During the first tenure of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Governor of Lagos State, his wife, Oluremi, now a Senator of the Federal Republic started the New Era Foundation (NEF) for the promotion of youth development and women empowerment. During its first year of existence, the foundation initiated the NEF Spelling Bee competition for public secondary schools in the state and thus began a story of sustained achievement.
The NEF Spelling Bee competition was Senator Oluremi Tinubu’s intervention to arrest the steady decline of academic standards in the state. The program seeks to promote greater proficiency in English Language and educational excellence in general within the state’s public school system. The competition which has been extremely successful over the years is open to all public primary and secondary students in Lagos State. The competition’s sustained widespread popularity is no doubt derived from the highly sought-after first prize, which in addition to the cash gifts, provides the winner a life-changing opportunity to serve as the state Governor for a day, as well as a subsequent foreign excursion to Finland for the 1st – 3rd place winners.
This April (3rd & 4th) brought the 12th successive edition of the NEF Spelling Bee Grand Finale which held at its traditional venue of Adeyemi Bero Hall in Alausa Secretariat. All 57 Local Governments and Local Council Development Areas in the state fielded one representative each for the primary and secondary categories, which held on successive days.
These students had scaled the preliminary hurdles of Intra-School and Inter-School stages of the competition to determine who would represent each LG/LCDA.
As usual this year’s edition provided an exciting and riveting spectacle, especially the secondary category on the 2nd day, to the packed auditorium which included the state’s First Lady, Dame Emmanuella Abimbola Fashola, renowned philanthropist and NEF BOT member, Chief Molade Okoya-Thomas, Education Commissioner, Mrs. Olayinka Oladunjoye, Two-Time Lagos State Commissioner, Dr. Leke Pitan, Permanent Secretaries, other State Education officials, teachers and students.
After the very keen competition on the first day (April 3rd), Emeka Chibuike of Housing Estate Primary School in Mosan Okunola L.C.D.A, emerged overall winner in the primary section, smiling home with a cheque of N150, 000, Ajayi Shakiru from R.C.M Pry. School Lekki L.C.D.A, came 2nd and received N100, 000, while Mariam Popoola representing LA. Pry. School, Ilogbo-Elegba in Oto-Awori L.C.D.A. came 3rd and was rewarded with a N75, 000 cheque.
The more prestigious secondary school category took place on the 2nd day (April 4th), delivering its usual dramatic moments in the battle for the 3 final positions. The audience were treated to a roller-coaster experience, learning many new words as usual, as they marvelled at the breadth of the contestants’ vocabulary acquired through intense study underlying their passionate commitment to winning the competition.
After 90 minutes of tension-soaked elimination, during which many students left the stage in tears and one even vigorously disagreed with her elimination, Ms. Lilian Ogbuefi from Lagos State Senior Model College, Badagry West LCDA, emerged the winner and new One-Day Governor in-waiting, after spelling the final word “Ophiophagous”,( a Greek word for snake-eating mammals). Miss Ireti Ogedengbe of Oke-Afa Community Snr. School, Ejigbo L.G.A. came 2nd, while Chibueze Jonathan, representing Sanya Snr. Grammar School, Ijeshatedo in Irire-Ikate LCDA emerged 3rd. They went home with cheques for N250, 000, N150,000 and N100, 000 respectively.
The Executive Director of New Era Foundation, Mr.Yemi Osilaja, while speaking at this year’s grand finale expressed his delight at the sustained impact of the program on children of low income families. “Senator Oluremi Tinubu’s dream of 12 years ago is a proven success today and has produced several First Class Graduates from amongst past winners of this competition. We truly appreciate our esteemed partners, the Ministry of Education for keeping faith with this program for over a decade. Very soon, NEF Spelling Bee will also take off in Ogun State”, he concluded.
The New Era Spelling Bee is distinguished from similar competitions by its unique One-Day-Governor prize and subsequent European educational excursion that affords public school students the rare opportunity to interact with foreign students and exchange cultural knowledge, thereby broadening their horizons permanently. This program is also unique for its sustainability and consistent efforts to maintain contact with all past winners through an established peer mentoring group known as the Council of One Day Governors (CODG). The winner is also awarded a State Scholarship for higher education.