By Sunday Ani

Again, it was a moment of celebration at the Phidel College, Isheri-Idimu in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State, after the brilliant outing of its students at the National Mathematics Championship for junior secondary schools recently held in Abuja.

Three of its students in the junior secondary school category, who represented Lagos State at the competition in Abuja, made the school and the state proud as they took the first, second and fourth positions in the competition that over 600 students from the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT participated.

Indeed, Phidel College has refused to go away from the public glare; it has remained in the news but for good reasons. Recently, 48 students of the college, who sat for the May/June 2023 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) OF came out in flying colours with the best scoring 8A1 and C. None of the 48 students got less than a credit pass in all the subjects they sat for.

Today, the school is in the news again. This time, it is about Bello Mubarak, Obende Onoseremi and Adejumo Sola, all 13 years old, and in JSS 3, who went for the National Mathematics Championship in Abuja and conquered over 600 students from across the country to clinch the first, second and fourth positions respectively.

Indeed, they brought honour and glory not only to the school and their families, but also, to Lagos State. 

Speaking about the competition, the Mathematics teacher, who also took them to Abuja, Mr. Igbudu Augustine Chinedu, said the school entered the competition which started in Lagos with five students, but two of the students could not make it to the final stage at the state.

He said each school in Lagos was expected to present 10 students for the competition at the state level but because the school got information about the competition late, he could only prepare five students for it.

“After the first stage of the competition, two of our students did not scale to the next stage; so we were left with only three students. The second stage was the zonal final and three of them excelled and qualified for the final stage. At the state final stage, all the schools in Lagos that qualified from their various zones participated. Over 600 students participated in this final stage, where nine students that represented Lagos State were chosen, and all our three students made it to the last nine,” he said.

Having emerged among the top nine students to represent Lagos State at the national level in Abuja, the school equipped the three students with the final arsenals with which they conquered their colleagues during the championship.

According to Igbudu, each of the 36 states and Abuja, presented at least three candidates, with the highest states presenting nine students each. At the last count, over 300 students were battle ready for the competition, which was organised by the Worldwide Television with support from other establishments.

Igbudu said the competition was in oral and written forms. “They will ask you questions and you will write the answers instead of responding orally; that is why I said it was both oral and written,” he added.

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Describing the timing for the competition, he said the organizers initially allotted 10 seconds per question, but as the competition progressed, they oscillated between eight seconds, six seconds, four seconds, and finally, two seconds per question.

“The time started after the quiz master had read the question, and once the bell rang, the student was expected to stop writing to avoid disqualification. They were very strict about timing,” he said.

At the end of the quiz, Bello came top with the first position. He was followed by Obende who took the second position. It was only by hairs’ breadth that the third position slipped away from Phidel College but not the fourth position, which was quickly grabbed by Adejumo, thus placing all the three students from Phidel at first, second and fourth positions respectively.

Apart from medals and certificates, the first position has N1 million prize, second position -N500, 000 while the third position went home with N250,000. Unfortunately, there was no prize money for the fourth position except a certificate and a medal. Speaking about the prize, Igbudu said: “Before now, the first position was N2 million, second position – N1.5 million, third position – N1 million while fourth position was N750,000. There used to be consolation prizes for the fifth and up to the 10th positions, but this time, we were told that the major sponsors pulled out at the last moment, and that affected the whole thing. That was why the prize money was reduced such that the fourth position did not get any prize money. However, they promised to give out gifts starting from the fourth to the 10th positions, but they said that would be later. We are still expecting to hear from them.”

He expressed joy that he was able to groom the students to achieve such a feat for the school. “This is the first time the school is participating in the competition. This is also my first time taking students to the competition. I feel excited and fulfilled about the whole thing. Up till now, I have not recovered from the goose bumps that enveloped me,” he said.

The three students also expressed joy over their success and attributed their feats to various teaching methodologies employed by Mr. Igbudu, as well as their hard work and determination to achieve success in the competition.

Mubarak, who took first position said: “Mr. Igbudu taught us very well. He used various methodologies to teach us and that was how we were able to conquer the competition. Mathematics is just one of my best subjects; I don’t have any best subject, as a matter of fact. I feel very excited about my achievement.”

For Obende, who came second, Mathematics is his favourite subject. “It was through hard work and determination, coupled with Mr. Igbudu’s various methods of teaching that led to our success. I feel very good,” he said.

Adejumo, who came fourth also said: “We worked hard and tried to be the best and we made it, although Mathematics is my second best subject. I feel good even though I wasn’t among the top three. I didn’t get any award, but the medal and the certificate are enough for me.”

Reacting to the feat achieved by the students, Chairman of the Phidel College, Pastor Philip Adelusi, said it was the first time that the school took part in the competition because they had never heard about it before.

“This one is entirely new to us. We know about the Cowbell Competition. We also know of the Olympiad, but this one is completely new to us. I feel excited and elated. This is something that gladdens my heart. I didn’t go into the education business to make money, but to impact the next generation, and these are the people that will take Nigeria to the next level. And that is exactly what gladdens my heart,” he said.

On whether the school has received any kind of commendation from the Lagos State Government, he said: “I am not sure if the Lagos State Government is aware of the feat these children have achieved and the honour they have brought to the state because the government has not reached out to us in any way. However, we are planning to meet with the Director-General, Ministry of Education, to present these students officially to the state government.”