After more than two months of a national lockdown, South Africa’s schools are set to re-open on June 8, the Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced on Monday.
Motshekga briefed the media after the reopening of schools which was initially scheduled on June 1 was postponed.
She said the opening of schools on June 1 had to be postponed as some schools were not fully prepared, citing delays in the delivery of protective equipment for learners and other equipment.
The decision to reschedule the re-opening was taken after meetings with teacher unions and school governing bodies.
She said the re-opening of schools was crucial particularly for poor learners with no access to online education.
“My view is that further delays pose a very serious threat to the system and the future that learners are yearning for,” she said.
The largest teacher union, the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU), and other teacher unions last month warned that schools were not ready to open on June 1.
Speaking to Xinhua about the issue, SADTU General Secretary Mugwena Maluleke welcomed the delay of the opening.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday said that some within the education system expressed concerns about unreadiness in some schools which is why the re-opening was delayed.
“Now, in the last few days, several of these stakeholders – including teachers and parents – have expressed concern about the state of readiness in many schools. We have heard them, we welcome their contributions and are taking steps to address their concerns as well as proposals,” he said.
“We are continuing with the process of delivering personal protective equipment and ensuring the availability of water and sanitation services. Learning, once it commences, will take place under strict conditions with a correctly limited number of learners and students,” said the president.
Facebook announces opening of new office in Lagos
Facebook on Friday said it would be opening an office in Lagos, Nigeria, as part of its continued commitment and ongoing investment in Africa.
Facebook, in a statement made available to newsmen in Lagos, said this would be its second office on the African continent.
It said the opening of the new office was aimed at supporting the entire Sub-Saharan Africa region.
The office, it said, was expected to become operational in 2021.
According to Facebook, it will be the first on the continent to house a team of expert engineers building for the future of Africa and beyond.
It said the office would be home to various teams servicing the continent from across the business, including Sales, Partnerships, Policy, Communications as well as Engineers.
Commenting, Ime Archibong, Facebook’s Head of New Product Experimentation, said: “The opening of our new office in Lagos, Nigeria presents new and exciting opportunities in digital innovations to be developed from the continent and taken to the rest of the world.
“All across Africa, we are seeing immense talent in the tech ecosystem and I am proud that with the upcoming opening of our new office, we will build products for the future of Africa, and the rest of the world, with Africans at the helm.
“We look forward to contributing further to the African tech ecosystem.
“The investment of the new Facebook office follows the 2018 opening of NG_Hub, its first flagship community hub space in Africa.
“The hub was opened in partnership with CcHub, and the 2019 opening of a Small Business Group (SBG) Operations Centre in Lagos, in partnership with Teleperformance, “Archibong said.
Kojo Boakye, Facebook’s Director of Public Policy, Africa said that the new office in Nigeria presents an important milestone which further reinforces the company’s ongoing commitment to the region.
“Our mission in Africa is no different from other parts of the world, which is to build community and bring the world closer together.
“I am excited about the possibilities that this will create, not just in Nigeria, but across Africa,” Boakye said.
The policy director said since the opening of its first office in 2015, Facebook had made a number of investments across the continent, aimed at supporting and growing the tech ecosystem.
Boakye noted that the support includes the recent rollout of its SMB Grants programme in Nigeria and South Africa.
He said thia was aimed at supporting over 900 businesses by providing a combination of cash and ad credits to help small businesses as they rebuild from COVID.
Nunu Ntshingila, Regional Director, Facebook Africa, said: “We are delighted to be announcing our new office in Nigeria.
” Five years on from opening our first office on the continent in Johannesburg, South Africa, we will continue to invest in and support local talent, as well as the various communities that use our platforms.
“The office in Lagos will also be key in helping to expand how we service our clients across the continent,” Ntshingila said.
Edited By: Oluwole Sogunle
Ministry to intensify awareness on importance of ozone layer protection
The Minister of the Environment, Dr Mohammad Abubakar, on Friday said the ministry would intensify its awareness on the importance of the protection of the ozone layer through the effective collaboration of relevant stakeholders.
Abubakar made this known at a ministerial briefing on the commemoration of 2020 International Day for Preservation of Ozone Layer with the theme, “Ozone for Life,’’ in Abuja.
He said that the ministry was also committed to the training and monitoring of technicians in the affected sectors on ozone-friendly technologies.
The Minister said the theme has two connotations that needed a healthy ozone layer to protect lives and the environment, as well as safeguarding future generations to come.
Abubakar said that the ministry, in collaboration with the United Nation Development Programme, (UNDP), the United Nation Industrial Development Organisation, (UNIDO), the World Bank and the UN Environment Programme, were the agencies implementing Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS).
“In line with the protocol`s ODS phase out schedule, we have assisted over 600 large, Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises in the foam, refrigeration and air conditioning, aerosols, fire protection and solvent sectors.
“The assistance is to convert to ozone-friendly substances and technologies.
“This resulted in 100 per cent phase out of over 4,000 metric tonnes of ODS, with high ozone depletion potentials.
“About 26 institutions, (polytechnics and government technical colleges) were identified and equipped to serve as training centres on good refrigeration practices.
“We have also trained the trainers from the identified centres and developed training manuals on good refrigeration practices.
“These have led to the training of more than 10,000 refrigeration technicians in the refrigeration servicing sector.
He said that the ODS phase out activities were achieved with support from the multilateral fund for the implementation of the Montreal protocol.
Abubakar noted that the ministry was implementing the protocol`s Hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFCs) project.
He said that the project was targeted at phasing out HCFCs gases R-22 and 141b, mainly used in Nigeria as refrigerants and blowing agents in the refrigeration, air conditioning and foam sectors respectively.
The minister said that the ministry was committed in the implementation of multilateral environmental agreements that the country was a party to.
According to him, the upgrade of a system house at Vitapur Nigeria Ltd (a subsidiary of vitafoam Nig. Ltd), for the formulation of ozone friendly systems in the manufacture of rigid polyurethane foam was completed in 2019.
“I am glad to inform Nigerians that I will be commissioning this particular project on Sept. 22.
“The plant which is one of the two such in Africa, the other being in South Africa, will supply ozone friendly substances to downstream end-users in the rigid polyurethane foam sector.
He said that the benefit of the project was to provide ozone friendly and low global warning potential blowing agent in the production of rigid foam.
The Minister said the ministry would be engaging in capacity building activities on maintenance and servicing of space cooling to avoid spread of COVID 19 while minimising impacts of energy efficiency and climate.
He said the ministry was currently preparing to commence the implementation of stage 2 of the Hydrochlorofurocarbons Phase Management Plan (HPMP).
The Minister added that the government of Italy has offered support as a bilateral partner.
Abubakar said that the stage 2 was built upon the achievement of the previous stage, aimed at achieving the complete phase out of HCFC-141b in foam related applications.
He explained that Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer was adopted in 1985 and entered into force in 1988.
The Minister added that the binding instrument to ensure compliance with the provisions of the convention was also adopted on Sept. 16, 1987, which became the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer.
“Since then, Sept. 16 has been set aside to commemorate the international day for the preservation of the ozone layer by the global community, in line with the UN General Assembly Resolution,’’.
The minister, however, appreciated the efforts of UNDP, UNIDO, World Bank, UN Environment, the government of Italy and other relevant agencies for their support and cooperation in the implementation of projects.
Earlier, Mr Jean Bakole, Country Representative and Regional Director of UNIDO, said that the office would continue to support the government in promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation development.
Bakole, who was represented by Mr Oluyomi Banjo, an environment expert in the UNIDO, thanked the minister on the achievement of all the projects across the country.
Edited By: Idonije Obakhedo
32 contestants qualify for Mr/Miss Nigeria International Pageant
Peter Abah and Denis Idara Mr/Miss Nigeria International 2019/2020 edition
Mr Isikak said that the shortlisted contestants had been briefed of the development, to enable them begin preparation for the contest scheduled for last quarter of the year.
“They have all been anxious to know their scores which we just released to them, so this information will help them to start necessary preparations for the contest.
“Although, no date has been fixed for the event but we are proposing between October and November because the reign is 2020/2021, while other arrangements are in progress,” Bredan added.
Meanwhile, he said that South Africa, Ghana and Gambia had shown interest to participate in the event, adding that they were optimistic that international flights would fully resume operations.
According to him, no fewer than 10 African countries registered for the event prior to the COVID-19 lock down but only three have communicated their interest to participate to the organisers.
`As we speak, we have four countries showing interest, though we are expecting others to confirm their participation because they registered earlier,” he added.
Edited By: Josephine Obute/ifeyinwa Omowole
StudyFree to help 8 Nigerian students continue studies abroad
An Edtech startup, StudyFree, says it has finalised plans to assist eight scholars of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) who were denied scholarship funding to continue their studies abroad.
The Founder and Chief Executive Officer of StudyFree, Dasha Kroshkina, made this known in a statement signed by Mr Raymond Osheku, Country Manager of StudyFree, in Lagos on Thursday.
“StudyFree is an international Edtech startup founded in 2018 to help students to study abroad for free with the help of grants and scholarships through an online platform,’’ Kroshkina said
She said that the platform had established an initiative that would assist Nigerian students to find programmes with scholarships.
“StudyFree has established an initiative to help eight NDDC scholars to continue their path abroad.
“For those successful students who did not receive the funding from NDDC, StudyFree has provided them access to its platform to help them find programmes with scholarships abroad.
“It also facilitates their access to relevant information that will assist to prepare them for the application processes,” the founder said.
Kroshkina also said that there was a huge gap between ambitious African students who were ready for success and what the continent could offer.
The founder said her experience growing up in Russia was similar to the average Nigerian student, who hoped for a better education, but was restrained from studying abroad due to limited finances.
“Thus, I founded my startup ‘StudyFree’ to assist ambitious and goal-seeking students to realise their dreams- study abroad for free with the help of grants and scholarships.
Kroshkina said she combined her international expertise and entrepreneurial thinking to launch the platform that offered programmes from Bachelor’s Degree to PhD around the globe.
“When StudyFree became the Seedstar winner, our team focussed on the developing markets.
“However, among other developing regions, our choice fell on Nigeria as we found out that this country is rich with talented youths.
“Our goal is to help students who don’t have opportunities to study abroad, but who possess strong motivation and aspiration,” she said.
Kroshkina said that StudyFree had been holding interviews for over 150 Nigerian students who had zeal to study unlike other countries where students considered studying abroad as an opportunity to move.
The founder said: “In recent months, we held more than 150 interviews with Nigerian students. Our team was inspired by their sincere motivation to study.
“It’s worth mentioning that in other countries, students consider education abroad as an opportunity to move.
“Whereas in African regions, students want to accumulate state-of-the-art knowledge and come back to their home country to drive change, develop their regions, and give their experience back to the community.
“When our team hears such inspiring stories of African students, we’re especially glad to make the Nigerian market our major focus.’’
Kroshkina said explained that another great reason why we choose to focus on Nigerian market was the fact that Africa is a fast-developing continent.
“If China and India surprised people with their economic breakthrough, African market holds much potential.
“That is why if we give Nigerian students a chance to gain good education abroad, they will come back to their country with high-quality education and will expand business opportunities in Nigeria, developing the market,” she said.
Kroshkina said that 25 local ambassadors from Nigeria and South Africa were part of the StudyFree team to promote the values of equal, quality and free education and open doors to the world of opportunities for every Nigerian who were eager to fulfill their education dreams.
She said that under the initiative, students’ success rate was 98 per cent.
“Currently, StudyFree has over 25,000 active users and operates in developing markets, such as Russia, Ukraine, Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
“StudyFree was accepted for accelerator programmes by Berkeley SkyDeck and TechStars NYC.
“We’re focussed on diverse opportunities, not only for students, but also for the team. Our team is 80 per cent female and operates throughout the world, from Europe to Asia,” she added.
Edited By: Chioma Ugboma/Olagoke Olatoye