By Job Osazuwa and Ifeatu Agbu
Ten students have proven the popular maxim that ‘what men can do, women can do better.’ This truth was demonstrated recently when the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) inspired secondary school female students to develop interest in science-related courses, through an initiative called Girls in Engineering, Mathematics and Sciences (GEMS).
At a competition the commission organised for science students in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, the Acting Managing Director of the commission, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari commended the 33 finalists for appreciating science at young age and also for leading schools in the region to build their collective future in that direction.
Semenitari stated that the NDDC was using the platform to ignite interest in the young girl scientists, which would, in turn, lead the country to greatness. “It is good for our society, the Niger Delta region and our collective future”, she said. “Consequently, we call on other well-meaning organisations across the region, especially oil and gas companies, to partner with us on the GEMS programme, so that it becomes a worthy and engaging incubator for breeding young girls, who will grow up to conquer the world in various science and technology-related careers.”
The NDDC boss stressed that GEMS was designed to promote innovative research and standards-based practices to stimulate students’ interest and to make learning in the science subjects a pleasurable one.
“We believe that science and technology can become exciting again, for our young ones,” she observed. “GEMS presents a healthy competition that helps our girls interpret science in such a way that we can use science, in a glamorous way, to do everyday things, and resolve everyday challenges.”
She commended the competitors for their academic prowess and urged them to use their innate qualities to open doors of greater opportunities for themselves, adding that they had proven that young girls can use science to surmount the enormous challenges in the society, and to give people better life.
The commission awarded scholarships worth N5 million to each of the five students from Ondo, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers States, to study in tertiary institutions. Adeyeye Ayomide, Orjiugo Amarachi, Francis Bassey, Jeremiah Blessing and Grace Bassey were among the top ten winners. The journey to the finals started with 2, 880 students drawn from Senior Secondary School (SSS) 1 and 2 in Rivers, Bayelsa, Edo, Delta, Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Abia and Imo.
At the event, the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, noted that GEMS programme would give the girl-child, in the region in particular, and Nigeria, at large, a sense of pride, dignity and opportunity to excel in science studies, which before now had been dominated by their male counterparts.
Onu, who was represented at the event by a director in the ministry, Dr. Nnenna Okoronkwo, said the Federal Government places high premium on science, technology and innovation. The minister observed that the Niger Delta region is highly endowed with enormous human, capital and natural resources, which has made it very strategic to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.
“I am indeed proud of the achievements of all the girls and implore them to see this exercise beyond mere competition and awards,” he said. “Indeed, projects exhibition is one of the best learning experiences a student can undertake, because it encourages critical thinking in solving practical and challenging problems. Furthermore, it showcases students’ creativity, broadens their horizon, helps in acquisition of relevant skills in goal setting, self-sufficiency, planning, as well as oral communication.” The rigorous elimination processes which were anchored by selected academicians saw the overall winner, Miss Adeyeye Ayomide going home with a trophy, tablet computer for educational programmes, a gold plaque, N200, 000 and five million naira scholarship for her 5-year tertiary education period.
The first runner-up, Amarachi Orjiugo, from Rivers State, carted away N100, 000 cash, five million naira scholarship, plaque and a tablet computer, while the second runner-up, Edidiong Bassey, from Akwa Ibom, received N50, 000 cash prize, five million naira scholarship, a plaque and tablet computer.
The NDDC directors in Bayelsa State contributed N300, 000 to the student from their state, Ebi Agbodobiri, for scaling through to the final. Similarly, all the directors from the nine states also contributed N500, 000 to the student from Ondo, for thinking outside the box, to choose a project on Mathematics.
Apart from rewarding the students, the commission also promised to build and furnish Chemistry, Physics and Biology laboratories for the schools the three top competitors represented.
The first prizewinner, Adeyeye, obviously delighted, said she never thought her project could be adjudged the best. “I give God the glory and l thank NDDC for giving us the opportunity to develop our talent,” she said.
The consultant for the GEMS competition, Mrs. Virgina Major, stated that the competition would help to bring out the innate talents of the girls and to boost their confidence in trying out new things in science and technology.
She explained that the students were scored based on content, demonstration of brilliance and intellect, interest in the project, confidence, practical relevance of project to the society. Other areas the judges considered were: clear understanding of the project, use of technology and potential for further studies, among others.