By Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
First Bank of Nigeria Limited has offered to give financial support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the education sector.
Mr Bankole Adediran, Head of Transaction Banking Products, FirstBank, revealed this at the bank’s SMEConnect webinar titled “Managing Your School through the Pandemic: Engagement and Retention Strategies”.
Adediran said that the bank was ready to partner with SMEs in the education sector through this period of coronavirus pandemic to sustain their businesses.
“FirstBank as an institution is very passionate about education and will continue to support the sector,” he said.
He noted that the bank would continue to reinforce its leading role at enabling the growth of the educational sector in the country.
Adediran stated that the bank had an array of financial products that could be accessed by SMEs in the educational sector in this period of COVID-19.
He said SMEs in the sector could key into FirstEdu Loan, targeted at private nursery, primary and secondary schools to assist the schools in achieving their desired growth in the medium and ling-term.
According to him, the product provides funding advancement of up to N20 million for schools with a minimum of 100 students with school fees collection domiciled at FirstBank.
Adediran explained that with the product, school owners/proprietors can stay ahead to make learning easy and conducive for students.
He said the bank had launched various intervention and initiatives to support the sector to navigate challenges occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic.
He stated that FirstBank recently launched an e-learning initiative aimed at reaching out to one million students across the country to ensure they stay academically engaged while at home.
Adediran added that the bank supported 10 universities and three secondary schools across the country with major infrastructural projects.
He disclosed that the bank donated 20,000 e-learning devices to the Lagos State government to promote online learning for students in the public schools.
According to Adediran, schools must learn from the lessons of COVID-19 by embracing automation to plug leakages in the sector.
Mrs Folasade Adefisayo, the Commissioner for Education, Lagos State; one of the panelists, commended the bank for 20,000 devices with six months data donated to the state for e-learning.
Adefisayo said the state reached out to many companies for support at the wake of the pandemic but only FirstBank came to its aid.
She disclosed that all the schools were not ready for this kind of situation, noting that most children in public schools did not have device and data for online learning.
“This pandemic has been a terrible thing and one lesson from it is that we have not invested enough in solutions we can deplore at this time,” Adefisayo said.
She stated that the pandemic had forced Nigerians to be more creative and innovation, adding that schooling would no longer be the same again.
Adefisayo called on teachers to change their teaching and learning strategies, stressing that COVID-19 changed learning.
Also, Dr Yomi Otubela, President, National Association of Proprietors of Private Schools (NAPPS), said the association had responded greatly by interfacing between government and its agencies since the advent of the pandemic.
Otubela said the Central Bank of Nigeria was working out modalities for palliatives for schools and teachers who had not been receiving salaries since the pandemic started.
He said further that there had been an increase in rape, kidnapping and robbery as a result of COVID-19.
Mr Wale Abioye, Team Lead, Customer Practice in Management Consulting (KPMG), said the pandemic had impacted on many sectors of the economy, especially the education sector.
Abioye highlighted some of the negative impacts of the pandemic to include financial/economic, structural challenge, social challenge and policy challenge.
He said many SMEs in the educational sector would be out of business due to the pandemic, thereby increasing unemployment rate.
Mr Babatunde Vaughan, Education Lead, Modern Classroom, Microsoft Nigeria, said the company had introduced a lot of products to make online learning easy and fun.
“COVID-19 is a very unique period for everyone, change has come and we will continue to experience change. We must be more proactive than reactive,” Vaughan said.