Unicaf, the leading online and on-campus learning platform, has entered into a two- year partnership with Mastercard to offer its premium cardholders 75% scholarships for online and on-campus studies at Unicaf’s partner universities.
Starting the first quarter of 2021, Mastercard Gold, Platinum, World and World Elite cardholders across 12 countries in Africa (Nigeria, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Morocco, Somalia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and Rwanda), will be able to select from a wide range of high-quality degree programs offered by Unicaf’s partners and only pay 25% of the total fees in flexible manageable monthly instalments over the period of the program.
A recent Mastercard study on consumer spending has revealed that people have been changing the way they learn new skills by transitioning to online studying as they adapt to the ‘next normal’. 50% of respondents in Nigeria, 48% in Ghana and 47% in Kenya have enrolled at an online university since the pandemic began.
“We are committed to offering Mastercard customers the opportunity to earn internationally recognized Bachelor, Master’s or Doctoral degrees at a fraction of the cost through the Unicaf-Mastercard scholarship” said Dr. Nicos Nicolaou, CEO, Unicaf. “This partnership will provide a degree earning opportunity to Mastercard customers and we are incredibly proud to have this partnership with an organization like Mastercard.”
“We are extremely excited to partner with Unicaf to offer our premium cardholders’ access to internationally recognized degrees at discount. As consumers in our markets embrace online learning, this is how we show dedication to our premium cardholders by offering value through lifestyle benefits and rewards that are perfectly matched to their new routines” said Ebehijie Momoh, Country Manager, West Africa, Mastercard.
Unicaf’s comprehensive state-of-the-art digital ecosystem is seamlessly integrated with technology and services which provide the digital infrastructure that students need to study and complete their courses online. Students can interact with internationally trained tutors and fellow virtual classmates from 156 countries, offering Mastercard cardholders an international perspective and valuable insights into European, Asian and American professional practices. Together with its university partners, Unicaf has positively transformed the lives of more than 30,000 students worldwide.
Interswitch Commits to STEM, Announces Registrations for Interswitch SPAK 3.0
The Interswitch Group has announced the commencement of another edition of its National Science competition, InterswitchSPAK 3.0, in Nigeria. Secondary schools are hereby implored to visit the InterswitchSPAK portal to register their best science students in Grade 11 or Senior Secondary 2 (SS2) for the competition.
InterswitchSPAK is an annual Pan-African competition aimed at re-igniting and incentivizingthe studyof STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects among secondary school students.
For registration, each school is required to present its bestscience students in SSS2. Each school can register a minimum of six (6) and a maximum of ten (10) students. However, for mixed schools, at least two female students must be among the selected students. Every registered student will participate in the qualifying examination online, from their schools, homes or any convenient space. The top 81 students will proceed to the finale to battle for the crown of Nigeria’s Best Science Student.
For schools to register their best science students, visit https://www.interswitchspak.com/
For the qualifying examination, there are two choices of days to pick from between Friday, 28 and Saturday, 29 May, 2021 any time between 8am-6pm.
Cherry Eromosele, GroupChief Marketing and Communication Officer, Interswitch, expressed her excitement about the new edition. She stated that the competition was back, bigger and better after the one-year hiatus occasioned by the disruptive impact of the global pandemic.She also encouraged more girls to participate in this third edition of the on-going registration.
She said: “At Interswitch, we are committed to inculcating knowledge, aptitude and confidence, with a focus onimproving the standard of education in Nigeria. We are very passionate about encouraging more students, especially girls, to take up STEM subjects. The good news is that we have seen an increase in the number of girls participating in the competition. We encourage teachers, school administrators, parents and guardians to ensure their students are registered. I also want to encourage the students to take hold of this opportunity to pursue their dreams.It is our belief that the yearahead will be very exciting.”
The coveted prize is N12.5 million worth of university scholarship for the top three winners. The first prize winner gets N7.5 million tertiary scholarship spread over 5 years, a laptop and monthly stipends. The second prize is N4 millionspread over 3 years and a laptop and the third prize is N1 million for 1 year.
The last edition saw Oyindamola Aje, a 16-year-old student of Jesuit Memorial College, Port Harcourt, Rivers State, emerging as winner, while the duo of 15-year-old Oluwatobi Ojo and Onyekachi Madumere (both of Apt Scholar Universal College, Ogun State) came second and third, respectively.
The InterswitchSPAK 3.0 registration portal will close on Thursday, May 27, 2021.
U.S. Announces Priority Appointments for Student Visa Applicants
The U.S. Mission will prioritize student visa applicants and ensure Nigerian students resuming this Fall get visa interview appointments well in advance of their program start date.
U.S. Mission Country Consular Coordinator Susan Tuller announced on Friday that the Embassy in Abuja and Consulate General in Lagos will make every effort to assist student visa applicants in a timely fashion while keeping personnel and customers safe.
“As we continue to prioritize the health and safety of our staff and customers, processing student visas remains a high priority for the U.S. Mission in Nigeria,” Country Consular Coordinator Tuller said. “We will increase the number of student visa appointments in May and June to ensure that we can offer appointments to as many students as possible. If your U.S. studies are scheduled to begin this Fall, we encourage you to schedule your appointment as quickly as possible.”
Tuller explained that all student visa appointments must be booked through the U.S. Travel Docs website at www.ustraveldocs.com/ng/. She warned applicants against the use of third-party services, including touts, and fixers who broker visa appointments.
According to her, agents or third parties often seek to benefit by charging a fee for their services and they may not always provide the correct information, which can harm an applicant’s chances of qualifying for the visa.
“Both Nigeria and the United States benefit when Nigerian students study at one of our world-class educational institutions. To prepare for your U.S. educational opportunity, we encourage you to check out EducationUSA Advising Centers at our American Spaces in Abuja, Lagos, Ibadan, and Calabar, or at educationUSA.state.gov,” she added.
Nigeria sends more students to American colleges and universities than any other country in Africa and is the eleventh largest source worldwide of international students to the United States. In academic year 2019-2020, a record-breaking number of nearly 14,000 Nigerians pursued graduate and undergraduate degrees in the United States.
Over the last 21 years, the EducationUSA Advising Centers in Nigeria have directly contributed to an increase in the number of highly qualified Nigerian applicants to U.S. institutions. In 2020, advisees of EducationUSA services received scholarships worth $28 million.
Lacuna Fund Project To Support Natural Language Processing Technologies Across Africa
The partner organisations behind Lacuna Fund (www.LacunaFund.org) have announced the second cohort of supported projects are set to support Natural Language Processing Technologies across Africa.
According to the partners including Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Google.org, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the initiative “FAIR Forward: Artificial Intelligence for All”, implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) (www.GIZ.de) GmbH (German Development Cooperation), funding recipients will create openly accessible text and speech datasets that will fuel natural language processing (NLP) technologies in 29 languages across Africa.
The teams will produce training datasets in Eastern, Western, and Southern Africa that will support a range of needs for low resource languages, including machine translation, speech recognition, named entity recognition and part of speech tagging, sentiment analysis, and multi-modal datasets. All datasets produced will be locally developed and owned, and will be openly accessible to the international data community.
The availability of high quality data is crucial and one of the main barriers for the development of local AI-based solutions, especially in the global South where resources to acquire data are scarce. Both the availability of training data and AI-based solutions can play a major role in addressing current inequalities regarding access to knowledge, services and the diversity of cultural expressions.
An example for impact-driven AI-based solutions is voice interaction: it has the potential to enable millions of people access to information and services, preserve cultural heritage, make technology more inclusive and ultimately foster social and economic development and local value creation.
Lacuna Fund received over 50 outstanding applications from, or in partnership with, organizations across Africa. While each one of them, and many others, are poised for impact, the selected projects include among others:
- Building an Annotated Spoken Corpus for Igbo NLP Tasks — University of Ibadan/Nweya
- Entity Recognition and Parts of Speech Datasets for African Languages — K4A/Nabende
- Open Source Datasets for Local Ghanaian Languages: A Case for Twi and Ga — Ashesi University/Boateng
- Masakhane MT: Decolonizing Scientific Writing for Africa — K4A/Abbott
- Building NLP Text and Speech Datasets for Low Resourced Languages in East Africa — Makerere/Katumba
- Multimodal Datasets for Bemba — University of Zambia/Sikasote
Further information about each individual project can be found on the Lacuna Fund awards page (www.LacunaFund.org/awards).
“If we want to seriously level the playing field, we not only need to invest in open training data, computing power and machine learning expertise, but raise attention and bring visibility to the growing African technology ecosystems”, said FAIR Forward’s Balthas Seibold. “The Lacuna Fund builds on a recent groundswell of momentum to create better and more open NLP tools in African languages from machine learning community members, including academic workshops and programs, volunteer collaborations, startup projects, and other efforts. The exceptional quality and variety of all submissions is testament to this and the new funding round supports and amplifies the broad, creative, and impactful work that is already happening across the continent.”
Participating in the Lacuna Fund complements FAIR Forward’s activities to build skills and capacities which can directly use these datasets to create AI-based solutions. In addition, FAIR Forward also creates open AI training datasets, especially for voice recognition in low-resources languages, which also contribute to the work of the Lacuna Fund projects.
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