UBA, Consolidating on Education amid Pandemic

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Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, the UBA Foundation has announced increased prize money for the 2020 edition of the National Essay Competition, writes Charles Ajunwa

When the Coronavirus pandemic started in China, not everyone took it seriously. As the virus spread, even governments took varying positions. For example, while countries like Singapore and Taiwan took swift steps to implement lockdowns, social distancing rules and tracing methodology, others such as the United States and Britain delayed. In the end, most economies went on some form of lockdown or the other, although the measure hasn’t been successful everywhere as in say, China, which has managed to stop the virus’ spread with what has been described in some quarters as draconian rules.

In Nigeria, a lockdown came into full force in April, effectively shutting down offices, schools, religious centres and virtually all forms of public activities. Since then, the country has reported negative economic growth in the first quarter and is set to report a successive negative growth, which will condemn it into a recession.

The question on the lips of many has been, was it – the lockdown – worth it? Did it save lives or could it have been done away with?

This September, the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Foundation called for entries into its annual National Essay Competition for senior secondary school students and the topic borders on whether the pandemic lockdown was an essential measure, in spite of the hardship it has brought economically. What could you have done differently and why?”

Historically, the UBA Foundation essay competition, now in its 10th edition, has been a hotbed of sparkling ideas from precocious, blossoming minds.

The competition is part of UBA Foundation’s education initiative which is aimed at promoting the reading culture and encouraging healthy and intellectual competition amongst secondary school students in Nigeria and across Africa.

This year’s edition has been modified to ensure ease of access and increased participation of senior secondary school students from the comfort of their homes through the introduction of a digital submission portal.

Taking into consideration the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on lives and incomes across the board, the UBA Foundation has also increased the prize money for 2020 edition of the competition by 33 per cent as the first prize winner will get an educational grant of N2.5 million, up from N2 million in 2019. The second and third prize winners will now receive N2 million and N1.5 million educational grants respectively, from N1.5 million and N1 million which were awarded in the previous year’s competition.

The Chief Executive Officer, UBA Foundation, Mrs. Bola Atta stated that with the newly introduced digital submission portal, more students in secondary schools across the country will have the opportunity to scan and send in their entries and compete to win educational grants for study at any university of their choice on the African continent.

She said: “As a foundation, which is the CSR arm of the United Bank for Africa – a fully digitalised bank – we are driven by the mantra to always innovate and adapt to our constantly changing environment.

This year, we thought hard about how to ease the pains that everyone is feeling. Students have not been able to go to school and there has been a lot of anxiety in families trying to ensure that educational gaps do not emerge. It is imperative for us at the UBA Foundation that our impact programmes do not wane. We also need to design them to be as inclusive as possible so that those students who don’t have easy access to computers can still participate in the competition with a chance to win grants towards their tertiary education.”

Atta explained that the choice of topic for this year’s edition is one that helps promote creative and analytical thinking in students, whilst helping them become problem solvers.

All entrants are to handwrite their essays and upload scanned copies of their handwritten entries as well as ID on the digital portal at www.ubagroup.com/national-essay-competition before October 2, 2020. They may also drop off the handwritten essays at their nearest UBA business office for onward submission to the UBA Foundation.

The judges, who are made up of esteemed professors from reputable Nigerian universities will receive all the essays on a digital drive, evaluate them and select the top 12 finalists all of who will take home consolation prizes including personal computers.

The finale of the competition this year will be conducted virtually as the initiative rolls out across 19 more countries in Africa.

UBA Foundation embodies the UBA Group’s CSR objectives and seeks to impact positively on societies through several laudable projects and initiatives. The foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of books to students across Africa under the ‘Read Africa’ initiative, aimed at encouraging and promoting the reading culture among African youths.

Students can apply for the National Essay Competition 2020 at: www.ubagroup.com/national-essay-competition. The UBA places a high premium on the National Essay Competition.

The Group Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, UBA Plc, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, in his congratulatory message to the winners in one of the past editions, said “We are encouraged by the impact this initiative has had and as such we are extending it to other parts of Africa. Already we have replicated this in Ghana and Senegal with many more to come,” Uzoka noted.

“UBA as a bank is happy that it is touching lives and making solid impacts through this competition and the grant it gives out to those who emerge winners.

“Seeing past winners tell their stories about the impacts the grants have made on their education and particularly how the financial burden was lifted off their parents, give us joy, that our foundation is unique and stands out from others in touching lives.

“The essay competition has produced 96 winners since its inception in 2011 in Nigeria, with winners studying varied courses in universities in Nigeria and African continent. I must also state here that we want to make sure that the grants are given to those who really need them. That is why we restrict the support to schools within Africa alone. If by chance the parents of any winner sends his or her ward to an elite school outside Africa, we would not go ahead with that support, because what we are really after are those who really need the grants and contribute to the development of the African continent,” he added.