COVID-19 brought with it the resurgence of the phrase ‘the new normal’, which is described by Wikipedia, as a state that a society or economy transitions into after a crisis. This phrase, at the height of the pandemic, was the subject of many debates around the world.
Why is this important? If you followed the recently concluded InterswitchSPAK 3.0 competition which ran for 13 weeks, you might have observed one thing: there was no audience, just the contestants, the host and the show’s producers who went unseen.
Quite instructively, this did not take away from the experience of the show as there was an overlay of an enthusiastic audience, was consistently glued to television sets every Saturday and Sunday for 13 weeks. The audience did not just take front row seats in their sitting rooms, they cheered and followed conversations about the participants and their impressive displays of mental prowess. The show had a number of interesting moments that made this year’s season even richer.
Now in its third season, the InterswitchSPAK National Science Competition has continued to keep in step with its original purpose, which is to encourage the study of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among young Nigerians and Africans, as that has been identified as a driver of economic growth on our beleaguered continent.
From the very first episode, these young contestants, aged between 14 and 17, from Senior Secondary Schools across the country, have exuded such brilliance that one cannot but be assured that the future really is bright, and it is a pleasant thing to note that companies like Interswitch are taking note of the need to prepare the young generation for the future.
In almost every growth pointer, the African continent seems to lag behind its counterparts, specifically in the STEM field where, although more Africans are waking up to the infinite possibilities available, there are still large gaps that need to be filled to address the existential problems faced by the ‘black’ continent.
To tackle this problem, Interswitch, through its CSR initiative, InterswitchSPAK, has created an avenue through which young and brilliant Africans can be exposed to the importance of STEM, encouraging innovations that aim at solving the problems faced by everyday Africans.
To spur these students on, at the start of every episode, there is a ‘SPAK hero’ that serves as motivation to these contestants, and if you observe the expressions on the faces of the participants when these SPAK heroes are displayed on the big screen, you’ll notice awe and excitement. These SPAK heroes are usually Nigerians who have gone out of their way to make something of themselves while channeling their gifts to the development of a group, a society, or a country; something to aspire to.
Seeing as the goal of Interswitch is to create a prosperous Africa, the show has also been recreated in the East African country of Kenya. These students are made aware of their capabilities and their importance, while being rewarded for their participation.
In Nigeria, for example, the first prize winner gets N7.5 million in scholarships, spread over a five-year period, while the second-place winner gets N4 million worth of scholarships, spread over a period of 3 years, and the third-place winner gets N1 million in scholarship spread over 12 months.
Aside from these mouth-watering prizes, these students go on to receive laptops and stipends. The InterswitchSPAK National Science Competition remains an invaluable show, as more young Africans need to be given the platform, not only to showcase their genius but to develop experiential solutions to problems facing Africans.
A glance at the tech space in Nigeria is enough evidence to show that, if given the chance, Africans will spread their wings of change and not only impact the continent but also touch lives around the world.