Students from 17
countries participated at the 5th International Science Olympiad (ISO) competition which took place in Abuja recently.
The science Olympiad competition is designed to promote science education, and open to secondary school students worldwide who are 19 years and below.
The ISO which debuted in Nigeria in 2009 is coordinated by the Nigeria-Turkish Nile University (NTNU) Abuja, in collaboration with the National Mathematical Centre and the Federal Ministry of Education.
The students for the ISO competition are selected after the national science competitions of the participating countries.
The objectives of the competition are inter alia: “To dare and invigorate gifted science students to improve their talents and to further their career as scientists.
“To give invaluable experience to students who may participate in the International Biology, Chemistry, Computer (Informatics), Physics and Mathematics Olympiads.
“To pick out the top young international science students at the annual ISO; to arouse the active interest of students in the sciences.
“To advance and reward the quest of excellence in scientific attempt; to promote a positive and high profile image of science and scientists.
“To barter ideas and materials about science education among countries; to encourage greater contact and co-operation between secondary school students and educators worldwide.’’
The 17 countries that participated in the competition which took place at the premises of NTNU are: Nigeria, South Africa, Chad, Iraq, Tanzania, Mali, Ghana, Senegal, Afghanistan, Turkey, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Togo, Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, Azerbaijan and Niger.
Five countries- Nigeria, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Uganda and Turkey won gold medals, while South Africa topped with five gold medals.
Speaking at the occasion, Prof. Huseyin Sert, the Chairman of the International Science Olympiads and Vice Chancellor, NTNU said the school hosted the international competition to ensure that science based students strived to make a mark in universities.
Sert said that some past winners of the competition had won scholarships in reputable universities in the world.
“I am elated to inform you that the intents of establishing the International Science Olympiad is beginning to yield positive results; some of the past winners of this competition are being sought after by the best universities in the world.
“NTNU believes that one of the ways to encourage the study of science is to reward the quest for excellence as exhibited by these students.
“That is why every participants in this ISO competition is already guaranteed a 50 per cent scholarship at NTNU, while those that would be decorated with gold shall enjoy a 100 per cent scholarship at the NTNU.
“In addition, I want to use this opportunity to enjoin our international visitors to educate their friends back home that the security level in Nigeria is being blown out of proportion.
“Let them know that Nigeria is safe and the people are very friendly and hospitable,” Sert said.
On his part, the Supervising Minister for Education, Mr Nyeson Wike, said that the objectives of the ISO was in tandem with the Federal Government’s agenda of Nigeria being among the top 20 economies of the world by the year 2020.
Wike, represented by Mr MacJohn Nwaobiala, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, said that the ministry had put in place a robust curriculum that was targeted at helping the youths develop interest in the study of Science, Mathematics and Technology (STM) at all levels,
According to him, one of such strategies is the restoration of the defunct Technology and Science Education Department, whose mandate is to coordinate all STM related activities in the country.
“In view of the collaboration established between the organisers and my ministry, I wish to state categorically here that future competitions both locally and at the international level, will enjoy good support of both the NTNU and the ministry in terms of providing support for the popularisation of sciences across the country,” he said.
Mr Ugur Hulusi Patli, a teacher at Star College, Durban, South Africa, said the five students of the college deserved the gold medals, going by the level of preparation.
“It is the fruit of hard work; they believed they can do it and they worked hard for it; they studied hard with our teachers especially the ones that are very good in Information Technology.
“Previously, the highest number of gold medals won by one country was three, but today we won five; that is a record.
“The students were selected after the national science Olympiad of our country in which our school got the 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions.
On his part, Joash Nailer, one of the gold medalists from South Africa expressed surprise at the feat, and attributed their success to their teachers.
“It is amazing and I am lost of words; for the past five days, we have been anxious; our teachers contributed immensely to our success; our school also represented South Africa last year.”
The lone Nigerian gold medalist, Akanimoh Udombeh, a student of Nigerian Turkish International College, said he was happy for the award and thanked his teachers and colleagues for their support.
As the world tilts increasingly toward science and information technology, observers say competitions such as ISO are essential in the promotion of science education.
They say that testing students in Biology, Chemistry, Computer (Informatics), Physics and Mathematics is a veritable tool in achieving breakthrough in engineering, the medical sciences, among others.
Okoronkwo writes for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).