It was an all-female affair as 15-year-old Samuella Sam-Orlu of British Nigerian Academy Abuja emerged the overall winner of the 2017 edition of the UBA Foundation National Essay Competition, winning an educational grant of N1 million to study in any African university of her choice, as well as a laptop.
At the grand finale, which was held on Monday at the UBA Head Office, Marina Lagos, Samuella clinched the first position ahead of 11 other finalists selected from over 1,000 entries received by the UBA Foundation from students of senior secondary schools across Nigeria.
A visibly elated Samuella – who was escorted by her guardian, Mrs. Jacqueline Uzoadibe, said that winning the competition would propel her to do more in attaining her dreams of becoming a medical director. “I am very thrilled, and thankful to God. I want to say that I was very grateful to hear my name announced as the winner. I am indeed very grateful to UBA for this huge opportunity and making me believe in myself. This grant will go a long way to support my bid for quality education,” she said.
The second prize was bagged by 15-year-old Deborah Chinwendu Innocent of Enal International Schools Abuja, who won N750,000 educational grant and a laptop, while the third prize went to Yahofon Ettah Essien of Nigerian Christian Institute Akwa Ibom State, coveting a N500,000 educational grant and a laptop. The other nine finalists were given laptops. All 12 finalists also went home with certificates.
While congratulating the winners, Bola Atta, Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of UBA Foundation, commended them for their exceptional brilliance. “Every student who sent in an entry is on a winning streak already. To be confident about your writing skills and thirsty enough to enter a competition to further enhance your educational path is laudable. For those that did not win, I would say, do not be discouraged. Take it as a challenge to perfect your writing skills and enter for the competition again in 2018,” she admonished.
According to Atta, UBA Foundation, being the CSR arm of UBA Plc, makes it a point of duty to give back to communities where UBA operates. Education, she noted, is one of the Foundation’s focus areas as it is the bedrock of any nation.
She then encouraged the finalists to be good ambassadors of the competition, which is in its sixth year in Nigeria, affirming that it would be held every year.
In his remark, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of UBA Plc, Mr. Kennedy Uzoka said the bank was happy that it is touching lives and making solid impacts through the competition.
“Seeing past winners tell their stories on the impact the grants have made on their education and particularly how the financial burden was lifted off their parents, gives us joy that our foundation is unique and stands out from others in touching lives,” Uzoka said.
He informed the gathering, made up of parents, students and the media, that the essay competition had produced over 100 winners, since its inception in 2011 in Nigeria, with winners studying varied courses in universities in Nigeria and within the African continent. “I must also state here that we want to make sure that the grants are given to those who really need it. That is why we restrict the grant 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 need the grant as we contribute to the development of Africa,” Uzoka said.
He encouraged the winners to be of good character, and ensure that, apart from academic excellence, they must avoid any negative action that might dent the Foundation’s image and that of their families.
One of the past winners of the 2011 edition, Miss Enitan Amodu, who is now a Physiotherapy graduate of Babcock University, said the grant had taken a huge burden off her parents financially, and had also helped to build her confidence. “Being a winner of this grant gave me a platform to shine and has helped to reinforce my determination that I can achieve anything I set out to do. That is why every day, with heartfelt gratitude to UBA, I have decided to be a worthy ambassador of the Foundation by keeping the fire burning, most importantly because I don’t want to be another unemployed graduate statistic,” she said
The judges, led by a Professor of English (Gender Studies) and Director of Pre-degree Studies at the University of Uyo, Mrs. Ini Uko, said they were impressed with the participants who showed lots of promise as to what to expect of the future of Nigeria, noting that the students wrote intelligently and their ideas were well articulated, new and refreshing. She noted that the judges were also encouraged by the fact that entries came in from students from all parts of the country.