By lifting the Cowbell National Secondary Schools Mathematics Competition (NASSMAC) senior category trophy at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja on Thursday last week, Nurein Oyetobi Akindele, ended a 10-year drought for Iganmode Grammar School, Ogun State.
The school is one of the few state-owned public schools that have remained strong contenders in the competition, fighting for a slot in the final stage each year with equally formidable rival schools in Ogun State.
The Cowbell NASSMAC, now in its 11th edition, has gained such popularity over the years that secondary schools worth their salt work hard to groom their pupils to win the competition.
Since only one school per state can make it past the first stage, 16-year-old Akindele, an SS2 pupil, had to ensure that he made the highest score in Ogun State. He not only achieved this but his 86 per cent also tied him with two others from more privileged schools, Charles Nwokotubo of Graceland International School, Port Harcourt and Anioke Vincent of Nigerian Turkish International School, Abuja for the highest score in the country.
To show that Iganmode meant business this year, its three candidates at the first stage of the competition written on March 19 in 200 centres across Nigeria swept the top three prizes in Ogun State. Steven Oriyomi came second with 84 per cent, while Oluwaseun Agunlaoji was third with 82 percent. They rubbished rival schools such as Ota Total Academy whose pupils came fourth, fifth and seventh with 76, 70 and 58 per cent. The best of the other two rival schools, the Ambassadors International College, Ota, and May Flower School, Ikenne, could manage was 57 and 56 per cent – 30 per cent short of what Akindele achieved – though better grades than the best paraded by some other states.
Writing the second stage examination on June 4 at the Lagos Airport Hotel in Ikeja, Akindele said he knew he had to up his game. The 16-year-old said he was aware that those he tied with were equally good so he put his nose to the grind, working even harder.
“I was afraid of Abuja and Rivers because I knew they both made 86 per cent. But I worked hard and I was sure I would be among the 15 to make it to Abuja,” he said.
However, he had to wait until last Thursday to learn the result of his effort. During a colourful prize giving ceremony at the Congress Hall of Transcorp Hilton, the audience erupted in a loud ovation for Akindele when it was announced that he was the overall best with 96 per cent.
In second place with 91 per cent was Victor Tope Amuda, a pupil of Greater Tomorrow International College, Ikare in Ondo State, while 13-year-old Charles Nwokotubo, who was looking to make a record of being the first pupil to win both the junior and senior categories of the competition (he won the NASSMAC Junior category trophy in 2009 aged nine), had to be content with third place with 83 per cent. In 2009, Akindele came second in the junior category in Ogun State so could not make it to the second and final stage.
For winning, Akindele received a cash prize of N300,000, a trophy, laptop, and lots of branded gift items from sponsors, Promasidor. He also gets an all-expense paid trip to Whispering Palms, Badagry, Lagos in company of his Mathematics teacher, Mr Hakeem Atinsola, who was rewarded with N50,000 cash prize. The school gets mathematics textbooks and five desktop computers.
Akindele was overwhelmed with excitement about his win during an interview after the event. However, he was coherent enough to say that the win would make writing future examinations child’s play.
I feel very great. I wanted to jump up but I couldn’t. The competition has a great impact on my studies. We have been preparing since SS1 so WAEC is a walk over. Every school in Ogun State wants to win Cowbell competition. Our rivals are Ota Total Academy, Ambassadors and May Flower
The feat also means a lot to Atinsola, his mathematics teacher, who described it as an encouragement. He has been looking for a win since Iganmode last lifted the trophy in 2001. He said it took sheer determination on his part, the pupils and the school to remain in contention as a public school given that they teach and learn in environment that is not so conducive.
“We won in 2001. In 2005, we came third and Sixth in 2009. It is not easy for teachers in public schools like private schools. If you look at this competition, the public schools are few. It is a challenge. We don’t want it to happen in Ogun State. We are not encouraged by the government.
But I took it upon myself that this glory should come to our school again. In 2009 I was discouraged when we came sixth. When I discovered this boy, I was encouraged that Iganmode will come back to the limelight,” he said.
To prepare for the competition, Hakeem said the school assigned identified math gurus a separate class and began grooming them from SS1 – a year before they qualify to participate in the competition.
He said: “This competition is not a two, three-month affair. We start in their SS1. I have already started grooming SS1 students for next year. We look at their broadsheet to check their performance, especially in Mathematics and Further Mathematics. We choose 10 initially and weed them until four remain. We have a separate class for them. Those selected as Cowbell students are usually good in other subjects as well.
“What we do in our school is that we copied from the way May Flower does their scheme of work. We include Further Maths topics in mathematics.”
In the junior category, it was 13-year-old Abdulrasaq Momoh of Charles Dale Memorial International School, Rivers State who smiled home with a prize of N250,000. First runner-up, Emmanuel Ehinomen Agbonifo of DSC Technical High School, Aladja, Delta State, won N200,000 while second runner-up, Ugochukwu Aghaji of the Nigerian Turkish International College, Wuse, Abuja got N200,000. Their schools got computers and printers.
The other 12 of the 15 finalists in each category got N15,000 as consolation prizes, while those in the top 10 of the senior category all got laptops.
Speaking about the significance of the competition, Managing Director of Promasidor, Chief Keith Richards, said the examination questions have never leaked since inception – a testament of its integrity. He also expressed joy about the popularity of the competition which saw 34,000 junior and senior secondary school pupils participating this year.
“It is hard to believe that 11 years have elapsed since the first edition of the competition was held. Over the years, we have continuously expanded the horizon of the competition – from 50 examination centres to 200 centres; from 4,455 participating schools to over 11,000 schools; from 15,000 students to more than 34,000 students. NASSMAC has grown into a credible and successful examination that all Nigerian secondary schools, teachers and students want to associate and identify with it,” he said.
Source: The Nation