Pushing the Limits
Barely ten months ago, the academic life of Ezenwa Joseph, a fifteen-year-old student of Ambol Comprehensive High School, Akesan-Igando, Lagos, received a huge boost. Why? He had been announced the winner of the 2013 UBA National Essay Competition, beating almost 2,000 contestants, across the country, in the process. The win was worth N1.million invested into Ezenwa’s education.
“It is a very commendable program,” Tunde Adewola, a university student, told THISDAY, while speaking on the UBA National Essay Competition which was first launched in 2011.
“It is a program that will enable competition among the students and make them want to be better people. We all know that competition leads to motivation, and when you are motivated you go the extra mile,” said Adewola.
The Essay competition is organised annually by the UBA Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, and is designed to challenge the reading, research, writing and critical thinking skills of Nigerian students. The competition also encourages the application of the rules guiding the use of English language, and provides a launch pad for competitiveness as a veritable avenue to educational excellence and by extension, a solid foundation for economic liberation.
From its debut in 2011, the essay competition has grown very popular in the country and participation has consistently bettered the previous years. The 2013 edition saw about 2000 entries from students across the country.
Taking a cue, obviously, from the success of the competition in Nigeria, the Foundation recently announced that the essay contest will be taken to other parts of Africa. According to the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of UBA Foundation, Ijeoma Aso, the new development is “part of UBA’s continued efforts to intellectually challenge African youths to improve their capacity to compete in an increasingly global world.”
Aso further noted that “the essay competition is a follow up to our Read Africa initiative, which involves giving out literature books to secondary school students to help rekindle the reading culture. With the essay competitions, we are seeking to further challenge the students.”
Eligible senior secondary students willing to participate in the competition are expected to send in handwritten entries on the topic ‘Is Social Media a Safe Place to Make Friends’, to the UBA Foundation’s office in Lagos. A distinguished panel of judges made up of professors from reputable Nigerian Universities will review the entries and select an initial shortlist of 12 for further assessment until the overall three best candidates emerge. The top three winners of the competition will win educational grants to any African university of their choice. Entries for the Nigeria competition will close by November 14, 2014.
The continental foray of the Foundation’s essay contest is a promising one. For the maiden edition of the contest in Senegal, the Foundation held an official press launch in early October. Prior to the launch, Ijeoma Aso paid a visit to the Faculty of Arts at the University Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar (UCAD), where she met with the three university professors who will be assessing all entries received from students. Aso enlightened them on the competition and what is expected of them and the professors thanked the foundation for the laudable initiative, while giving the assurance of their full cooperation and availability to make the competition a success.
The press launch in Senegal was chaired by a representative of the Minister of Education, Senegal, Abdoulaye Sow, who said the essay completion was a welcome initiative. Sow promised that the ministry will work together with the foundation to ensure that the competition is a success.
Aso also reiterated that the objective of the competition was to provide a competitive platform for the development of the intellectual and writing abilities of senior secondary students in Africa. She added that the essay competition will provide the students with the opportunity to win prizes in the form of educational grants to any African university of their choice.
The Read Africa Initiative of UBA Foundation, from which the essay competition spun from, was launched in 2011 and is aimed at rekindling the dwindling reading culture among African youths.
Under this initiative, senior bank executives and role models in the society visit secondary schools and hold reading and mentoring sessions with the students, after which free books are given to the students and the school library. So, during her visit to Senegal, Aso, together with the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, UBA Senegal, Amie Sow, went to hold a reading session with the students of Les Pedagogues, one of the schools with the best results in the 2013/2014 academic year.
Students of the school, along with the Staff of UBA Senegal read from ‘l’aventure ambigue’, a French classic literature authored by Ahmidou Cheikh Kane, while Aso and Sow reminded the students of the importance of reading and encouraged them to make reading a habit. 200 copies of the ‘l’aventure ambigue’ were donated to the school after the reading session.
The Head Communications for Les Pedagogues, Amadou Sow thanked UBA for choosing their school and promised to have copies of the books in the library to further encourage the students to read.
In Ghana, another country where the foundation has stepped its feet, a call for entries from eligible participants has been put out. In an event unveiling the competition, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Education, Okudjeto Ablakwa was full of appreciation for the foundation’s idea, noting that the essay initiative is coming when attention is being given to educational development in the country.
In line with the remarks from the Deputy Minister, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, UBA Ghana, Abiola Bawuah, reiterated the importance of education and assured that UBA will continue to support the Ghana Education board in promoting a healthy educational development.
In his remarks at the inaugural event, the Director of Secondary Education, Ghana, Rev. Simon Asige, assured UBA of his ministry’s support, while committing to the distribution of the essay’s flyers and posters.
UBA, with a tagline of Africa’s global bank, is a world-class financial institution with presence in seventeen African countries, and other key financial centres including New York, Paris and London. It is also one of Nigeria’s leading banks. Assenting to its brand positioning as Africa’s global bank, UBA has full operations and presence in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Cameroon, Cayman Islands, and has been rapidly expanding into other African countries with start-ups in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Cote D’ivoire. The creation of UBA Foundation, as an arm of the company is a veritable pointer in understanding the philosophy that drives the company.
According to the company’s website, “UBA Foundation draws its inspiration from the Group’s intrinsic values of humility, empathy, resilience, integrity and its mission statement: ‘to be a role model for African businesses, abiding by the utmost professional and ethical standards, and creating an enduring institution’. These values have, and will always be the factors that inspire us to ‘do well and do good’. By extending the hand of partnership to our communities, the Group aims to ensure that goodwill is cultivated and that our operations are sustainable and beneficial.”
So, UBA Foundation, apart from organising its annual essay competitions, has also been actively involved in promoting the reading culture among Nigerians through its “Read Africa” initiative. Last year, the bank donated countless books to numerous schools in the country in an attempt to boost the reading culture of its peoples. Two schools, the African Church Model College and Sonmori Comprehensive High School, both situated in Ifako-Ijaiye area of Lagos State were some of the beneficiaries of the Initiative. Students at the school had the privilege of sharing a reading session with Deputy Managing Director, Domestic Bank, UBA, Mr. Apollos Ikpobe who read excerpts from Chinua Achebe’s literary classic “Things Fall Apart” with the students.
Also, distant from its giant strides in the educational sector, the Foundation has also been working hard in the health sector. The Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee & Member, Board of Management, University of Port Harcourt, Mrs. Christie Mato, last year, commended the bank for its efforts at combating child mortality across Nigeria. She said this at the donation of two incubators to the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) by the Foundation.
Mato remarked that efforts of the foundation would help reduce child mortality and advance the care for premature babies. She noted that the donation is coming at a time the teaching hospital requires the necessary support to address dearth of infrastructure.
“The SCBU unit of the hospital has few incubators which is highly inadequate for the number of mothers that gave birth in the hospital on a daily basis. We really appreciate UBA’s efforts, we only hope that other corporate bodies and individuals will emulate the foundation’s interventions in the health sector,” she said.
Article Credit: Thisdaylive