By Emmanuel Edukugho
Education Minister, Professor Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufai has said that the Federal Government is specifically addressing the issue of poor performance in NECO and SSCE examination.

Speaking at the 2010 Cowbell National Secondary Schools Mathematics Competition Prize giving ceremony held on Tuesday May 25, at Transcorp  Hilton Hotels, Abuja, she assured that government is addressing this issue seriously.

“Only yesterday (Monday), as Minister of Education, we conveyed a National Examination Summit where we specifically addressed the theme – ‘performance in public examination.’ Specific references were made to the poor performance in the two core subjects of Mathematics and English in the last few years.”

She asserted that the Federal Ministry of Education will continue to put in all necessary resources to see to an improvement in all aspects of Nigeria Education.

“We shall also appeal to organisations and companies who will collaborate with us in this great task of improving our educational system. The Ministry has a focus and is committed to achieving great success in this direction.”

The Education Minister stated that government recognises the poor performance always recorded in Mathematics in NECO and SSCE every year, and acknowledged Cowbell’s contribution in trying to solve this problem.

“The government recognised the importance of mathematics in science and technology and in fact in all areas of human knowledge. Hence government established the National Mathematical Centre and has been funding it as one of its important parastatal.”

Ruqayyatu Rufai emphasized that the National Mathematical Centre (NMC) has produced necessary mathematical kits, books, modules and materials that schools can use to improve performance in mathematics.

However, she still urged other organisations to collaborate with NMC “just as I  am told that Promasidor has been doing for the past ten years.”

While congratulating the powdered milk/beverage giant for the successes had in the past ten years, the minister urged Promasidor to continue its good work in mathematics competition, “So that a time will come again that Cowbell is celebrating twenty five years of Mathematics competition in Nigeria.”

She  recalled that Napoleon the great aptly puts it that the development of mathematics is intimately connected with the development of the state.

“So your work is certainly connected to the development of Nigeria.”

In his own address, Chief Keith Richards, Managing Director, Promasidor Nigeria Limited, explained that the mathematics competition  sponsorship nationwide is part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a way of addressing the following:

* Changing the perception of Nigerian students that Mathematics is a very difficult subject
* Reversing the negative statistics from WAEC showing a high failure rate in mathematics exams.
* Enhancing the understanding that mathematics is the bedrock of technological inventions and growth.
* Ensuring that students pass mathematics to facilitate admission for higher studies in numerate academic disciplines.

* Awakening  a conscious interest for mathematics amongst pupils from their cradle age.
* Creating a credible medium for identifying, encouraging and rewarding brilliance.

He traced the history and growth of the competition which was first conducted in Lagos State alone in 1998.

In 1999, the scope was enlarged to include Lagos, Anambra, Kaduna and Plateau State, while in 2000, Oyo and Imo States came in to bring the total number to six. In 2001, the competition became a national affair, covering the 36 states of Nigeria and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja.

It is open to all JSS3 (Junior category) and SSS2 (Senior Category) students between 10-18 years of age attending full time secondary school in Nigeria.

“The race for mathematical supremacy in this year’s competition started with the first stage examination held in 128 examination centres across the federation on Saturday, February 13, 2010. Over 20,000 pupils Sat for this exam representing about 18% above 2009 entrants.

On Saturday, April 17, 2010, 74 students out of the 20,040 students from the junior and senior categories pan Nigeria, including FCT sat for the second and final stage of the examination, which took place in Lagos. Today, we are all gathered here to honour 20 of these 74 national finalists who have exhibited exceptional flair in mathematics, as Cowbell Milk Ambassadors in their schools, local government, states and Nigeria in general,” Richards declared.

The best 20 mathematics students and their teachers were recognised and rewarded.
1st prize of N130,000 plus Laptop in the Senior Secondary category (SS2) went to 14-year old Oluwaferonmi Ogundijo Victor of Federal Government Academy, Suleja. He scored 39% in Objective and 49% in Theory, making a total of 88%.

2nd prize N100,000 plus, Laptop was taken by Sanni Ololade, Ota Total Academy, Ota, while the 3rd prize N100,000 was clinched by Isung Nsikak of Graceland International School, Elekahia.

For the Junior Secondary Category (JSS3), 1st prize N130,000 was given to Essien Princess-Jewel of Loyola Jesuit College, Gidan Mangoro, 12 years old, who scored 49% in objective, 48% in theory, with a total of 97%.

2nd prize N100,000 went to Adamu  Ismail, Nigerian Turkish College, Yankaba, while 3rd prize N75,000 was taken by Aro Ayomide  of the Ambassadors College, Ota.

All the Gold Award winners in both junior and senior categories also received gold medals, trophies and certificates to match.

Consolidation prizes were given to 4th to 10th positions in each category receiving N15,000 each. The mathematics teachers of the best 20 students received N20,000 cash and a plaque.

The best two students of the last edition, in the senior secondary category were sponsored  to the Pan African Mathematics Olympiad (PAMO), which started on the 23rd of May and ended on 25th, May 2010, in Cote d’Ivoire.

Professor Sam Ale, Director-General, NMC, Abuja, thanked and congratulated Cowbell Milk for what it had been doing for ten years now.

He disclosed that the idea which Cowbell started is permeating the while educational areas as the Nigerian Turkish College is already organising a seminar competition for primary schools.

Ale described mathematics, as the “Queen of the sciences,” adding, “it is so useful, an important key to national development, needed in everyday life. Development of the state and development of mathematics interrelated.”

He said that Mathematics is the single element in societal development, while ICT is based on mathematics.
According to him, NMC is collaborating strongly to have physics Olympiad,, Chemistry Olympiad, Informatics Olympiad.

“Only Promasidor is supporting us. It  took the basic subject which is the terror of many people. Mental Arithmetic is underway. We’re inventing very new things so that the world can move in the right direction.”


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