It all boiled down to the 13th episode where the finalists would be announced and the best Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) student in Nigeria would be crowned. From the prelims to the semi-finals, the audience was held spellbound by the sheer brilliance exhibited by the students in every episode. With bated breath, each episode inched us closer to the final moment of triumph where the confetti is released, and the winners are handed their cheques and plaques.
However, there was more to come. The final piece of the puzzle falling into the place was an exhilarating moment we had all been waiting for. In a blaze of glory and jubilation, Orevaoghene Whiskey of Top Faith International School, Akwa Ibom State emerged as the first female best STEM student in Nigeria, via the Interswitch SPAK initiative, with the sum of N7.5 million in scholarships spread over five years, a brand-new laptop, a monthly stipend in tow.
This season’s competition began early in 2022 with fine-toothed screening process that had 81 prime contestants emerge like diamonds from a sea of over 20,000 students. This further whittled down to the 27 semi-finalists, and eventually 9 exceptional finalists, comprising 5 males and 4 females, who gave each other a run for their money, as they displayed their impeccable aptitude guided by the pillars of the competition: speed, precision, accuracy, and knowledge.
The InterswitchSPAK National Science competition is organized by Interswitch, a leading digital payments company in Africa, with the aim of promoting innovation and creativity among the youth in Africa. Four seasons ago, it was designed to encourage and reward young, brilliant Africans aged 14 to 17 years, who study or aspire to learn STEM subjects.
Orevaoghene Whiskey’s feat as the first ever female winner signals the beginning of a new era where female participants, and young girls in Africa, are inspired to dream and boldly pursue careers in STEM.
The second and third place winners respectively were Adesayo Elumaro of The Ambassadors College, Ota, Ogun State and Precious Akinyemi of Rhema Chapel International School, Oyo State whose fates in the game were decided in the Sudden End round, as they tied at 180 points.
Elumaro and Akinyemi went home with N4 million in scholarships for a 3-year period; and N1 million in scholarships over a one-year period, among other prizes, respectively.
In the words of the winner, Orevaoghene Whiskey, the InterswitchSPAK competition was an avenue for students to soar beyond their imaginations and achieve their aim of bringing about much needed advancements across Africa.
Earlier in the show, Elumaro averred that the dreams of humanity were not earth-bound but "in the stars", adding his firm belief in the notion that Africa could be greater than what was presently obtainable, and that the InterswitchSPAK competition was one avenue to inspire the continent to greatness.
It was thrilling to watch the brilliant Spaksters, as they are fondly called, stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the race to the top. It was also refreshing to hear the dreams and aspirations of every one of them, ranging from a desire to create an effective ambulance system in Nigeria to conquering the world of aeronautics.
Interswitch, a brand synonymous with innovation and pushing frontiers, established InterswitchSPAK, its CSR initiative, in 2018, to ensure that the dreams of these students do not become pipe dreams but impactful realities.
Since inception, the competition has focused on the promotion of STEM education within the continent based on the belief that creating a prosperous Africa resides in the hands of Africans, a narrative that the technology giant, Interswitch, continues to advance. This is critical for Africa because reports show that “less than 25% of African higher education students pursue STEM-related career fields”, according to Oremeyi Akah, the Chief Customer Experience Officer, Interswitch, who represented Mitchell Elegbe, the Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Interswitch.
Akah, at the grand finale, shared that Interswitch believes that by investing in the education and development of young people, it can help to create a brighter future for Africa.
Until the next season, keep the SPAK on!
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