A Decade of Changing Lives

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Chiemelie Ezeobi writes that for a decade, the UBA Foundation’s National Essay Competition

has not just changed lives, but has been a breeding ground for young creative writers. This year was not any different in its quest to impact the lives of many students and their communities including the three winners who went home with N6million educational grant alongside laptops for them and nine other finalists

With the quest to breed young creatives as well as promote the reading culture while encouraging healthy and intellectual competition amongst secondary school students in Nigeria and across Africa, the UBA Foundation’s National Essay Competition, was borne.

The UBA Foundation’s Education initiative has been changing lives for a decade as the tertiary education scholarship programme continues to impact the lives of many students and their communities.

A National Competition

Targeted at senior secondary students in
Nigeria, the UBA Foundation’s National Essay Competition is an initiative under the Education Pillar of the foundation. It is organised annually, as 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.

Now in its tenth year, the aim of the NEC is to ensure that more African youths have access to education as the programme also highlights the good quality of education that exists on the continent as it stresses that the grant must be used in any university of the winners’ choice on the African continent.

This year, the first prize for the UBA National Essay Competition is a N2.5 million educational grant, while the second and third prizes are N2 million and N1.5 million in educational grants
respectively, bringing a total number of the scholarships to three.

Topic of Essay

This year, the foundation organised its tenth annual NEC and the young students were to

to write on “Do you think that the lock down during the COVID-19 pandemic was an essential measure in spite of the hardship it brought economically?

What would you have done differently and why?”, a topic quite germane in line with the realities of the pandemic and its attendant consequences.

Selection Criteria, Procedure
As with such competitions, the section criteria and procedure was streamlined. A potential competitor must be a secondary school student and must submit a handwritten essay (750 words maximum), passport photograph, copy of birth certificate and a National ID or passport.

An applicant must also submit their completed contact information (name, age, school, address of school, telephone number, residential and email address).

According to the guidelines, entries received for the competition are reviewed by a distinguished panel of judges made up of professors from reputable Nigerian Universities, who will then shortlist 12 essays for further assessment.

Following this, a second round of competition involves the 12 finalists who writes a second supervised essay from which three best essays will be selected as the overall winners from the 12 finalists emerged from the first round of the competition.

Winners and Prizes

In a virtual ceremony that was attended by high school students from across the nation this week, winners emerged. From the teeming submissions made, 12 persons made the final list and they include Eshiet Abasiekeme, who clinched the first position, Mofuluwake Adesanya who came second, while Abdulganiyu Habeeba came third.

Others include Emenugha Hannah Amarachi,

Ibem Marylyn Anya, Ehibor Favour, Nwabueze Regina Ugochi, Dimaro Tamarapreye, Ozoke Melvin Damian Uchenna, Enobong Flourish David, Chukwuma Light E. C. and Stephen God’s Grant, who clinched the fourth to 11th position.

According to the foundation, for the fourth consecutive year, the females have been leading this competition with 14-year-old Eshiet Abasiekeme of Bright Stars Model Secondary School from Akwa-Ibom state taking home this year’s winning prize.

Eshiet received an educational grant of N2.5million to study in any African university of her choice. She will also be supported throughout her educational career and beyond with constant mentoring by the UBA Foundation.

Abasiekeme who had joined the virtual event from her base in Akwa Ibom state in Nigeria, could not contain her excitement as she heard the announcement that she had won the first prize of the NEC 2020.

“I feel honoured to be the winner of this year’s NEC, and I want to appreciate UBA and UBA Foundation as this will help towards my dream of becoming a lawyer,” she said proudly, expressing that she would like to go to university in Uyo in her home state.

The second prize was awarded to 14 year old Mofoluwake Adesanya of Spring Forte-Lead College Lagos State, who won a N2million educational grant, whilst the third prize of N1.5million went to Abdulganiyy Habeebah, a 16-year old. Abdulganiyy attends the International School, University of Lagos.

Also, Eshiet and the 11 other finalists, took home their brand new lap top computers to enable them continue to work competitively in a world that is rapidly becoming fully digitalised.

Congratulating all the winners at the final event of the competition, the Managing Director/CEO of UBA Foundation, Bola Atta, applauded all the participants for their exceptional brilliance. She explained that the foundation had taken into consideration the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on lives and incomes across board and had increased the prize money by 33 per cent this year to help cushion any negative or inflationary effects.

Emphasising the driving force behind the annual competition, she said, “We are passionate about the annual NEC because it changes lives and helps to improve the quality of lives of students and their families. The NEC helps to improve the quality of writing and competitiveness amongst students.

“We have launched in more African countries this year and would have launched the initiative in 20 countries by the end of 2021. It is not just about writing essays, the ripple effect is really quite enormous, and we are glad that it is cascading to other countries where we operate.”

Also speaking at the opening of the event, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of UBA Plc, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka, commended all 12 finalists, expressing that UBA was happy to be touching lives and making a solid impact through its National Essay Competition, which is now in its 10th edition.

He was very pleased about the fact that more females again came out tops this year, adding that notwithstanding the constraints and challenges of 2020, the foundation received the highest number of entries ever, at over 12,000 digital submissions’.

Uzoka who is also the Chairman, UBA Foundation said, “The NEC has been changing lives positively for 10 years, and we have awarded scholarships to students not just in Nigeria but in other parts of Africa like Ghana, Sierra Leone and Senegal. Some of these students are already graduates and contributing meaningfully to their communities’.

“To all 12 of you that have emerged finalists, I would like to congratulate you. If out of 12,000 entries you were able to make it to the top 12, that represents about 0.12 per cent of the entries. You are no doubt, already a winner,” he continued.

About UBA Foundation

UBA Foundation, as the CSR arm of the United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc, Africa’s global bank, is committed to being a socially responsible company and role model for all businesses in Africa.

As the CSR arm of the UBA Group, the foundation is committed to the socio-economic betterment of the communities in which the bank operates, focusing on development in the areas of education, environment, economic empowerment and special projects. The UBA Foundation was incorporated in January 2004.

Its Board of Trustees include Mr. Kennedy Uzoka as Chairman; Bola Atta as MD/CEO; Mrs. Mary Udu-Ejembi and Dr. Bala Magaji as Trustees.