How Mathematics Competition Changed My Life

BY Tope Templer OLAIYAImage

AKINDELE Nurein Oyetobi is a SSS 3 student of Iganmode Grammar School, Ota in Ogun State. He strode in unannounced into the foyer of the Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja, early last month neatly dressed in his school uniform for the official unveiling of the 2012 National Secondary School Mathematics Competition (NASSMAC), organized by Promasidor Nigeria Limited, makers of Cowbell milk.

Unknown to many at the gathering, Oyetobi is the reigning Mathematics champion in the land and 2011 winner of the most prestigious and coveted academic competition for secondary school students in Nigeria. Not one to flaunt his stuff, he maintained his unassuming calmness until the event got underway and he was introduced to the audience.

From that moment on, he was the cynosure of all eyes, as newsmen and photojournalists swarmed on him to ‘cover’ the champion of the dreaded subject. As the programme wore on, several others, especially his colleagues from other schools, intermittently stole a chance to catch his glimpse, but Oyetobi, who was flanked by his mathematics teacher on his left and 2011 runner up, Amuda Tope of Greater Tomorrow International College, Ondo State on his right, sat cool and collected, though with a flicker of a faint smile.

For most people in the audience, it took a great deal of patience for them to sit through to the end of the event as they eagerly awaited the chance of a moment with the Mathematics whizkid. When it came, Akindele was instantly overwhelmed. While reporters shoved him on one side, his colleagues and friends who wanted a photo-op with him dragged him by the other hand.

That is how much the life of the 17-year old Nurein, son of a trader has changed since the days he emerged winner of the Cowbell competition. The first born in a family of five, Oyetobi is not only preparing for his WAEC and JAMB examinations, he is looking forward to flying Nigeria’s flag and come up tops in the World Mathematics Competition. In his usual confident manner, he told The Guardian, “I have no reason to fear, the people from the other countries I would face are also human beings.”

Managing Director of Promasidor Nigeria, Chief Keith Richards, while expressing his organisation’s commitment to continually push the limits of the competition, noted that Mathematics is the bedrock of technological inventions and development. On the significance of the competition, Richards said “Maths requires discipline and concentration, it is science and exact and there are no deviation to the rules. These are the attributes we want to build in the young ones as the future leaders of tomorrow.”

According to Richards, the NASSMAC has continued to experience remarkable national participation and in its last edition, it recorded an impressive turnout of more than 34,000 students participating in the competition, which shows a consistent growth rate in the number of students who take the tests every year.

Speaking on how the competition has affected him, Akindele said “Cowbell has changed my life in many ways because before now, I have never seen myself on TV or in the newspapers, but since I won, I have been hearing my name everywhere. It is a new life. After the competition, we were taken on a vacation to Badagry to spend some days at Whispering Palms, which I enjoyed a lot. We were also taken to the cinemas. I was given N300,000, a laptop and a plague.”

Now that he is relishing being a champion, his eyes is set on becoming a petroleum and gas engineer and his advice for his colleagues is never to fear any subject, especially Mathematics. “There is no almighty subject, all questions can be solved and that is the attitude every young person must carry into adulthood,” he said.

The search for a new Mathematics champion is already on as entries for the 2012 edition of NASSMAC has begun. The competition is open to all students 10 – 18 years of age in JSS3 to SSS2 attending full time secondary education in government approved schools in Nigeria. The first stage examination will hold on Saturday, March 17, 2012 in 200 centres across Nigeria.

Students with the highest scores in both the junior and senior categories from each state will be invited for the second and final stage examination from where the national prize winners will emerge.

The Cowbell NASSMAC started in 1998 with the aim of helping students to demystify mathematics. The competition creates a credible platform for identification and celebration of outstanding students and recognition of exceptional ability.

The competition has become a reference point in educational Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Nigeria.

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