interviewBy Favour Nnabugwu
With two days to go for the 10th edition of National Mathematics Competition, top 20 pupils and their teachers will go home with mouth-watering prizes.
The competition which is mainly for primary 5 & 6 pupils from around the country is organised by the Nigerian Turkish International Colleges (NTIC) in collaboration with the National Mathematical Centre (NMC), comes up on February 16, 2013.
The Head of Department of Mathematics, NTIC who is also the coordinator of the competition, Mr Yunus Esencayi in an interview with Vanguard in Abuja recently said that winners of the competition would be awarded scholarships to NTIC and their teachers also would go home with pride with prizes for job well done.
What is special about this competition?
For many years, Nigerian Turkish International Colleges (NTIC) has been collaborating with the National Mathematics Centre (NMC) on different issues. NMC is the one selecting students to represent Nigeria in all the mathematics Olympiad competitions. We try to assist them the way we can, in training process. I am a medalist of the Mathematics International Olympiad myself, with a silver medal. So, I am now helping NMC through the courses I teach.
We are organising the National Mathematics Competition together with NMC. The competition has two stages. The first is the state level in which we conduct examination in all the 36 states plus the FCT. We expect that about 20,000 students are going to participate in this competition. After the first stage, the best three students from each state will come to Abuja for the final stage. We will select 20 best students from the final stage who are going to be rewarded with prizes; certificates, medals, cash prizes and also scholarship slots in our colleges. Their teachers and their schools are also given prizes so that we encourage them all.
The reason behind this is that even though mathematics is a key subject for all the science subjects, we observed that there is a mathematics phobia among the pupils. To address this problem, we think that if you conduct a nationwide competition like this, the pupils and teachers would study hard for the competition.
In the first round, the nationwide written examination would be conducted on February 17 and then we invite the state winners here for the final round on March 2 from where we will select overall winners.
Through this competition, the NMC and the NTIC try to identify bright students at a very young age so that we can train them. NTIC gives them chance in our colleges and also NMC trains them to represent Nigeria in international competitions. So, those students identified at an early age would have enough time for preparations and when they represent Nigeria in international competitions, they perform very well and fly Nigeria's flag. And the most important thing for us is all the students participating in the competition work very hard. The teachers have extra time training the students. Apart from their normal class lessons, they come together after for special lessons to prepare for this competition. So, it also increases their level of learning.
Number of brillant pupils:
Through this competition, we have identified and trained a number of brilliant students. Let me give an example of only two of them. Henry Aniobi is a student that we discovered five years ago through this competition. He was offered scholarship in our school and he started training from JSS1. From that first year to now that he is in SS3, he has recorded a lot of achievements including at the most prestigious competition, which is International Mathematics competition with 100 participating countries. He got a bronze medal from that competition which was the best result ever for Nigeria.
After that, there was Pan-African Mathematics Olympiad where he came first in that competition. This was also the best and first victory for Nigeria from the same competition.
Another student, Vincent Anioke was discovered six years ago from this competition and he also participated in International Mathematics Olympiad. He got third place position in nationwide Further Mathematics competition. Also, in SAT exam, which is the famous exam for admission to universities, he got 2390 points, which is a very high score, almost close to the 2400 mark. For his performance in this SAT, he secured admission at the prestigious Princeton University.
Collaboration with NMC:
Well, not like the NMC but the Ministry of Education always supported us in this competition and all other competitions that we organise, like the International Science Olympiad which has been running for four years.
What is the benefit for pupils?
The students and their teachers already know about the next edition, and they have been reading and preparing all year round. This makes them to be on their toes and keep preparing all year round, and this improves their level of learning. Also, because this is a competition and people like competing, the boring side of mathematics will evaporate; it will not be with them anymore. They will see the good side of mathematics, they will try to show their talents and this is something that will keep pushing them to do more. The teachers would also work hard to see that their students are doing well.