NDDC to budget N4 billion for Raise Innovation Champions

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The Managing Director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Mr. Nsima Ekere has disclosed that the Commission will set aside more than N4bilion this year for renovation and upgrade of learning environments across the Niger Delta.

Mr. Ekere made this disclosure during the 30th Anniversary of Akwa Ibom Association of Nigeria, AKISAN, in the United States.

He stressed the need for a revisit and overhaul of the country's learning system to bring it in line with computer-driven economy.

Presenting a paper entitled: "Strategic Disruption: Raising Innovation Champions," the NDDC Chief Executive Officer affirmed that the Internet had become the world's number one classroom without walls and boundaries.

According to Ekere, "we live in rapidly changing times where the definition of schools and learning has shifted radically; where brick and mortar schools are being challenged by borderless learning, and educational curricula must change rapidly in response to the current dynamics.

"The information age we live in today requires us to prepare our children more effectively to compete against others from all corners of the planet. Global boundaries are shrinking and the world is now a truly global village. In business, we no longer compete against our neighbours and countrymen but against unknown entities in some remote parts of the globe. The hunt for skills and talents traverses national boundaries."

Ekere emphasized that innovation was a key element in economic competitiveness and progress.

He advised that: "We must begin to train our children today to become the innovation champions of tomorrow."

He said that Nigeria had a duty to feed the ambitions of its youths to help them to live their dreams of becoming big players in the computer industry, stating that it called for revamping of schools to create a new learning culture, as well as increasing investments in education.

Ekere said: "We need to review our educational curriculum to favour skills and competencies demanded by the modern world. The call of leadership is to inspire, to rally the troops and to fire them for higher ideals. We need to raise leaders in technology, innovation, energy, power, agriculture, genetic engineering, banking and finance, environmental management, climatology, machine intelligence, medicine, sports, entertainment and the arts amongst other areas.

"Oil has saved us but it is on its way out. The next wave of growth will be fuelled by the higher mental capacity of our people; what they can see; what they can create and what they can give to the world. That is why we must invest aggressively in 21st century education. A computer is not a toy; every child in school today should have access to one. The internet is not just for Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Snapchat; it is the platform for exponential knowledge and information that will help our young people to develop real world problem-solving skills.

"This means emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, STEM. If technology is the core resource of the information age, programming and coding literacy becomes the currency of trade in that world," he stated.

In addition, he saidm "STEM will teach students how to perform proper scientific research using real-world problems, improve their thinking processes when solving challenges; develop a rigorous methodology for communicating research work and prepare students to compete against some of the smartest kids on the planet."

Ekere noted that the young ones need the right mindset, adding: "They must be ready to dream and step out to grab the wings that give flight to their dreams.

"Our children need true role models. They need to follow after people whose lives demonstrate clearly and unambiguously that the future prosperity and growth we seek will not be dropped on our laps but earned by competitive hard work and deployment of creativity, ingenuity and innovation."

Ekere acknowledged the fact that government must create the right learning environment by increasing funding for education; providing computers in the classrooms and putting in place comfortable learning spaces.

He noted that NDDC was emphasizing on the environment, content and quality of learning. Giving an example with Akwa Ibom State, he said that the Commission had since inception rehabilitated more than 120 school blocks in the state.

He added; "In 2016/2017 school year alone, we have supplied 9,600 desks and benches to schools across the state. Our signature hostel project at the University of Uyo has helped to resolve legacy accommodation challenges at the university. And we have sponsored 230 indigenes of the state to various universities abroad for post-graduate programmes in high-skill areas."

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