Winners in educational competitions in Nigeria have been poorly rewarded, compared with those in entertainment competitions. Entertainment competitions receive more coverage, attention and sponsorship while participants of educational contests languish in misery.
As the Big Brother Naija reality TV show, 6th edition kicks off today with a N90million grand prize for the winner, many Nigerians have asked why the attention given to the entertainment sector by government, brands and individuals is not extended to the education sector. Some educationists have asked why such huge sums of money are not channelled to the educational sector or used to fund the various innovations by students in secondary and tertiary schools.
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Awkward educational awards
Some best graduating students in Nigerian universities have been rewarded with some bizarre items, ranging from a tuber of yam, trophies, plaques, and as low as N200. A photograph of a best graduating student from the Chukwuemeka Odunegwu Ojhukwu University (COOU) with a tuber of yam and a chicken as rewards for his achievement captures the treatment meted to Nigeria’s future leaders.
There are many reported cases of awards given to best graduating students, including Bamisaye Tosin, who got N200 as the best student of the Department of Civil Engineering in the Ekiti State University (EKSU).
At the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Oluwole Hikmat Ibrahim-Buruji got N2,000 as the best graduating student from the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies in 2016.
A best graduating student from the Mass Communication Department, University of Ilorin, Durowaiye Gbemisola, unlike numerous students that got a ‘handshake’ only, said she got N10,000 as prize money, but added that while her focus was not on the money, a better remuneration plan should be devised to encourage scholarship.
Best graduating students in schools and winners of educational contests get claps, counselling and computers.
However, the story is different in the entertainment sector as entertainers and competitors are handsomely rewarded with huge prize money and many non-monetary prizes, ranging from vehicles, houses, ambassadorial positions, all-expense-paid foreign trips to the year-long supply of free products.
Findings by Daily Trust show that rewards of winners of entertainment contests and educational contests have a wide margin, which experts and Nigerians attributed to the little attention the education sector has garnered despite its role in nation-building.
According to newspaper reports, 21 students who participated in eight educational competitions in the country between 2018 and 2020 got total prize money or scholarship grants of N35, 900, 000.
The first, second and third winners of the 2020 United Bank for Africa (UBA) Foundation Essay Competition got a scholarship worth N6million. The 2019 winners of the Cowbellpedia Secondary Schools Mathematics Television Quiz Show for both senior and junior secondary categories got a total prize money of N9million.
The champions were also given an all-expense paid educational excursion outside Nigeria. At the end of the Nigerian Stock Exchange 2019 essay competition for senior secondary schools, all winners got N950, 000 in a scholarship fund for university education and N1, 250, 000 worth of equity investment and laptops.
The two 2019 national champions of the Nigeria Spelling Bee were rewarded with N2million scholarship and N200, 000 cash prize. Also, the winner of the 2018 Nigeria ICT Olympiad got a cash prize of N250, 000 with a N150, 000 worth of year training, new laptops and trophies.
The Interswitch SPAK National Science Competition rewarded winners with a total of N12.5million worth of tertiary education scholarship for at least one with monthly stipends and laptops.
Among the top educational contest in the country is the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) National Science Quiz Competition, where the 2018 winners were awarded N750, 000 scholarship award per session, while zonal winners got a one-off scholarship award of N100, 000 totalling N1, 350, 000 scholarship awards. The three winners at 2019 PZ Cussons Chemistry Challenge got a sum of N2, 250, 000 alongside trophies, medals and a year supply of soap.
The deputy controller, information and public relation of the National Mathematical Centre, Abuja, Dr Onyekachi Njoku, said winners of the annual Nigerian National Mathematical Sciences Olympiad conducted by the centre got scholarships to world-class universities of their choice.
He said they also got medals, plaques and certificates. On cash rewards to the winners, he said “as a government we cannot mention the financial incentives. There are cash rewards by the centre, but it cannot be made public.”
Winners of the Nigerian National Mathematical Sciences Olympiad represent the country in the International Mathematical Sciences and Olympiad competition in Mathematics Physics Chemistry Biology and Informatics.
He noted that there are no substantial responses from efforts to partner firms on rewarding winners of the competition.
BB Naija tops reality television shows with high rewards
Six winners of different reality television shows in a year were rewarded over N83million, while they also received over N90million worth of prizes.
The 2019 winner of Big Brother Nigeria got a cash prize of N30million, alongside other prizes worth N30million.
The Nigerian entertainment competitions have become a get-out-from-poverty free card for many Nigerians.
Every year and season, winners and contestants of these competitions get to walk away with huge cash and gift prizes, which in turn cause a whole lot of crowd to show up for auditions during the next season.
The winner of the 2017 BBNaija season, Michael Efe Ejeba, walked away with a cash prize of 25million, followed by Miracle Igbokwe, who won the 2018 season with a cash prize of N25million and gift prizes worth N45million.
With a lot of great reviews and audience over two years, the prize money was increased by an extra N5m cash, as the next winner, Mercy Eke walked away with N30m cash and N30m worth of gift prizes in the 2019 season. The 2020 season ended with Olamilekan Agebleshe as the winner. He walked away with N30m cash and N45m worth of gift prizes.
Also, winner of the 2021 Nigeria Idol Kingdom Kroseide got a N30m cash prize and over N20m worth of other prizes, including a Sport Utility Van (SUV). Organisers of another music reality television show, The Voice Nigeria, increased the cash prize for the 2021 edition from N7m to N10m, while the winner gets other prizes, including a recording deal as well as a vehicle.
The winner of the 2020 MTN Yellow Star received an N5 million cash prize alongside a music scholarship. The winner of the fifth edition of a reality television cooking show, Knorr Taste Quest also got a N5 million cash prize, a vehicle, electronics and some kitchen appliances.
The winner of the Glo-sponsored Dance with Peter reality television show walked away with N3m cash, an SUV and other prizes.
For most of these contestants, life becomes more interesting and fulfilling for them as they are often called upon by big brands and governors of their states to either be their brand ambassadors, hold political titles and are given some gifts.
In 2018, after emerging the winner of the 2018 BBNaija season, Miracle Igbokwe was also given N2m and a piece of land by the then governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha. In 2020, the Bayelsa State Government also showed support to two contestants from their state who made it to the show by granting them political appointments as senior special assistants to the governor.
Laycon, who emerged as the winner of the BBNaija season 4 reality show, was also showered with luxurious gifts from the Ondo State Government. He was made a youth ambassador and was given a 3-bedroom bungalow and N5m cash. The same is not meted to winners of educational shows. Most of the winners are not well recognised after their feats. They are often never heard of at the end of the competition.
The winner of the 2017 Africa Spelling Bee competition, Sheriff Muhammad, in an interview with Teen Trust, said winning the competition gave him a more insightful perspective about his goals, but decried the contextual collective view of the education sector.
“Judging from the contemporary definition of celebrity and how modern the society has depicted it, I wouldn’t call myself a celebrity because I am not as famous as the musicians, artists, actors and individuals in the entertainment industry.
“Maybe the contextual collective view of the education sector isn’t much appreciated as the entertainment industry, so I can’t really tag myself a celebrity. Sometimes it hurts knowing that, but it also gives me the push to change such an absurd narrative.
“However, life as a celebrated African champion has just been there. I am really recognised and revered when I am in my high school or visiting a spelling bee competition.
“It is great to know that your mates, juniors and adults regard you,” he said, adding that his greatest benefit from the competition was not the scholarship prize but the range of other prizes and opportunities that stemmed from winning the competition – both material and immaterial benefits. He is an undergraduate in the University of Lagos.
Trends worry educationists
A development consultant, Tunde Akanni expressed worry that the growing trend of rewarding entertainment and reality show stars with mouth-watering gifts at the detriment of academic genius portends grave dangers for the country.
The scholar said Nigeria needed to reassess its cultural inclination and value system.
“As Nigerians, we have to reassess the focus of our current cultural inclination. What exactly do we think we are doing? Where are we headed? Are we not drifting? Do we think what we are doing will earn us a better future? We need to ask ourselves these questions.
“How much are the best graduating students entitled to? How much is given to reality show winners? It is obvious that the society tends to prefer celebrities to academic geniuses, but it is not all of us who prefer the entertainment players,” he said.
He said the trend had started encouraging more students to focus on becoming entertainment stars instead of striving to become academic geniuses who stand a better chance of contributing to the development of the country.
“Quite a number of students tend to get more involved in being musicians or entertainment celebs rather than academic genius because they know you get faster reward being a player in the entertainment sector than working towards being great intellectuals, which takes more time, which is more demanding but serves the society better,” he added while calling on major stakeholders, including religious bodies, corporate organisations and the family to reverse the trend.
“If we don’t do it, we are toying with the future of our society,” he warned.
Also, an educationist, Olasunkanmi Opeifa, said education as an industry had suffered a high level of degradation, especially when it comes to rewards, recognition and due respect that should be accorded major players (teachers) and the products (students) when any of them stands tall to represent academic prowess.
Opeifa, who won the 2018 Maltina Teacher of the Year award said that of recent, a prominent university in the country gave a shame-laden amount of money to its best students.
“Many teachers had prepared students for competitions with the glorious outcome and all they got was ‘God will reward you.’ All these wouldn’t have been an issue if other industries, especially entertainment and sports don’t get rewarded and recognised handsomely for their feats. It will then be our culture of reward system.
“I remember the case of Laycon, who, after winning a reality show that brings a lot of questions to the mind when it comes to promoting morality, values and intellectuality, got rewarded in millions and got recognised as an ambassador for youth by the government.
“It can be said that we have a long way to go. There are teachers and students in the country who have represented the country at different global stages with outstanding performance and the federal government never gave a mention, let alone reward,” he lamented.
Another educationist, Yussuff Oriyomi, said it’s a reflection of our deteriorating value system as a people.
“We celebrate ill-gotten wealth without questioning the source. We celebrate music with no moral content, we celebrate questionable success. But we don’t celebrate hard work, ingenuity, innovation and academic excellence as we should,” he said.
According to him, the low value placed on these things reflects in the rewards organisers of educational competitions attach to them and the patronage or viewership they get from us.
“If we want to move forward and join the league of successful nations, then it is high time we started encouraging and rewarding academic excellence as serious nations do,” he said.
He, however, advised that teachers and winners of educational competitions should be properly recognised and celebrated. He said, “There is the need to give appropriate monetary and other rewards to winners of educational competitions, increasing the number and scope of competitions and institutionalising more academic completions and encouraging participation by both private and public schools.”
The former chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), University of Lagos, Prince Oriwaye J. Adefolalu, said it was grossly a matter of misconduct for any institution, including governments, to place more priority on the entertainment industry than education.
He said, “The kind of priority our society places on entertainment competitions like Big Brother Naija above education, such as Cowbell and rewards for best graduating students has shown clearly that we don’t value education any more. It is very sad.
“Let me cite an example with the winner of last year’s Big Brother Naija competition, Laycon, who was rewarded by the Ogun State governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun. He gave him N5m, in addition to a house. This is unfortunate.
“Our governments are not helping the matter. Sometime this year, the governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, organised a stakeholders meeting, where he claimed that the state didn’t have money, and as a result of that, the subvention the state used to give to tertiary institutions had to be reduced to half. Since then, the Ekiti State University could not meet the payment of its staff salaries and allowances, not to talk of meeting other academic expenses.
“With meagre funding, no meaningful academic teaching and researches can be carried out in such an institution. The same thing applies to other universities, most especially the federal universities. It is sad to write that majority of those that are in the saddle of leadership in Nigeria today were beneficiaries of various scholarships, grants and prizes. Today, the story has changed,” he lamented.
Also, the chief executive officer of Standard Mandate International, an educational consultancy firm, Dr Nelson Ayodele, said placing more priority on entertainment competitions above educational ones was a bad trend, which government must deliberately curb.
“When the major role players are not ready to spend money on the right priority, it will keep us underdeveloped as a country for a longer time. We will also continue to have a high number of out-of-school children. Insecurity will also abound,” he said.
Parents point accusing fingers
A parent, Adeola Ayinla, said the disturbing rewards of best graduates were gradually spreading to secondary and primary schools.
“It is difficult to say if the universities’ poor recognition of graduating students influenced the choices of primary and secondary school management in insulting the intellects of these children.
“You would be surprised with what students in secondary schools get after distinguished themselves in learning. However, I am sure these students are not discouraged in their quest to being the best.
“My husband graduated as the best graduating student in a federal university in northern Nigeria but he got nothing though the letter stated that he was entitled to N10, 000.
“But he said he did not collect the reward as the recognition was enough for him. His pride was in how the award transformed him into being exceptional in his endeavour. That, he said, was a win for him,” she said.
She said some Nigerians did not appreciate scholarship, especially the well-to-do people; hence their sponsorship of entertainment programmes.
“Check those people that graduated with very good grades, especially as best students; they are instrumental in moulding other students to become same.
“Some of those in government are not interested in education. What do you expect from someone in government without a first degree or that had let-my- people-go? Don’t get me wrong, it is not a yardstick to be passionate about education, but you can’t give what you don’t have,” she added.
Mrs Amina Bassey blamed the government, parents and stakeholders in the educational sector.
“A child who sees the parents watching more of entertaining shows than educational shows can boldly assume that the audience find educational competitions or shows to be boring and will definitely not want to sign up for any educational competition in their school,” she said.
Another parent, Mrs Ene Duncan, expressed concern over how entertainment had been prioritised over education. She said, “There is very little the government can do; after all, these shows run on privately-owned television stations. However, companies who are always willing to sponsor entertainment shows should invest some of the money to educational competitions too.”
She further explained that there might not be so much financial profit to be made, however, their major profits are the children who come out smarter and brighter after these competitions.
How BB Naija raked in N43bn in four years
The Big Brother Naija television show may have raked in N43b in the past four years, just from telecom subscribers voting for their favourite housemates between 2017 and 2020.
This figure excludes sponsorship and advertisements that are heavily prominent on the seasons of the show, held once every year for between 70 and 90 days.
According to records, when the Nigerian version debuted in 2017, the regional director M-Net/Africa Magic, Wangi Mba-Uzoukwu, said a record-breaking 26 million votes were recorded in the final week of Big Brother Naija, with 11m votes recorded previously. That is about 37m votes at the cost of N100 per vote via the telecom lines, comprising MTN, Glo, Airtel and 9mobile. At this rate, the organisers were said to have generated N3.7b.
In the 2018 season of the reality show, Big Brother Naija, tagged “Double Wahala,” was said to have raked in about N5.1bn from just voting by telecoms subscribers.
The Pepper Dem season of the Big Brother Naija Reality TV Show in 2019 raked in an estimated N7.2bn from the votes through the telecoms lines by viewers.
Each vote costs N30 and the host of that season, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu said the season got over 240m votes. Out of this, over 50m votes were cast in the final week of the season, amounting to N1.5bn.
In the 2020 edition of the reality TV show tagged, ‘Locked Down,’ there were over 900m votes, officials said, making it the biggest season ever since the series launched in 2006. At an N30 SMS cost for the 900m votes, the organisers made about N27bn from the season.
Why trend will remain – Showbiz entrepreneur
A showbiz entrepreneur, Ayo Onikoyi, said entertainment was a big business that guaranteed a return on investment for the organisers and sponsors.
“Most of the corporate bodies that sponsor these programmes are looking for opportunities to promote their businesses. How does investment in education bring a return to them? They do that based on social corporate responsibility, but to promote their business, entertainment is the in-thing,” he said
He said the companies backing the reality shows are not doing it because of emotion, but business decisions as entertainment controls huge followership.
“You are talking about prize money for reality TV shows, what about those endorsed as brand influencers? That is another goldmine. There is huge money in entertainment.
“These companies are not supporting the shows based on emotion, but purely on business. They are promoting their own businesses. Look at the entertainers, they have a huge influence.
“For instance, anything you do with Davido, who has over 20 million followers on Instagram, would definitely bring a return on your investment,” he added.
Onikoyi said organisers of reality shows also make returns from them, stressing that in most instances, the prize money is not up to 10 per cent of what they make.
Innovations without support
Nigeria has witnessed several innovations from students of both secondary schools and the university, but interestingly, none has received support from federal, state ministries or private individuals or organisations.
Some students of Computer Engineering, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, have 12 inventions, including an automated irrigation system. The device automatically turns on the water when the soil needs it and shuts it off when the soil is well irrigated.
Also, students of the Cross River State University of Technology (CRUTECH) invented a solar element stove. The invention won the Nigerian Content Science and Technology Innovation Challenge c (STIC) organised by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).
A group of students from the Glisten International Academy, a private school based at Jahi, Abuja, this year produced a robot called, “Mairobot,” to assist frontline health workers reduce their physical contacts with COVID-19 patients at isolation wards, thus reducing their chances of being infected with the virus.
Mairobot was designed with compartments that can carry medications and could be remote controlled by a driver from the doctor’s consulting room to move into the isolation wards to dispense medications to COVID-19 patients.
With the robot, health workers can take the temperature of patients remotely, and as well have conversations with them without entering the isolation wards, thus reducing the risk of being infected with the virus.
Education budget still low
Over the years, the education sector is said to be neglected by the government as the budget for the sector is always low, compared to what other sectors get.
In the 2021 appropriation bill, the education sector is to expend about N742.97bn, which is 5.78 per cent of the estimated N13.8trillion, as against the allotted N691bn (6.69%) in the 2020 budgetary allocation.
The tally of previous years showed that in 2019, N620.5bn (7.02% of the N8.8trn proposed budget) was allocated to the sector, while in 2018, N605.8bn (7.04% of the N8.6 trillion) was allocated.
Education remains top priority – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari has said improving quality of education will continue to be his government’s priority.
President Buhari spoke on Thursday while receiving the proprietress, principal and students of a private school, Premier Pacesetters School, Daura, Katsina State, at his house.
The President, who said more emphasis would be given to the improvement of education, added that “We will allocate an increasing share of resources to improve learning in the country in our effort to reform the educational sector”.
The President, who interacted with some of the children, stressed the importance of character, in addition to learning.
Buhari, in a statement issued by his media aide, Garba Shehu, urged them not to lose sight of the aspirations of the country.
Taiwo Adeniyi, Chidimma C. Okeke, Rosemary Etim Bassey, Simon Echewofun Sunday, Muideen Olaniyi (Abuja) & Abiodun Alade, Christiana T. Alabi (Lagos)