Cowbellpedia Winner: How Maths Can Re-orientate Nigerian Youths

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Munachi Ernest-Eze, a student of Loyola Jesuit College, Abuju set a record by winning the junior and senior categories of the Cowbellpedia Secondary Schools Mathematics Television Quiz Show within two years (2015 and 2017). In this interview with Uchechukwu Nnaike, he talks about his experience during and after the competition

What has changed with you after winning the Cowbellpedia competition?

Winning the competition has given me more confidence to embark on various tedious tasks in life that would make me move from being a national winner to an international winner. This is an interesting phase of my life; I have come, I have seen and I have conquered. I am now a star propelled by Cowbellpedia on the sky of Nigeria.

Can you describe the reaction of your family, friends and school upon winning the competition?

The reaction was wonderful. It was awesome. On a personal note, my joy knew no bounds as I fulfilled my dream and the dream of my parents. This victory has brought me respect among Mathematicians in the country, my peers and relatives. My friends, family and school mates were overjoyed and glad, though not surprised, considering my good performances in the past.

Moreover, winning the senior category of the competition made me the first senior category winner from my school which prompted the school to offer me extra N 1 million. Generally, the joy of my family, friends and relations knew no bounds as I had established a remarkable feat. My father shed tears of joy in 2015 when I won the junior category, but this time he was full of smile and praise to God and to Promasidor, the sponsor of Cowbellpedia.

What have you done with your prize money?

It was such a big relief. My parents used my prize money to pay up my fees together with those of my siblings in secondary school. It was a timely manna from God through Promasidor. We were very happy. We pray for the company to be going from strength to strength and encourage other corporate organisations to emulate this noble initiative because education is the greatest legacy a parent or a nation can give to the youths.

How do you feel being a double champion- junior 2015 and senior 2017?

Honestly it was a defining moment for me and for my school. It was one of the few competitions that will always remain in my memory. It was both interesting and challenging. Starting from the written exam, the questions came from every part of the syllabus, ranging from the easy to the difficult ones. The exam was of a high standard. The second stage, the quiz show was also interesting and challenging, when you remember the prep-ups, the use of the gadgets and the stage fright. But above all, I feel very glad that God made me achieve this and more ecstatic that I have started creating records.

What was your experience during the education excursion to Kenya?

It was fantastic. It was indeed an educational tour/excursion. I got to explore various unfamiliar activities and also got more information pertaining to my major area of interest in the university. All the same, the travel experience and the excitement of meeting new people in new places cannot be quantified. It was splendid. We enjoyed ourselves, it was a wonderful experience.

In what ways do you think the education excursion and the Cowbellpedia experience will impact on your future plans?

The educational excursion gave me a broader view of what life would be when I become an engineer, especially in the areas of writing codes and developing machines. Above all, the Cowbellpedia experience has opened me up to greater opportunities in life. In fact, it has taught me how to deal with pressure, competitions and failure which I believe would help me in future. The experience has widened my horizon and broadened my perspective on my present and the future.

What lessons did you learn from your participation in Cowbellpedia competition?

I learnt how to be humble and calm. I have also learnt that God is always there to open a way for success even when failure seems inevitable. It has also influenced my values and my academic life in a positive way. Though there were sad times and challenging moments during the competition, they all ended up helping me become the overall winner of the competition. Cowbellpedia has proven to be one of the most prestigious Mathematics competitions in the country, due to all the bountiful gains and benefits.

What course do you intend to study in the university?

I intend to major in Aerospace Engineering. I am confident my strengths in Mathematics, Physics and little coding would make me explore my potential to the fullest if I pursue a career in aerospace engineering. Furthermore, I have this vision to be part of a new generation of young Nigerians that will redesign and revolutionise the country’s aviation/aeronautic sector. This will improve the image of Nigeria and shore up the economy. I want to affect Nigeria positively. So help me God.

What advice do you have for your fellow students on Mathematics?

First, they should see Mathematics as a way of reasoning that is unique to human beings. Whether you are a carpenter or a mechanic; a shopkeeper or a doctor; an engineer or a scientist; a musician or a magician, everyone needs Mathematics in their day-to-day life. Even animals and insects use mathematical calculation and precision in their everyday life for existence. This helps the thinking of especially the youths and the younger generation.

My advice is that Mathematics is just one of those subjects that can be learnt if we spend more time on it. Youths should befriend the subject because solving Mathematics helps the mind to reason and organise complicated situations or problems into clear, simple, and logical steps.

What do you think is responsible for the low interest of students in Mathematics?

The general belief that Mathematics is difficult, together with the manner the subject is taught in schools is responsible for the low interest of students in mathematics. There are also other factors like the Mathematics phobia, parental factors and undue distraction from unproductive use of social network like Facebook, Twitter and others.

How do you think students can remove the Mathematics phobia?

Firstly, they should ignore all sayings about Mathematics being challenging. Next, they should dedicate an hour every week for lesson with an individual that is good in the subject. These two brief steps should be enough for one to consider Mathematics as a normal subject that can be easily passed.

Mathematics is a great subject. Some of the qualities that are nurtured through Mathematics include the power of reasoning, creativity, abstract or spatial thinking, critical thinking, problem-solving ability and even effective communication skills.