By Emmanuel Edukugho
Nigeriaâ€™s First Lady, Hajiya Turai Yarâ€™Adua, has commended Promasidor Nigeria Limited for its contribution to the advancement ofÂ Mathematics education in Nigeria through organising and sponsoring of the National Secondary Schools Mathematics Competition, endearing the company to the Federal Government, the Federal MinistryÂ Education and all states ministries of education and other agencies in the country.
At the award ceremony for winners of the Promasidor Nigeria Limited (Makers of Cowbell Brand Milk) 2009 National Secondary Schools Mathematics Competition which took palce recently in Congress Hall, Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, she noted that the competitions are not just a mere exercise designed to exercise the brain, but an attempt to among other things, encourage youthful talents in Mathematics, develop and reward our youth and establish friendly relationship between our young mathematicians.
â€œInvestment in Science is indeed vital for developing nations. A country that neglects science education for its citizens does so at its own peril.â€
Represented by Hajiya Aishatu Dukku, Minister of State for Education, the First Lady said it is in realising this fact that government has firm commitment to upgrade the institutions and Centres of Excellence in the country to a world-class status as a way of producing highly trained and skilled scientific professionals of the future.
â€œThis position is inevitable as government is making frantic effort to place Nigeria in her rightful position in the world of advanced technology as a vehicle for the achievement of its Vision 20: 2020.â€
She referred to the 7-Point Agenda of the Yarâ€™Adua administration, whose pursuit the Federal Ministry of Education is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to make Nigeria a nation of educated people, with particular emphasis on Mathematics and Science education.
â€œThis is the only way we believe organisations such as Cowbell the Federal and state ministries of education, and other agencies can achieve the Millennium Development Goals within the time frame set.â€
She drew attention to the persistent poor performance of students in Science related subjects like Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, etc, which continues to pose serious worries in the minds of both parents and government. â€œCurrently, as you are aware, any student that does not make at least a credit pass in Mathematics finds it difficult to get a university admission.â€
Turai assured that the Federal Government will address the issues of poor performance in Mathematics and Science education by supporting national competitions and talent hunts, quizzes, etc, for our students through cooperation, encouragement and constant funding.
â€œWe hope organisations like Promasidor will also continue to develop and deploy appropriate initiatives to rekindle and sustain interest in the study of Mathematics at the school level.â€
Students were urged to take advantage of this and other competitions to prepare themselves for the challenges ahead, as future leaders of this country. She stated that the very existence of any area of human endeavour is based on Mathematics and Mathematical sciences, and recently, the ICT, itself a product of mathematics, has taken over the global stage.
â€œThe story f how Nigeria grew from the bottom rung of the ladder of science and technology all the ay to the top will not be complete without our giving honour to our Mathematics champions of today.â€
Earlier, Chief Keith Richards, Managing Director, Promasidor Nigeria Limited, in his welcome address at the 9th edition of Cowbell National secondary Schools Mathematics Competition prize-giving ceremony, recalled that Cowbell Milk was launched into the Nigerian market in 1993, as the first powdered milk brand to be packed in mini sachets, at affordable prices for the convenience of the customers.
â€œIn 1998, we invested in a corporate social responsibility project in the area of Mathematics, called the Cowbell National Secondary Schools Mathematics Competition (NASSMAC).
He listed the objectives of NASSMAC, which included awakening the consciousness and interest in Mathematics among secondary school students, generally improve the performance in Mathematics in Nigeria, create a credible platform for identifying outstanding students and encouraging recognition of exceptional ability, redress the myth that mathematics is a very difficult subject to pass.
From 1998 when the competition was first conducted in Lagos State alone, the number of states participating went up to six in 2000, and by 2001, the scope of the competition had covered all the 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory.
Students in the JSS3 (Junior category) and SSS2 (senior category) whose ages fall between 10 and 18 yeas are eligible for the competition. Richards said a total of 16,137 students sat for the exams this year in 130 centres across the country on Saturday, 14th March, 2009.
The number was pruned down to 74 (37 each for junior secondary school) candidates to make up the national finalists and they sat for the final exams on Monday 18, 2009.
This exam took place at the Lagos Airport Hotel, Ikeja. The best 20 students, who distinguished themselves and have exhibited exceptional aptitude for mathematics, were honoured and rewarded with cash and material gifts. â€œWe will be regarding them as Cowbell Milk Ambassadors in their respective schools, local government areas, states and in Nigeria, as a whole,â€ Richards said. He explained that the prizes offered for the purpose of the competition is a demonstration of his companyâ€™s unwavering commitment to the uplifting of educational standards in Nigeria.
The Promasidor MD, expressed gratitude to all the stakeholders in the Cowbell initiative, particularly the Minister of Education for his endorsement of the competition, all the state ministries of education, department of education in FCDA, the principals of the participating schools, the chief executive and Director General of the National Mathematical Centre, Abuja and the President, Mathematical Association of Nigeria for their professional support.
Prof. Adewale Solarin of the National mathematical Centre represented the Director General, while Mr. Ralph Adeoti, GM Sales, and Mr. Femi Orimolade, GM (Marketing) were all there.
The winner of the Junior category (JSS3) was 11 years old Nwokotubo Charles of Graceland International school, Port Harcourt who scored a total of 90 per cent.
He was given N130,000. Second prize went to 14 years old Alamin James from Kaduna and got N100,000, with silver medal. He scored 63 per cent. Chissom Okafor, another 14-year-old, from Layola Jesuit College, Abuja took the third prize of N75,000 and a bronze medal.
In the senior category, Tobuechukwu C. Onuegbu, 16 years old, student of Charismatic Renewal Ministry, International College, Owerri, won the first prize of N130,000 plus a laptop. He scored 70 per cent.
Second was 16-year old Chukwuemeka Aruene, Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja, scoring 67% and went home with N100,000 and a Laptop. Fourteen years old Jane Francis Uwalaka of Dorothy International Secondary School, Aba, with a score of 59% was third. She got N100,000 and a bronze medal.
The 1st, 2nd and 3rd best students in the Junior and senior categories from each state and FCT, Abuja were given N20,000, N15,000 and N10,000 respectively.
Seventy four teachers of students who are state champions in the junior and senior categories were rewarded N15,000 each. All the teachers of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd winners at the national level in both junior and senior categories were given N20,000 each.
There were consolation prizes – 4th to 10th positions for both junior and senior categories. Each got N15,000.