Before COVID-19 caused St. Anthony’s Grammar School Ijebu-Mushin in Ogun state to shut down physical activities, the school had imparted enough knowledge in David Onuoha-Okoro and his sister, Praise, to emerge first in the junior category and ninth position in the senior category respectively of the 2020 SystemSpecs Children’s Day Essay Competition. This was ahead of about 2000 other promising youngsters from ages 9 to 16 across Nigeria who had also sent in entries for the contest.
11-year-old David and his sister, Praise (13) had heard about the competition on their school’s WhatsApp platform. Like many other schools in Nigeria and across the world, their school had fully embraced digital learning. And with the encouragement of their English teacher and their father – and also relying on the knowledge garnered from the Civic Study classes, they submitted their entries.
“I got the inspiration to write from my Civic Studies note, particularly through the topic, ‘National Consciousness,’” David said. The ideas from that note with his original thoughts of how technology could hasten the attainment of a better country, formed the foundation of the ideas that won him an internship placement at SystemSpecs, a brand new a high-performance laptop and a high impact headphone, among other prizes. It also afforded him the avenue to share his bright ideas with the world!
To achieve the Nigeria of his dreams, a country that is globally recognised as a pacesetter, David believes that leaders and followers have vital roles to play: “We can achieve the Nigeria of my dreams when everyone cooperates with the authorities and when the people in authority enhance the adoption of technology in Nigeria,” he said.
“I look forward to a Nigeria where all schools have access to the internet, interactive boards in classrooms, e-learning availability even in rural communities and conducive environment and well-equipped libraries,” David had written in his essay.
“In a competition, you either win a prize or an experience,” said Barr. Innocent Onuoha-Okoro, father of the two youngsters. This clearly was the mentality that helped his children attain success well ahead of hundreds of other participants.
For Toluwase Soniran of Baptist Academy Obanikoro Lagos, the story is a bit different. “I heard about the competition through one of my sister’s friends who had seen the poster and sent it to me. She said it was worth giving a shot.” That shot landed Toluwase the 3rd position in the senior category of the competition.
He started writing less than two days to the submission deadline. “The experience of writing, trying to meet the deadline, was frantic,” he said. Brining with a smile, when his was announced among the top entries, he could not contain his excitement: “Merely looking at the statistics of entrants, I was blown away. Even though I believed in what I had written, the statistics did not appear to have been in my favour. I never expected the competition to be of this magnitude,” said an overjoyed Toluwase.
Giving a glimpse into the Nigeria of his dreams, he shared a vision of “a world superpower, a haven for technological tourism. Advanced transport systems. Young people and everyone being able to access IT. People thinking as innovators and trying to make the world and our country better.”
Toluwase has a word for other young people who would like to participate in the competition in future: “Give it your best shot. Keep trying. Don’t be afraid to fail. We are young; we can make a lot of mistakes right now.” Actually, it is a generally useful piece of advice.
As with many things in life, parents hold a huge bloc of influence in the lives of their young ones. This much was clear in the way Laja Soniran, a management consultant, financial coach and father of Toluwase Soniran encouraged his son.
He said: “I must confess, I did not quite understand most of the things he wrote. So, I wondered where all the ideas came from – talking about mining, steroids, outer space. He knew what he wanted to say. I could not even edit for him.”
Toluwase Soniran and his father are a team and it is not their first time of winning this kind of competition. However, it is the first time the family’s first child would be winning personally. Nonetheless, it appears to only be a sign of greater things to come: “Succeeding does not mean you are not a success; it means you have to do more,” said the head of the Soniran family.
Fikayo Aremu, on his part, provided his 10 years old son Toluwalase – who emerged in 2nd position in the junior category, with the competition’s banner. “I knew it was the kind of things he loves to do, and the first thing he said when he saw it was, ‘I am going to win.’ He came up with his ideas and wrote them one by one. His mom and I encouraged him to research online if he needed to know more. He wrote everything himself! We are really excited at his performance.”
The younger Aremu described the experience of writing the essay as “fine and also very fun.” He would love to see Nigeria become a developed country with the use of technology. His ideas include, among others, the use of technology could improve security, achieve uninterrupted power supply and position Nigeria as a leader in telemedicine and engineering.
Like him, Akorede Otuforowa, 12, of Corona Secondary School, Agbara, Ogun state who came third in the junior category envisions a prosperous and technologically advanced country. The Nigeria of his dreams is one where online schooling, electric trains and cars, internet of things, artificial intelligence and such other advancements are the norm and not an exception.
The SystemSpecs Children’s Day Essay Competition is part of the leading Nigerian technology firm’s corporate social responsibilities geared towards advancing the country’s capacity development and preparing its young population to take charge of a technologically-enabled future. The 2020 edition, which was the first, received from all geopolitical zones across the country – and all states except seven.
Toluwase Soniran had a word for SystemSpecs and corporate Nigeria: “I would like to thank SystemSpecs for reaching out to the younger generation because, right now, older people are in power, making decisions. But it is really nice for a company like SystemSpecs to cater to the interest of the younger generation. And I expect to see more of it from other companies.”