Winners have emerged in the seventh Lafarge Africa National Essay Competition in Nigeria with the theme “Building the Nigeria of my dreams”. The competition, open to pupils aged 9-13 in public primary and secondary schools in the Junior and intermediate categories opened for entries on the 4th of December 2020 until the 15th of January, 2021. Sixteen hundred participants from all the thirty-six states in Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja enrolled for the competition.
Miss Ewaade Adebowale of Alapere Primary School, Alapere-Lagos, who emerged the overall winner in the Junior category was awarded a cash prize of N1.5 million in the Diamond category while Zainab Saliu of Ummul Khair Model School, Lagos and Emmanuel Somefun of Community Nursery & Primary School, Magodo Lagos won N1 million and N750,000 in the Gold and Silver categories respectively. They also won many other exciting educational consolation prizes. In the Intermediate category, Miss Bilkisu Aliyu of U.B.E Junior Secondary School, Abaji, F.C.T emerged the overall winner to cart home a cash prize of N1.5 million in the Diamond category while Ekpono Obot of Uyo High School, Uyo, Akwa Ibom and Alexandra Pearl Egonu of Federal Government Girls College, Nkwelle, Anambra State won N1 million and N750,000 in the Gold and Silver categories respectively.
The annual Lafarge Africa National Literacy Competition was launched as a flagship Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) intervention by Lafarge Africa in 2014 and has since grown to become a national initiative positively impacting children and teachers across the country.
Speaking during the presentation of prizes to the winners, the Chairman, Lafarge Africa Plc, Mr. Adebode Adefioye said: “Lafarge Africa is making strategic investments across all levels of education in Nigeria”. While quoting statistics from the United Nations International Children Education Fund (UNICEF), that says an estimated 10.5 million children are out of school in Nigeria despite the fact that primary education is compulsory, Mr. Adefioye said Lafarge wants to leave a legacy of good education that will be qualitative and the annual literacy competition is part of the steps to prepare our youth for the future.
Also speaking during the event, the Country Chief Executive Officer, Lafarge Africa, Mr. Khaled El-Dokani, noted that the essay competition is a testament to the company’s commitment to contributing to the development of the Nigerian child through literacy. He said: “We recognize that the depth and quality of a country’s human capital are as important as its physical infrastructure, hence, our investment over the last seven years in enhancing the Nigerian educational sector just as we are committed to empowering Nigerians through our world-class building solutions. One of our key sustainability priorities at Lafarge Africa is our commitment to our communities through education and we are actively collaborating with the government and the private sector to improve the country’s literacy ratio towards making an impact in reducing the World Bank estimate which states that over 80 percent of Nigerian primary school-leavers cannot read”.
Zuriel Oduwole, the renowned Teen Filmmaker, Presidential Envoy & Advocate best known for her work focused on the advocacy for the education of the girl child in Africa in her keynote address encouraged the pupils to dream big at all times resulting in her meeting with President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique in 2017 to discuss the negative impact of child marriage on the development of girls and the society. Sixteen months later, in June 2019, Mozambique officially outlawed child marriage. ‘I have learned that if your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.’ she stated.
Also, the First Lady of State State, Her Excellency Dr. (Mrs.) Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu applauded Lafarge Africa for consistently investing in initiatives that have a direct impact on the literacy ratio in the country.
According to Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, the Communications, Public Affairs and Sustainable Development Director Lafarge Africa Plc, the company’s educational intervention is recognized by national and international organizations for its consistency and far-reaching impact. ‘We intend to continue our theme of Bridging the Literacy Gap Together in the coming years working with crucial partners in order to enhance literacy of our children in Nigeria,’ she stated.
The national essay competition which was supported by the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEBs), the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), and the Federal Ministry of Education is aligned with 5 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 1 -No poverty, SDG 4 -Quality Education, SDG 5 – Gender Equality, SDG 11 – Reduced inequalities and SDG 17 – Partnership for the goals. Lafarge Africa over the years has worked in partnership with the Ovie Brume Foundation founded by Mrs Evelyn Oputu who is the foundation Chairperson with Ese Brume as the Executive Director.
The prize presentation ceremony was a hybrid event in Lagos in compliance with the COVID-19 protocols and had over three hundred pupils join virtually. All submissions for the competition were received through the www.learnwithlafarge.com competition portal and thereafter reviewed and shortlisted by an independent jury made up of Ruth Osime, the ThisDay Style Editor, Otto Orondaam, Founder, Slum to School and Dr. Mo Adefeso Olateju, founder of TEP centre. The submissions were reviewed in three levels of assessments.
Lafarge Africa worked in partnership with the Ovie Brume Foundation and PriceWaterHouseCoopers to deliver this intervention.
Also present at the event were the First Lady of Gombe State, Her Excellency Hajiya Asma’u Inuwa, the Honourable Commissioner of Education in Ogun State, Gombe State Professor Arigbabu, the Honourable Commissioner of Education Gombe State Mallam Ibrahim Batari and the Honourable Commissioner of Education, Cross River State, Dr Amanke Ogar.