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Nigerian Young Scientists Build Talk Gadgets
Two young boys from Ansar-Ud-Deen Grammar School, Surulere, invented a communication gadget to emerge the National JETS champions. MUSBAU RASAK reports on why students from the school have consistently been in the forefront of scientific and technological revolution among others for the past three years Sitting in a spacious office in the not too expansive compound, Alhaji M.R.S.

Imam, the Principal of Ansar-Ud-Deen Grammar School, Randle Avenue, Surulere, always flashes toothpaste smile and would usually invite visitors to his office politely. He is always ready to attend to visitors' needs and complaints.

But this Tuesday was a little bit different. Alhaji Imam was extremely happy, hence, the smile was broader and the invitation to come in to his office was more than usual. It was not only Alhaji Imam that was happy. The entire school population was singing songs of happiness and the joy radiating the whole compound was infectious.

The joy spreading through the entire length and breadth of the school was so infectious that one wondered whether the school had just hit a million dollar jackpot. The answer of course was no. That day, the school was celebrating excellence. To be precise, two young men in the school have brought a national honour to the school by winning the 11th National Junior Engineers and Technicians Students (JETS) competition which took place in Jos, the Plateau State capital. It was really a moment of joy. Masters Otaiku Oluwaseun and Obikwelu Felix-Val were the whiz-kids who went through thick and thin to bring national honour to their school.

It was indeed rigorous for the students who are both in SS2, since they both had to start from the scratch at the local Surulere Local Education District (LED) where they beat other schools to clinch the first prize. "Through that feat, we won the right to represent Surulere LED at the Lagos State JETS competition," Gilbert Okpalakune, the JETS co-ordinator for Ansar-Ud-Deen Grammar School told Metrolink.

The Lagos State competition which took place at Baptist Academy in Obanikoro was of course tougher than the Surulere LED competition. "Of course, the competition was tougher since about 366 public and private secondary schools were participating. So initially, we were a little bit afraid," 15-year old Oluwaseun told Metrolink.

But with prayer and confidence, the duo buoyed their confidence and went about their job confidently. "With God and confidence in our presentation, we knew we would win," 17-year old Obikwelu chipped in. Indeed, they won the first place, claiming the right to represent Lagos State at the national championship.

At the Jos championship, the opposition was reduced with each state and Abuja, having one representative each. But of course, the competition was stiffer and tougher. "This is because we are facing 36 other schools which all emerged tops at their respective state. So, it was a case of the tough getting going and the going getting tougher," Okpalakwe narrated to P.M.News.

But at the end of the day, both Otaiku and Obikwelu triumphed with their presentation: a Gilfegi Transmitting and Receiving Device. It should be noted that the duo came first in all categories: For project presentation, they scored 61 out of 70 marks to clinch the first position beating Imo State with 57 marks to the second position in the category. For presentation, they scored 15.3 out of 20, beating Ondo with 13.70 to the second place. For appearance, they scored 7.3 out of 10, beating Ondo again with 6 while overall, they scored 83.6 out of 100 to emerge national champions beating Imo and Ondo to the second and third positions respectively.

Explaining the use of the transmitting device, the boys explained that it is designed to receive and transmit messages, especially useful for naval communications among villagers and peasant farmers.

The two whiz-kids explained that they were inspired into designing the device due to the security problems in the society which they believed are caused by communication gap. "Agreed, the GSM thing has bridged the communication gap but the question is: how many can afford GSM?" they queried. They believe that lack of communication has been responsible for increase in violent crimes.

In the light of this, their teacher, Mr. Okpalakune, was quick to solicit for assistance from government at all levels, well-meaning individuals and corporate organisations for mass production of the device. "They should help us and assist. These are students who will go places in science and technology if the right assistance comes in," he said.

The same call for assistance was re-echoed by the school principal, Alhaji M.R.S. Imam who noted that it is really commendable that out of the five schools that represented Lagos State at the JETS competition, only his school clinched the first position in its category.

Alhaji Imam noted that though the Lagos State government assisted in sponsoring the students to the Jos competition, he called for more assistance from the state government. "We need to feel their presence here. We need computer sets and for God's sake, this school and some others in Surulere need to be upgraded to the status of model colleges with facilities. It is only in Surulere that we don't have any model or upgraded college," he noted.

The school principal, while expressing appreciation to the school's Old Students Association for renovating the school's Physics laboratory to the tune of N1.2 million, called for similar gesture to be extended to the Agric, Biology and Chemistry laboratories.

Alhaji Imam stated further that the school has officially informed the Lagos State government of its feat and that the school was waiting for invitation to officially present the trophy to the state governor. "I know it is the current situation in the state occasioned by the bomb explosions and the Idi-Araba ethnic clashes that may have been delaying our formal invitation from the state government," he explained.

The two whiz-kids have lofty ambition after leaving secondary school. For Otaiku Oluwaseun, the 15-year old native of Odogbolu in Ogun State wants to become either a computer scientist or a mathematician. "My aim is to become the next Chike Obi, arguably Nigeria and Africa's greatest Mathematician. If not this, I will want to become a great computer scientist," the shy boy told Metrolink.

Obikwelu Felix-Val has a greater ambition. The 17-year old from Ora-Ukwu in Anambra State wants to become a great inventor. "In fact, my major ambition is to invent Nigeria's first rocket and launch it in space," he enthused. The sky is their limit with young Mr. Okapalakune, the Ugwu-born man from Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State as their teacher and co-ordinator. Okapalakune has been the brain behind the school's sudden rise in scientific achievements in the past three years.

It is noteworthy that this is not the first time Ansar-Ud-Deen Grammar School is winning laurels at local and national science competitions. In the last months of the last millennium, the school won the National Science Teachers' Association of Nigeria (STAN's) competition which took place in Kaduna. At the 10th JETS competition which took place in Enugu last year, the school represented Lagos State at the championship and came second overall. They went better this year to clinch the first position.

It is not only in science that Ansar-Ud-Deen has been excelling, In 1999, the school produced the best agricultural science student who went on to represent the country in an international competition. In the field of sports, the school, for the past two years, have won the Magnum Trust Bank-sponsored Lagos State Cricket competition among secondary schools. They have also qualified for the final this year. Not only that, the school also produced the only Nigerian selected for Africa's under-19 cricket team in 17-year old Endurance. Endurance was also a member of Lagos State team to the last National Sports Festival from where he was picked to represent Nigeria at the West Africa Quandrangular Cricket championship. He ended up being picked as a member of the West African Cricket team to the African championship which took place in Uganda.

A teacher in the school, Mr. Kola Akinlua, attributed the success of the school especially in the science field to the fact that the students are made to offer Introduction to Technology as a compulsory subject in their junior secondary school days. "Uptil now, this is the practice. So, the students are introduced to technology and science very early and this helps them later," Mr. Akinlua who teaches Introduction to Technology in the school, said. This was confirmed by Alhaji Imam who added that the school authority has always incalculated in the students the spirit of competitiveness. "With the spirit, our students have the confidence to compete with any of their peers in other school no matter the level of the competition," he said.

As Metrolink left the Randle Avenue compound of Ansar-Ud-Deen Grammar School that Tuesday, the celebration was still on and Otaiku Oluwaseun and Obikwelu Felix-Val, the cynosure of eyes. Everybody agreed that they indeed deserve all the accolades and encomiums. For they are the whiz-kids.
 
Social Science Research Council: The Africa Program

The Africa Program works to promote social science and humanities research on critical issues relevant to the African continent, especially through the creation of linkages of African researchers to international scholarly networks.

The Program, in coordination with its Regional Advisory Panel, organizes research planning activities and research capacity building initiatives with institutional partners in Africa and elsewhere. Workshops, conferences, symposia and publications are some of the main mechanisms through which the Program facilitates knowledge production and dissemination.These activities are intended to open up new research agendas that balance the strengths of global and local perspectives. Two such current projects are African Youth and Globalization and African Higher Education.

In these and other potential activities, the Africa Program and Regional Advisory Panel are committed to collaborating with Africa-based social science institutions with the goal of strengthening the research capacity of the next generation of African scholars. Recognizing the extremely difficult conditions under which most African researchers labor, the Program works with organizations and universities in the region in order to develop strategies to sustain African social scientists and humanists who produce basic knowledge on topics of central importance both to their societies and beyond. This includes creating links to global scholarly networks, broadening the availability of publications, widening audiences for the work of African scholars and, potentially, developing field research opportunities on key themes.

Institutionally, the Program seeks to advance both university-based and non-university-based research organizations such as cross-regional research networks, and to encourage a greater role for them in identifying research agendas related to the region. The Program and its Regional Advisory Panel envision an important role in this process for scholars committed to African research in North America and elsewhere in the world, as well as researchers across all regions and disciplines who see their work as enriched by engagement with research in and on Africa.

The Program also has important links to other Council activities bearing on Africa. These include the Working Group on Forced Migration and Human Rights, whose case studies have concentrated on western Africa, an intiative on Children and Armed Conflict, and the Program on Global Security and Cooperation. The African Youth and Globalization project, rooted in the Africa Program, has grown into a collaborative research network on Youth and Globalization that further incorporates transnational and cross-regional perspectives.

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