• Friday, December 01, 2023
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Boosting innate talent of African youths


Alex Chiejina

Alex Chiejina writes that the just ended brain quiz competition shown on television channels across Africa generated enormous excitement and interest, especially among Nigerian undergraduates. Indeed, for the 15 weeks that the programme lasted, millions of viewers, especially the young, were glued to the television sets enjoying the huge talent Africa showcased on the fast-paced pan-continental quiz.

Zain Africa Challenge, which is part of the phone company’s corporate social responsibility efforts targeting education, is the first ever continent-wide televised academic competition among students at African Universities. The annual programme which is orgnaised as a knockout tournament, resulting in a final champion delivers grants to all participating universities and students based on their ranking in the tournament.

Sixteen Nigerian Universities participated in this year’s National Qualifying Tournament. Five universities made it to the Uganda finals. These are the University of Ibadan, University of Jos, University of Abuja, University of Nigeria and University of Maiduguri.

University of Ibadan won the Season 3 of Zain Africa Challenge last year but did not go far this year. Two Kenyan universities squared off in the finals with Egerton University emerging champions ahead of African Nazarene University.

Over 100 universities in Africa competed for the Zain Scholars Trophy and a share of over $1,000,000 USD in grants and prizes. The National Qualifying Tournament for each country held in November 2009. The top 32 national teams then competed in a knockout tournament at the International Championship Festival in Kampala, Uganda. A Nigerian University, the University of Ibadan emerged the overall winner of the last edition (Season 3) of Zain Africa Challenge after six gruelling months of competition. For that feat, the University got $50, 000 in cash grant from Zain while each of the students in the finals received a grant of $5,000. Their coach also received a grant of $5, 000

For Nigeria where the delivery of education has suffered from years of neglect compounded by inadequate attention to policy frameworks within the sector, Zain Africa Challenge showed what talents abound in the nation’s tertiary institutions if only the right things are done to harness them.

“Zain Africa Challenge is a powerful testimony of the company’s commitment to the advancement of youth talent through its support for education as well as its social and community initiatives. This is what our ‘wonderful world’ of Zain is all about,” says Chris Gabriel, Zain CEO Africa Operations, in response to a question why the Telco initiated the programme.

“We identified a huge gap in the education sector in Nigeria and Zain Africa Challenge is one of the interventions to remedy the situation,” said Emeka Oparah, Head, PR & CSR, Zain Nigeria. In a remark at a special media viewing organized for select media executives to watch the finals of the Season 4, held at Zain Corporate Head Office, Ikoyi, recently, Oparah reiterated the company’s commitment to the development of education in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. According to him, Zain through Zain Africa Challenge gives Nigerian and African students opportunity to interface and interact with their counterparts from across the continent as a “means of becoming better students and bringing glory to their fatherland.”

Babalola Toluwaleyi, an electrical engineering student of the University of Ibadan, said the programme had helped many universities broaden their reading with the students reading outside their area of study. Toluwaleyi added that it was “a great eye opening experience” as it taught him never to underrate the power of the human brain and to accept that you cannot win all the time.

Dibie Osinachi, also of the University of Ibadan, said the programme was fun, pointing out that one little mistake could spoil all the hard work a team had done. According to him, “Zain has contributed a lot to the educational sector in Africa by helping students understand that reading is not only for the purpose of examination but also for general and extensive knowledge”.

Majeb Oloruntobi also of the University of Ibadan said it was a wonderful experience participating in the programme “The game was not all about winning but about participating and getting to increase one’s knowledge base,” he stated.

To Eneji Palmer, a medical student of University of Jos, participating in Zain Africa Challenge Season IV has broadened his knowledge as well as made him view Africa in a different light. Palmer maintained that ZAC was an answer to Nigerian students’ yearning for a competition, stressing that over 600 students registered to participate in his school. Dada Tolulope said it not only gave him the opportunity to meet some of Africa’s future leaders but also the opportunity to social network, stressing that he would value the friendship he struck up during the competition for life.

Harry Porter, a Chemical Engineering student, University of Lagos, said ZAC was intellectually stimulating. Porter stated that Zain has shown that Africa has the intellectual capacity to compete on the global stage. Deronke Asiwaju, Liaison, University of Lagos, noted that ZAC provided opportunities to the students, universities and Africa as a whole. Asiwaju maintained that it provided opportunities to the young ones to occupy their minds positively and created healthy rivalry amongst them as they compete to be selected to represent the university.

For the universities, she said it provided opportunity for Nigerian universities to showcase their best students. “At last year’s competition, other African universities laughed at us, saying Nigerian universities had come to gather experience but in the end it was a Nigerian university that emerged champion. Am sure this year, they will not forget us in a hurry though Nigerian universities did not cross the quarter finals, we showed them we are a force to be reckoned with in the brain contest. Zain should keep up the good work. In the future, ZAC may well be one of the criteria of rating Nigerian universities”, she added. To Gowon Rakila, University of Jos Coach, it was a nice avenue to lay a good foundation for general knowledge for students.

Also, Bassey Antia, Liaison, University of Maiduguri said ZAC provided the students an opportunity to hone their skills on strategy. Commending Zain for letting students into a wonderful world that many may never have known, Antia said it provided lessons in talent hunting and management, motivation and strength of human spirit. “It is likely to rekindle interest in brain contests, encourage the cultivation of encyclopaedic knowledge, spawn intra-and inter-university quiz competition, all of which should beneficially refocus tertiary education students on acquiring knowledge rather than on merely passing examinations,” he stated. Viewers at home have also commended the programme for its educational quality.

Bukola Aderinto, who won a Nokia N95 in the Home Viewers Game series of the competition, said with our television stations daily been inundated with one reality show or the other, some of which are mediocre, Zain Africa Challenge was a breath of fresh air. “It was entertaining as it was educating. Nothing could hold me back in the office on Wednesdays as I hurry home to watch the programme,” she adds.