Emmanuel Addeh writes on the latest efforts by the Robert Sunday Iworiso Foundation, a non-governmental organisation in collaboration with the Association of Nigerian Authors and Bayelsa Ministry of Education, to inspire youngsters to acquire good writing skills through essay competitions
On Wednesday, August 23, 2017, young Martin Franklin (Jnr) of the Ijaw National Academy (INA), Bayelsa State, smiled home with an award of N1 million after winning the maiden Bayelsa Essay Writing Competition for students of Senior Secondary Schools in the state.
In the same vein, Miss Sweet-Owei Blessed of Tare Pet Montessori School and Miss Ayamieye Tamara-Ifie of Biedomo Premier School emerged second and third with cash prizes of N250,000 and N150,000 respectively.
The trio were among 100 participants selected from post primary schools in Bayelsa and had been tucked away in Kaiama, Kolokuma/Opokuma, along with a team of assessors to select the best among them.
So, during those three days which also featured a ‘writers’ conference’ which witnessed some of the best brains in the business imparting writing skills on the students, the team of assessors, including Dr. Bina Nengi-Ilagha, the ANA Chairman in Bayelsa instructed the students on the standard of writing that would be acceptable to the panel.
The students drawn from the eight local government councils of the state were expected to dissect the topic ‘Education as an Imperative for National Development and Global Relevance’.
The event, the organisers said, would inspire students to shun all forms of vices, including cultism and redirect them to useful ventures that will be beneficial to them in the future.
During a briefing to intimate the public of the programme and seek their participation, the organisers had said that the trend of rising cultism among young people had become disturbing, vowing that the competition would ensure that there is reward for hard work.
Before the train moved to Kaiama, speaking earlier in Yenagoa to formally announce the competition, Chairman of the Organising Committee, Mr. Micheal Afenfia, the immediate past ANA Chairman in the state, who was flanked by Dr. Nengi-Ilagha, the current chair, noted that the star prize for the competition would be N1 million.
The programme sponsored by the foundation, Afenfai said, would promote and reward intellectual prowess, rather than the celebration of people with questionable characters.
“The Robert Sunday Iworiso Foundation prize would be awarded to the boy or girl with the winning essay.
“The winner would be rewarded and celebrated openly because we want to reverse the horrendous poetry that celebrates cultists and criminals above those that are studious and focused on changing the perception of the state,” Afenfai, a writer said.
He pointed out that the essay competition was another means to tell the world that in Bayelsa there are abundant talents and not the frequent negative narrative being ascribed to the people.
The Robert Sunday Iworiso Foundation, founded over a year ago by Daniel Iworiso-Markson, Chief Press Secretary to the Bayelsa State governor, is named after his late father and had earlier collaborated with Helping Hands International on giving entrepreneurial skills to over 200 Indigenes.
A director of the foundation, Chief John Iworiso explained that the essay writing competition was part of a series of activities to engender meaningful change and development in the society.
He stressed that the aim was to discover talented pupils of Bayelsa extraction, with untapped potential that would replace the likes of Prof. Wole Soyinka, Prof. Pepper Clark and Dr. Gabriel Okara, all three renowned writers.
Iworiso used the opportunity to thank Governor Seriake Dickson for the ‘huge investment’ he has made in education, human capacity and critical infrastructure, stressing that in a few years to come the state will benefit from the current investment.
According to him, the foundation would soon commence Book Clubs in all secondary schools in the state with the sole aim of impressing on them the need to develop a culture of reading.
“As you all know, readers are ultimately leaders and as such, in our quest to raise a new generation of leaders for our region, the concept of a Book Club will go a long way to instill in our students the importance of reading,” he said.
During the event, Iworiso urged the winner of the first prize to seize the unique opportunity to not only enjoy the limelight but also make his family and Bayelsa State proud.
He reiterated the commitment of the foundation in ensuring that it lives up to its motto of fulfilling dreams as well as turning smiles into laughter especially among the less-privileged.
He added: “The Essay competition is one of several ways through which we hope to discover the untapped potential and to truly engage students and inspire them to become change agents and make them the true leaders of tomorrow that they are born to be.”
Iworiso thanked the Bayelsa State Ministry of Education and the ANA in the state for accepting to organise the competition in conjunction with the foundation.
On his part, the State Commissioner for Education, Elder Markson Fefegha, who was a guest at the event, stated that the government was excited that so far the state has benefited from the strategic and timely investment it has made in education which he said available records have shown.
He thanked the organisers of the competition for keying into the vision of the state government in promoting academic excellence.
Ten finalists later emerged before the final three winners who were presented with cheques by officials of the foundation’s official bankers, Sterling bank.
In a short speech, the winner of the N1 million 16-year-old Franklin, expressed delight over the programme and urged the sponsor , Mr. Iworiso-Markson to ensure that the programme is sustained to give the less-privileged the opportunity to go to school.
He added, “I am happy and surprised to emerge as the winner. I really thank my classmates, my teachers, the foundation, the state government and my parents for giving me the privilege.
“I want to use this medium to advise those who don’t take delight in writing to indulge in the habit as it will make you creative and be able to pass great messages that even wars cannot pass,” he advised.
The event was punctuated by several performances, including reciting of poems, reading from excerpts of novels and dancing.