levels, states’ Universal Basic Education Boards, the Universal Basic Education Board (UBEC), as well as teachers and schools from across Nigeria. We also have study guides used to prepare the students for the competition; this has been adopted into the curriculum of Cross River State.

Overall, the purpose of the competition is to enhance the cognitive skills of the students who take part. In other words, it equips them with the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for economic self-sufficiency, poverty reduction and sustainable development

What is the spread of the competition like? Your scope and how have you been able to achieve this? 
The maiden edition was a pilot. It took place in three regions (North East, South-South and South West) where Lafarge has factories. Every competition since then has taken place across six regions.

So far, how many schools, pupils and states have you impacted? 
Since its inception over 200,000 primary school pupils across 244 local councils have been impacted, as the students have improved in their literacy levels.

How will this initiative help in reducing the illiteracy level, considering the high number of out-of-school children, coupled with the soaring cost of education?
The aim of the competition is to improve the literacy level of public primary school students in the country, specifically, spelling, pronunciation, essay and summary writing.

Literacy has human, cultural, social, economic and political benefits. Also, literacy is increasingly crucial in the 21st Century, where economies are knowledge-based and lifelong learning is essential to staying up-to-date. Besides, Nigeria’s young population is its greatest asset.

How many schools participated in this year’s edition? 
Over 2,700 Nigerian public-school students from the 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria took part in this year’s competition. Throughout the competition students’ writing and spelling skills were tested, first in competitions across the country during regional run-offs. Two students, a boy and a girl, from Kano, Plateau, Ondo, Edo, Gombe and Anambra represented the six geographic regions at the grand finale held on Thursday November 16, 2017 in Lagos.

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Folashade Ambrose-Medebem
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