First Bank of Nigeria Limited has offered to give financial support to Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the education sector to cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Bankole Adediran, Head, Transaction Banking Products, FirstBank, made this known at the Bank’s SMEConnect webinar with theme: “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 the period of the novel 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 said that the Bank would continue to reinforce its leading role at enabling the growth of the educational sector in the country.
Adediran said that the Bank had an array of financial products that could be accessed by SMEs in the educational sector in the 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 medium and long terms.
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 said that, with the product, school owners/proprietors could stay ahead to make learning easy and conducive for students.
He said the Bank had launched various interventions and initiatives to support the sector to navigate through challenges occasioned by COVID -19.
He noted that FirstBank recently launched an e-learning initiative aimed at reaching out to one million students across the country to ensure they would be academically engaged while at home.
Adediran also said that the Bank supported 10 universities and three secondary schools across the country with major infrastructure projects.
He added that the Bank donated 20,000 e-learning devices to the Lagos State Government to promote online learning for students in the public schools.
Adediran urged schools must learn from the COVID -19 pandemic by embracing automation to plug leakages in the sector.
Mrs Folasade Adefisayo, Commissioner for Education, Lagos State, who was a panelist at the webinar, commended the Bank for donating 20,000 devices with six months data, to the state for e-learning.
Adefisayo said the state reached out to many companies for support at the wake of the pandemic and that FirstBank came to its aid.
She disclosed that all the schools were not prepared for the 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 a time like this,” Adefisayo said.
She said that the pandemic had forced Nigerians to be more creative and innovative, adding that schooling would no longer be the same again.
Adefisayo called on teachers to change their teaching and learning strategies, saying that COVID -19 had 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 beginning 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 noted 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 negatively on many sectors of the economy, especially education.
Abioye highlighted some of the negative impacts of the pandemic to include financial/economic, structural, social and policy challenges.
He said many SMEs in the educational sector could 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 interesting.
“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 urged.
–Nwokeoma is with NAN