Winners of Bishop Mike Okonkwo’s yearly essay competition were recently presented their prizes at a ceremony in Lagos.
The award was part of the activities commemorating the 77th birthday of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission’s (TREM) founder, Bishop Mike Okonkwo, held at the Muson Centre, Lagos.
Cash prizes of N100, 000, N75, 000, and N50, 000, as well as plaques, were presented to the first, second, and third place winners respectively, while the top three winning schools were also presented computer sets.
Consolation prizes were also given to seven other contestants who were placed fourth to 10th positions.
A final year Senior Secondary School student from State Senior High School in Ikeja, Oluwanifemi Bright Ayeni, emerged overall winner and was presented with a laptop and cash gift.
She scored 58 per cent in the first round and placed sixth, and 65 per cent in the second round to emerge a winner.
Abolaji Yekini of Ijegun Senior Comprehensive High School, Isolo, was the first runner-up. He got 59 per cent in the first round and in the fifth position but scored 64 per cent in the second round to come second.
Leila Eneche of Vivian Fowler Memorial College for Girls, Oregun, Ikeja, obtained 60 per cent in the first round and was fourth. She scored 63 per cent in the second round to emerge the second runner-up.
The chief examiner, Prof. Akachi Ezeigbo, said the committee received over 1,000 entries from secondary schools across the country on the topic, “Nigeria, a country at war against itself: The problems, solutions and way forward.”
Ezeigbo, a professor of English, said the topic clearly mapped out the structural expectations for the informed student, who responded by articulating their understanding of the Nigerian situation in ways that revealed their deep immersion in socio-political issues.
“Writers of the 10 best essays were invited to the second round of the competition to write on the topic: ‘2023 election: A new Nigeria or descent into chaos’.
Ezeigbo, who was represented at the ceremony by Dr. Adaobi Muo, of the National Institute of Nigerian Language, Aba, Abia State, said: “Two surprising outcomes are evident in this year’s result. The first is the back-to-back scores of winners, which showed the keen nature of the competition and the originality of the efforts put into it.
“The second is that no contestant in the first three positions during the first round was able to hold their place. This suggests the involvement of invisible hands during the first round, and also the continuous necessity of the second round in strengthening the integrity of the competition.
“The winners showed an impressive understanding of the two topics and were addressed as exceptional students in their class and category.
Their orderly presentation of ideas and remarkable control of the English Language marked them as meticulous people with huge potential. We congratulate the other finalists and wish them the very best in their future endeavours,” she said.
The academic commended the organisers for discouraging handwritten entries as the submission of word-processed essays, enabled the committee to scrutinise them for plagiarism, adding that when students steal entries from the Internet and do not win the competition, their respect for intellectual property rights will grow.
She added that the competition is helping to put the students in a digital world that is now inevitable in all communications.
To continue improvements in quality and originality, the committee suggested that in future, the implications of plagiarism and receiving undue help should be communicated to participating schools in the call for essays.
In his remarks, Bishop Okonkwo said the yearly event, which coincides with his birthday, is his way of contributing to education.
“I don’t think there’s any country in the world that is endowed as this nation. There is none. The only thing is that they were able to manage what they have,” Okonkwo said.
Ayeni went home with N100, 000, a personal laptop, a trophy and a plague. Her school received three sets of computers.
Yekini was presented with a cheque of N75, 000 and a plague, while his school got two sets of computers. Eneche received N50, 000 cheques and a plague, while her school was presented with a computer set.