By Uchechukwu Nnaike
The UBA Foundation, the CSR arm of the United Bank for Africa recently held its tenth annual National Essay Competition (NEC) in a virtual ceremony that was attended by secondary school students across the country.
The 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.
For the fourth consecutive year, the females led this year’s competition with 14-year-old Abasiekeme Eshiet of Bright Stars Model Secondary School, Akwa-Ibom State winning the star prize. She received an educational grant of N2.5 million 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.
Eshiet, who joined the virtual event from her base in Akwa Ibom State, 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, adding that she would like study at the University in Uyo.
The second prize was awarded to 14-year-old Mofuluwake Adesanya of Spring Forte-Lead College Lagos State, who got a N2 million educational grant, while the third prize of N1,5 million went to 16-year-old Abdulganiyy Habeeba of the International School, University of Lagos.
Eshiet and the 11 other finalists took home their brand new laptop computers to enable them continue to work competitively in a world that is rapidly becoming fully digitalised.
Speaking at the grand finale 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 took 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 effect.
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,” she said.
Also speaking, the Group Managing Director/CEO of UBA Plc, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka commended the 12 finalists, saying that the bank is happy to be touching lives and making a solid impact through the competition, which is now in its 10th edition.
He expressed delight 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 said.
UBA Foundation’s National Essay Competition is an initiative under the education pillar of the foundation. Now in its tenth year, the aim of the NEC is to ensure that more African youths have access to education. 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.