UBA Boots Education through Essay Competition

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Enthusiasm, excitement and high-spiritedness characterised the mood of prospective competing students at the head office of the United Bank for Africa Plc, when the bank launched the 2016 edition of its National Essay Competition in Lagos, writes Peter Uzoho

The launching of the 2016 edition of the United Bank for Africa’s National Essay Competition on Friday, September 23, 2016, has indeed thrown open another window of opportunity for students of senior secondary schools in Nigeria to come and test their weights over one another as they
battle for the N1 million star prize being an educational grant placed by the bank.

Right there in the hall, at the 15th floor of the United Bank for Africa’s banking tower in Marina, Lagos, students from different senior secondary schools in Lagos were all seated, patiently and eagerly waiting to hear the long awaited news from the bank. Adorning varying school outfits, they chatted in suppressed tones, muttering about what and how the 6th edition of the UBA Foundation’s National Essay Competition which they would partake in would be like. They have been hearing of the unique initiative of the bank. They have heard and seen students like them competing and winning in the competition and would not let such golden opportunity pass them by.

In 2011, the United Bank for Africa having found education as the bedrock of the growth of every nation came up with its annual UBA Foundation National Essay Competition for students of senior secondary schools, mostly indigent children, in Nigeria and other African countries. The programme tailored towards the development of education in all communities of its operation has no doubt put smiles on the faces of parents and their children as it has helped a number of school children realise their educational aspirations. Since inception, the national essay competition has produced 15 winners, some of which are studying in various prestigious universities across Africa.

Interestingly, UBA has not just initiated a helping hand educational programme; it has also remained consistent with it as it ensures that no year passes without the competition holding that year. While many corporate organisations have dropped many of their corporate social responsibility programmes, attributing it to the current economic recession, the bank has remained focused and determined and has resolved to even in hard times continue to play its good corporate citizenship roles to its corporate communities.

Although, there may be some other organisations running similar CSR programme, UBA Foundation National Essay Competition is unique in a number of ways. The application for entry is open for all senior secondary school students across Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal. It begins with the communication to parents and schools to enable their children and students register. Being so particular about the transparency of the process of determining true winners in the competition, the Foundation ensures that all essays written and submitted by the competing students and received by the Foundation are reviewed by a distinguished panel of judges made up of professors from reputable Nigerian universities, who will then shortlist 12 best essays for further assessment.

After the selection of 12 best essays from over 3000, there is a second round of the competition which involves the 12 finalists who will write a second supervised essay from which three best essays will be selected. In the end, the top three winners of the competition automatically grab the educational grants to study in any African university of their choice.

Speaking at the press launch of this year’s competition, Managing Director/CEO of UBA Foundation, Ms Ijeoma Aso, said that the Foundation would start receiving entries from eligible participants in senior secondary schools in Nigeria. “Entries for the essay competition opens on September 23, 2016 and will close on November 4, 2016. The essay topic for this year is ‘If you were in a position to help the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), what would you do?’

“Entries received for the competition will be reviewed by a distinguished panel of judges made up of professors from reputable Nigerian Universities, who will then shortlist 12 best essays for further assessment.

“A second round of the competition will involve the 12 finalists who will write a second supervised essay from which three best essays will be selected.

“Three best essays will be selected as the overall winners from 12 finalists that will emerge from the first round of the competition.
“The top three winners of the competition will win educational grants to study in any African university of their choice.

“Prizes to be won include N1, 000,000.00 for the star prize winner; N750, 000.00 for the 1st runner-up, and N500, 000.00 for the 2nd runner-up,” Aso noted.

She explained that the competition was part of the Foundation’s initiative to promote creative and analytical thinking among senior secondary students in Nigeria and across Africa, saying “is a follow up on the Foundation’s Read Africa initiative, which promotes reading culture among students through mentoring and free distribution of Africa literary classics in secondary schools. The national essay competition is also held in Ghana and Senegal.

Informing the students on the processes of application, Aso said. “Applicants should send in handwritten essay entries of not more than 750 words on the above topic to UBA Foundation, UBA House, 3rd floor, 57 Marina, Lagos. Applications can also be sent to any UBA office in Nigeria for onward delivery to UBA Foundation.”

Also speaking, Group Head, Communications, UBA Plc, Charles Aigbe, said the essay competition was one of UBA’s contributions to educational development in Nigeria and across Africa. Aigbe noted that “As a pan-African financial services group with operations in 22 countries, we aim to impact on the countries we do business through the three main anchors of education, environment and social empowerment. UBA is Africa’s global bank and we believe that we should give back to the society and this is an important part of our business culture. Over the years, we have contributed to the development of education in Nigeria by giving various grants, endowment chairs and facilities to institutions all over the country.”

He urged students to take the national essay competition seriously as it provides a massive opportunity for them to change their lives for the better, adding that “the competition is part of the process to make our younger ones to be better for their families, the nation, continent and the world as a whole. The National Essay Competition also runs in some other African countries including Ghana and Senegal.

“As the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of the UBA Group, UBA Foundation is committed to the socio-economic betterment of the communities in which UBA operates, focusing on development in the areas of environment, education, economic empowerment and special projects.

“UBA Foundation remains a role model for other corporate organisations in Africa. The Foundation has dedicated resources to ensuring that CSR is not simply conceived as a marketing tool in the corporate world but as a corporate contribution towards promoting sustainable development in communities,” Aigbe added.

In their excitement after the announcement of the competition, some of the students who attended the press launch expressed their joy for having the opportunity to compete come to their door steps at last, showing their optimism to emerge winners at the competition. One of them, Miss Ayomide Adegbohumgbe, a 14-year-old student of Caleb International College, Lagos, said “I feel really inspired and I want to enter and win the competition. Apart from the prize money that I intend to win, it will also be an achievement for me that will stay with me forever. I thank UBA for putting something like this together because it will really be an opportunity for Nigerian students to come and prove their worth in English language. I also thank them for assisting to provide quality education in the country,” Adegbohumgbe said.

Another student, Master Chukwuemeka Okereke, 16, a student of CMS Grammar School, Bariga, Lagos, said “I feel excited about the upcoming competition because I’m really good at English Language and I think I have a chance of winning. I want to say a big thank you to UBA for creating this opportunity for us here in Nigeria and other countries.
I urge them to keep doing the good work and I pray God to reward them accordingly.”

On her part, Miss Aderibogbe Ifeoluwa, a 13-year-old student of Holy Child College, Lagos, said “I feel excited and I can’t wait to participate and win the N1 million. I’ll really try to emerge a winner because I want to use it to further my education. I want to thank UBA for their kind gesture and I pray that they will continue to have the opportunity to do it because it’s a very wonderful thing they’re doing.”

The press launch was attended by students from different secondary schools in Lagos including, Holy Child College, International School, University of Lagos, High Hope Academy, Ojota Senior Secondary School, Caleb International College, CMS Grammar School, and Crescent Secondary School.