Airtel is leading a quiet revolution, slowly transforming the face of primary education in Nigeria and committed to earning its social license – trust and admiration of members of the communities where it operates.
Airtel, on entry, into Nigeria in June 2010, announced that its overriding corporate vision was to become the country’s most loved brand. More than three years down the line, the Telco appears to be committed to that ambitious goal despite stiff competition, tough operating climate, growing consumerism, highly demanding stakeholders and other legacy matters. This is noteworthy for several reasons. One of which is that cynics never gave the company a chance.
They were so sure that there would be a name change almost immediately after its transitioning from Zain to Airtel. Indeed, former Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director of the Business, Rajan Swaroop,had always calmly reiterated, at different occasions, that Airtel was not just in Nigeria to stay but committed to connecting with its stakeholders and creating real value for all – employees, customers, shareholders and others in the value chain. Current Managing Director & Chief Executive Officer, Segun Ogunsanya, has not only reaffirmed that position but has maintained that the Telco is committed towards earning its social licence.
According to Ogunsanya, social license is earning the trust and admiration of members of the communities you serve and very different from the regulatory license, which is obtained by meeting the demands of a stipulated fee.
Today, it is safe to conclude that Airtel has not just earned its social license in many communities where it operates but is also leading a quiet revolution in the delivery of quality primary education across the country. While this is not its primary responsibility or concern, the Telco has demonstrated that its partnership with government at different levels towards the development of primary education is for the long haul. And the evidence is in the open: In three years of operation, the Telco had transformed the lives of thousands of underprivileged kids, built and renovated schools from the Interiors of Ediba, a community in Cross Rivers State through Oke-Agbo, a community in Ogun State and Amumara, a community in Mbaise, Imo State to Ajegunle, popular Lagos Community. In all of these, the company has invested millions of naira completing multi-million naira renovation projects and has donated hundreds of thousands of note books and text books. While it has maintained a robust capacity building programme for hundreds of primary school teachers to ensure quality education is delivered, it has also completed borehole facilities and other facilities to make learning more enjoyable and in a much more conducive environment.
In a recent interview, Airtel’s CEO, Ogunsanya, summarized the thrust of its company’s CSR programme thus: “Our Adopt-a-School programme is a robust intervention that thrives on a singular mantra: ‘when we adopt a school, we adopt for life.’ This is the same thing as adopting a child. When you adopt a child, that person – daughter or son – becomes yours for life. You do not adopt – renovate a structure and make some donations and just go away. That’s why our Adopt-a-School programme is different. Schools we have adopted will continue to benefit from us indefinitely.”
“Without a doubt, quality education offers children the best opportunity in life to realise their dreams and become the leaders of tomorrow. A great environment is also critical to the development of a sound mind. It is, therefore, in recognition of the importance of education and as part our Corporate Social Responsibility vision that we have committed to the adoption of public primary schools across Nigeria,” he said.
And has Airtel’s efforts yielded any result in terms of touching lives and connecting with members of the communities where it operates? Two events clearly come to mind: Airtel’s commissioning of Community Primary School Amumara, Mbaise, Imo State and the hand-over of its adopted Presbyterian Primary School in Ediba, Cross Rivers State. During both occasions, it was a joyous moment for thousands of children, teachers and indigenes of the communities when they gathered to witness the unveiling and commissioning of ultra-modern school complexes donated by the Telco.
At Ediba, tears of joy dropped from the eyes of many faces as they watched an excited crowd of pupils sing local, joyous songs and danced animatedly in sheer happiness. At another end of the school complex, some pupils were bouncing in joy as they showed off their new school bags to community elders, who watched and nodded in pride. Even the head teacher of the school, Deaconess Maria Riman, could not hide her emotions as her mood swung in ecstasy.
And when she was called to deliver her speech during the commissioning ceremony, she became very emotional, surprisingly delegating the huge task to Bunmi Solomon Egwa, a primary four pupil of the school. Young, dark-skinned and beautiful, Egwa accepted the task and read the head teacher’s speech with the accustomed ease of a professional newscaster that the audience responded in a joyous roar after her inspiring delivery.
In her speech, Deaconess Riman expressed appreciation to the management and staff of Airtel Nigeria, saying the Telco has restored joy, pride and dignity to the school and the entire Ediba Community.“Today, we are joyous that the work which started in early August 2012 has been completed and is being celebrated. In addition to the renovation and transformation of the school premises, Airtel has also provided benches, tables and chairs. It is, therefore, not surprising that today is one of the happiest days for our school. We pray that the Good Lord should continue to bless the Management and Staff of Airtel for this kind gesture,” she said.
The Executive Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke, also joined in showering encomiums on Airtel, commending the Leading Telecommunications Operator for playing a crucial role in the development of primary education across the country.Imoke commended Airtel for partnering with the State Government in improving the standard of education. The Governor, who was represented by his Commissioner for Education, Professor Offiong E Offiong, specifically, thanked Airtel for the transformation of the school complex and donations to the pupils and teachers of the primary school, describing the company as a quality organization that ensures the best quality in anything it does.We remain very grateful to Airtel and I want to urge the entire community of Ediba to ensure that adequate security is provided to the school for maximum utilization,” he said.
Almost the same scenario played out at Amumara as hundreds of excited children sang joyous
songs in celebration of their new school. Even after the event, children gathered in small clusters, relishing the moment and sharing stories of how they will use their new school bags, uniforms, note books and text books. At another end of the school, many children were just excited at the borehole water as they jumped in ecstasy playing with water.
Airtel’s Adopt-a-School programme is a robust initiative that offers underprivileged children access to quality education in conducive environment, also providing them with all the materials for learning and study. As part of the programme, Airtel also trains teachers of its adopted schools to ensure that high teaching quality is always maintained.
Recently, Airtel also revisited its adopted school in Oke-Agbo, eight months after commissioning, donating borehole school uniforms, bags, text books, note books and other learning materials to St John’s Primary School, Oke-Agbo, Ijebu-Igbo, Ogun State.Speaking at the handing over of the borehole and presentation of the gifts to the pupils and staff of St. John’s Primary School, Ogunsanya, said the provision of safe and clean drinking water for the pupils and their teachers would keep the children within the school compound during school and also prevent them from water borne diseases.
He had also noted that Airtel in all its activities has continued to strive not only in “providing world class telecommunications experience for customers, but also endeavour to support the social, economic development of communities in which it operates.” At, Airtel, we are passionately committed to partnering with organisations to improve the society. That is why our CSR initiative is committed to adoption of government owned primary schools nationwide,” he said.