By Bamidele Jones
The third wave of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom may bar a Nigerian pupil from a tour of Oxford, after emerging the overall best in an international competition.
Master Toluwani Ayeni, 13, emerged the overall best and grand prize winner of United Nations Trust for Sustainable Living (TSL) 2020 International Schools’ Essay Competition.
He came top in a field of 1,017 entries from 54 countries around the world.
A pupil of The Heritage Schools, Bida in Niger, Ayeni, in addition to earning an impressive trophy, won a free international trip for three: himself, his teacher and one parent.
Ayeni and the other top four essay performers from each participating country were invited to participate in the online International Schools Debate which he also won an Individual Commendation in the debate.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the trip to Oxford, which ought to have taken place, was rescheduled and the current third wave of COVID-19 pandemic in the U.K. has placed a stiffer restriction on the trip.
Mrs Comfort Eti, the Champion’s Teacher, while lamenting the delay due to the third wave of the pandemic narrated how her pupil in remote Bida Community in Niger emerged a global champion.
“Out of the 54 United Nations member states that participated and out of about 1,015 entries, our student, Toluwani Ayeni, emerged the best in the whole world. Thank God.
“It is a win for the school, a win for Niger State, a win for Nigeria and a win for the whole world.
“We know the worldwide problem of climate change and for a secondary school child from Nigeria to have emerged winner.
“It means Nigeria is well positioned to start from the cradle to sustainability to make the environment a better place to live in.
“I thank God for the Director and CEO of Heritage Schools, Bida, Mrs Olusola Oladayiye, for giving the students and me the chance to participate in this International Essay and Debate Competition.
“The support she gave us has actually helped us to succeed.
“We got into this competition precisely in 2018 and participated in the Trust for Sustainable Living International Essay Competition, a United Nations SDG-based Competition.
“At first we tried our best and our students emerged in the lists of Honourable Mention and Finalists.
“Subsequent year it was the same, but I thank God that last year (2020) God gave us a boom, one of our students, Toluwani Ayeni emerged the Overall Best and Grand Winner Worldwide,” she said.
The champion Ayeni told NAN that the win had spurred him to put in more effort to win more competitions in future.
He said that he was shocked and also happy when he learnt about the result of the 2020 competition which according to him was like “a dream come true”.
“I did not actually expect to win but I am happy that I won because when one puts in hard work he will always come tops. I had to do a lot of research because, at first, I didn’t know much about sustainability.
“Through my first two years (2018 and 2019) of writing, I gained experience and this third year, I have known more of what to write.
“This is my first award but definitely not going to be the last.
“I will like to win the Commonwealth Essay and the UNESCO Essay Competitions so that I can boost my confidence and later become a Sustainability Ambassador for the United Nations,” he said.
Ayeni said that he overcame his initial challenge to emerge as champion through various supports he received from the school and his family.
“After writing for the first two years and not being able to win the competition, some of my colleagues actually tried to discourage me but I decided to just give it a try again.
“I needed a laptop, thank God that my Daddy gave me one and I was able to browse the internet to get some ideas which I then put together to win.
“The competition happened to be during the first term exams period in my school so I needed to joggle between reading for the exams and writing the essay competition.
“It was not easy but I just thank God that He saw me through.
“My advice to co-students is that they should not give up in any task they engage in. They should continue to press forward until they succeed.
“I tried for two years but in the third year I won; so, they should keep on pushing hard and one day they will get there,” he advised.
He thanked God for the grace given to him to write, the teacher who prepared him for the competition and the management of Heritage Schools, Bida, for giving him the opportunity to participate and win the Competition.
Master Noah Oladayiye, a co-contestant, said that the TSL 2020 Competition had given the school a winning position globally.
“It was a very fun-filled competition with a lot to write about but sustainability is a very wide and expanded subject dealing with the environment.
“So, it was on one hand easy but tasking on the other hand.
“I remembered that after the first two years that we participated without winning, a lot of people gave up. But I thank God that God gave us the win this time.
“Toluwani is my friend, a classmate and a close person to me in school. He is very good and disciplined; he is social and interactive.
“I think he did a very good job in this competition to emerge the winner.”
Pastor Emmanuel Oladayiye, a Director of The Heritage Schools, Bida, said “The win through Toluwani Ayeni has placed our school on the global map through the TSL 2020 Competition.
“I want to appreciate the Champion Teacher, Mrs Comfort Eti, and the entire management of Heritage Schools, Bida for their commitment to excellence.
“This award is worthy of national celebration and worthy of recognition by Niger State Government and of course by the entire parents and pupils of the school.
“We believe God that more of these wins will come.”
Another Director and the CEO of the school, Mrs Olusola Oladayiye said that the champion had lived up to his name by winning the competition.
“His name is really a wonder (his middle name) and God has done this wonder through him. Toluwani, you have really made us proud and I want to say a big thank you and to your family.
“I also appreciate our Champion Teacher, who has really tried her best to prepare the children for the competition.
“Not only Toluwani but other students of the school have made their marks.
“We believe that as they continue to participate in such programmes and many more, we will make Nigeria proud the more.”
Mrs Ayeni Anthonia, the champion’s mother, who was elated that her son won, thanked the school for giving him the opportunity to participate in the competition and the Champion Teacher for preparing the students well.
She recalled that “Most times, Toluwani kept sleepless nights browsing for information on the topic. He struggled between writing the essay and his school work but God saw him through.
“I also thank my husband, Dr Ayeni for all the encouragement he gave to Toluwani. There were so many supports we had to give him so that he could succeed.
“We give God all the glory for this win.” (NAN)