The 9th edition of the annual Nigerian Secondary Schools Science Fair and Quiz Competition organised by Genius Illumina in partnership with Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and Intel Corporation, kicked off at the University of Lagos on Monday with students from 21 states participating.
Speaking with Vanguard Learning at the event, the Executive Director, Genius Illumina, Dr. Jerry Orhue, said the event is one of the programmes initiated by Genius Illumina aimed at promoting science education.
"This particular event is jointly sponsored by Shell Petroleum Development Company and their Joint Ventures and Intel Corporation. The event is affiliated to the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in the US so winners of the exhibition component of this event will represent Nigeria in US in May at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, all-expense paid," he said.
"There are a whole lot of other programmes we are involved in including a teachers' development programme through which we help in training and retraining science teachers already on the job. We also have a programme called the Programme for the Education of the Girl-child aimed at promoting girl-child education."
Genius Illumina, according to Dr. Orhue, is a non-profit, non-political, non-governmental organisation with a vision to harness and develop the innate imaginative and creative potential of the child.
The lecturer at the Department of Biochemistry, University of Benin, noted that apart from the exhibition component, "there is also a quiz contest alongside that will also be rewarded handsomely. It is all a test of creativity for the children. We are trying to complement Government's effort at developing science and technology, believing that no society or nation can develop beyond her capacity to institute a workable framework for youths and educational development."
He stated that Genius Illumina had single-handedly run the project for five years before Intel came on board and subsequently, Shell.
Speaking on what led to the formation of Genius Illumina, Dr. Orhue said; "Genius Illumina was established in 2004 as a response to the rapidly growing failure in the nation's educational system."
Good enough we had at inception people of like mind who had one or two experiences, either back in school or experiences that they saw other people go through and I personally had quite an interesting experience. I stopped regular school in Class three at the age of 14 years due to inability to pay school fees. I was sent out of school during Mock exam and during WAEC until my Form teacher decided to cover for me.
She told the principal that I had paid even though I had not paid. After missing English Language paper, my teacher felt I was too good to be so frustrated so she covered up for me so I managed to go through, had my school certificate, wrote JAMB and went through the university, had my first degree, got a master's and at the point of going to get a PhD, this thought came up.
"There are so many people at secondary school level who may not have the kind of boost and drive that I had. It was rough going through school and not everyone has that kind of resilience so it was important therefore to as it were, look for people of like mind that we can go to that lower level and encourage the children not to give up no matter what they are going through.
At this event, we are expecting 21 states to participate with each state coming with at least three schools and some schools have up to four projects or more so we are going to do a lot of sensitization, a lot of encouragement just to ensure that children put their hands to work and be creative and the major incentive is the fact that there are so much to be won in computers, cash awards, medals, plaques, as well as the grand prize, the all expense paid trip to the US for the three best schools in the project exhibition category. There is also in the pipeline a N1 million scholarship for those who will win on Thursday when the event will close.
The Genius National Science Expo is an annual festival of Science where students of secondary school age meet to exhibit their creative and innovative talents