Students of Regina Pacis Model Secondary School, a Catholic girls’ school in Onitsha, Anambra State have won the gold medal in the junior team of World Technovation Challenge which held at the Silicon Valley, San Francisco, US, on Thursday.
The five girls – Promise Nnalue, Jessica Osita, Nwabuaku Ossai, Adaeze Onuigbo and Vivian Okoye represented Nigeria and Africa, defeating contenders from America, Spain, Turkey, Uzbekistan and China who were among the 10 finalists of the original 115 who started the competition.
The youngsters, ages 12 to 14, who were led by the school’s director, Rev. Fr. Vincent Ezeaka and Mrs. Uchenna Ugwu, developed a mobile app to detect fake drugs.
Speaking with Daily Trust, Nnalue, said they were motivated to embark on the project due to the number of deaths they had heard about in Nigeria as a result of fake drugs.
The 14-year-old, said, “We were motivated to create this Fake Drug Detection app (FD-Detector) to end the deaths. We couldn’t just let people die from fake drug use.
“What we have now is a demo and we have been given permission to go ahead to produce it.”
On the benefits of being a part of the contest and lessons learned, she said, “It was good to see young people like us come up with brilliant ideas to resolve problems they were encountering in their respective countries. These problems were vital for their societies, but were not for us as Nigerians.”
For the school’s proprietor and Local Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Archbishop Val Okeke, it was important for the school to undergo a holistic transformation. It was in this regard he overhauled the academics, civics, ethics and entrepreneurial know-how of the school.
It was this approach that triggered the interest if the girls in technological innovations. For five months, under Ugwu’s tutelage, they researched and experimented until they came up with the FD-Detector.
Speaking on the achievement of the youngsters, Archbishop Okeke in an interview with Daily Trust said, “One major aspect that struck me is that these girls are normal children from a normal Catholic schoolwith fees among the least in Onitsha. They don’t pay more than N20, 000. The school was built in the early 60s and was made affordable for every single person interested in giving their child quality education.
He added that, “If they, from such backgrounds, can achieve this feat, then it means other children with proper guidance, structures and environment can be trained to achieve even more.
“Their win demonstrates the great role that the Catholic Church plays in providing good education and how much it can positively influence Nigeria’s young. Catholic schools are known to provide discipline and sound all round education where children can focus and not be distracted. This foundation and routine is what enabled the girls achieve this great feat.
“Their win is an indication that Nigeria has hope and can be better. Children can excel with the right guidance and resources. As adults, we need to guide the young to achieve their potentials and talents.”
While there have been jubilations and accolades for the girls on various platforms including the social media, Maryam Rufa’i who spoke to Daily Trust, said, “the praises should not end there and we all forget after one week. The Federal Government should properly celebrate the girls
"They should see what the school is lacking and join hands with the Catholic Church to improve their structures and encourage the teachers who have expended energy grooming these girls. I am sure that there are more of such girls in the school. For the fact that it is an all-girls school, the government should take keen interest in improving the school. It will be a significant contribution to girl child education that the world is advocating for.”
Technovation is a global programme for girls to learn programming skills they need to emerge as tech-entrepreneurs and leaders.
Annually, girls are invited to identify a problem in their communities, and are challenged to solve them by developing android applications to address the problem.