Cowbellpedia: Celebrating 20 Years of Promoting Education Through Impactful CSR

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By Jeremiah Agada

 Cowbellpedia

The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has long been used as an effective lens to examine the actions of businesses toward ensuring mutual long-term growth, well-being, and sustainability.

Today’s business people have fully embraced the idea that their businesses cannot be successful when the community around them is failing. In fact, the profitable growth of any business depends on the economic, environmental, educational and social sustainability of its communities across the world.

Education, for instance, is the foundation of any community as it has a great social importance, especially in this modern, complex clime. That explains why philosophers devote a great deal of attention to education.

Over time, however, falling and failing standard of education and the increasing decline of interests among young people in subjects like Mathematics has become a source of worry to stakeholders in the education sector – governments, parents, teachers and more. To face the challenge headlong, investment in education across the world has assumed an entirely new frontier and approach such that governments and corporate organisations have come to understand that building capacity in Mathematics represents a concrete pillar for development.

Mathematics has been perceived as a difficult subject to study in Nigerian schools. In spite of all efforts to correct this perception, poor performance in Mathematics by the majority of Nigerian students is apparent in results released by various examination bodies.

Mr. Arawonde Okanaye, a Mathematics teacher at Loyola Jesuit College in Abuja, has never hidden his frustration at the way students easily give up on the subject. “The job of the Mathematics teacher is probably the most difficult one at the secondary school level in this country,” was the refrain from Okanaye during discussions with his colleagues. Getting students excited about the subject, let alone sustaining their interest in it was the most difficult aspect of his job, he would always lament.

There is only so much government can do to effectively arrest the situation. Promasidor Nigeria Limited, makers of Cowbell Milk and other quality food products, however, stepped in to make the ‘impossible possible.’ It chose to intervene in the promotion of education by making Mathematics fun to teach and learn. This, it has done, by organizing a Mathematics competition that encourages intellectual development of school children in a manner that is consistent with its brand promise of ‘strong body with sharp brains.’

For two decades, Cowbell has been involved in the sponsorship of Mathematics competition in Secondary Schools in Nigeria. Because the brand believes in the total development of the Nigerian Child, the objectives have remained the same over these years:

  • To awaken the consciousness and interest in mathematics amongst Junior and Senior secondary school students in Nigeria.
  • To improve students’ performance in Mathematics Pan Nigeria.
  • To create a credible platform for identifying outstanding students and encouraging excellence in Mathematics.
  • To provide a creditable platform that will reward excellence in the subject area of Mathematics

Over the years, this sponsored platform for both Junior and Senior Secondary categories has evolved from the humble beginning of Lagos state only examination to a nationwide examination that has received the support of the Federal Ministry of Education.

In 2016, the company took a strategic decision to bring all Mathematics intervention activities by the brand, Cowbell- Our Milk under one umbrella, COWBELLPEDIA, which is a propriety asset of Promasidor and trademarked.

Since 2016 till now, the brand has continued with its Mathematics intervention activity for Secondary Schools in Nigeria using the name Cowbellpedia Secondary Schools Mathematics TV Quiz Show.

Other activities under Cowbellpedia include:

  • Cowbellpedia Radio Programme: a 5-minute interactive radio Mathematics programme on major radio stations in Nigeria to teach secondary school students rudiments of Mathematics. Also, past examination questions of WAEC and NECO are solved on this programme.
  • Cowbellpedia Mobile App: a multi-level mobile app that allows secondary school students to practice Mathematics questions in a fun way and everywhere. This app can be downloaded on Google Play Store and Apple Store.

Cowbellpedia Winners

The result of these initiatives has been instant. Interest in Mathematics shot up. This may not be unconnected to the reality of studying and getting recognition and awards. And it is certainly a welcome development as Mathematics teachers nationwide now have a new tune to their songs.

Okanaya emphasised as much when he revealed that there has been a welcome change when his school started entering for the Cowbellpedia Secondary Schools Mathematics TV Quiz Show. Motivating students to study the subject is no longer a herculean task. Forever gone are the lamentations he used to have because the students have now developed a keen interest in the competition. The result is that the performance of Loyola Jesuit students in Mathematics is now on the rise. This development has made the screening of students in the school into the Cowbellpedia to be more competitive.

“I am a fulfilled teacher today because the performance of my students in various external examinations is now the major talking point among teachers in the school. It has also become a thing of pride for the school. The joy of seeing these students perform so well over and over is not quantifiable. Thanks to Promasidor for organising this competition. It has been a game-changer for me and my students,” Okanaye said.

Indeed, Okanaye has every cause to sing joyful tunes because, in 2015, two students from Loyola Jesuit College emerged winners of the competition in both the senior and junior categories.

Jarlath Unuegbu, father of the winner of the 2009 senior category edition, has more than one reason to thank Promasidor Nigeria Limited for organising the competition for school children. Unuegbu, who used to fret over the poor attitude of his children towards the study of Mathematics, is now relieved of the duty of having to push them to study; just as his fears over the financing of his children’s education have also been allayed.

“I am a poor man. My earnings are barely enough to cover my needs not to talk about paying for my children to attend university.  The cash reward and gift to winners in the competition is a big motivator, a morale booster as well as an incentive that encourages the young people to take the subject of Mathematics more seriously,” he said.

Similarly, Promasidor has received commendation from the National Examination Council (NECO) through its Registrar, Professor Charles Uwakwe who commended the company for stimulating the interest of Nigerian students in Mathematics through the Cowbellpedia initiative. He confirmed that the competition has considerably reduced the phobia for the subject among students across the country and demystified the terror that has been killing the dreams of many students.

Nigeria has been placed on the global map consistently by the champions of Cowbell sponsored Mathematics competition. According to information from the National Mathematical Centre, Abuja, the former Cowbell sponsored Mathematics champions were among the best 10 competitors in Mathematics competitions at the international level. It added that since 2006, the medals from the international competition were won by students who participated in the competition.

Promasidor’s contribution to the development of Mathematics education in Nigeria has not gone unnoticed. The company has been consistently recognised and awarded by stakeholders in the Corporate Social Responsibility arena. Among other recognitions, the company won the Sustainability Enterprise and Responsibility Award (SERA) for Best Company in Education in November 2016.

It was also awarded the Best Company in Education at the prestigious Lagos State PR Industry Awards (LAPRIGA) held two years ago. Both awards are aimed at recognizing and rewarding corporate organisations and individuals for their ground-breaking investments in CSR projects and to encourage more investment in the practice.

Furthermore, in recognition of Cowbellpedia’s contribution to the growth of Mathematics in the state, the Lagos State Government, through Ministry of Education’s ‘Support Our Schools’ Initiative, announced Promasidor the 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility Award winner. The award was for the promotion, teaching and learning of Mathematics through Mathematics competition in all public senior secondary schools in the state.

From its beginning in 1998, Cowbellpedia has expanded in size, scope and prizes. The examination now holds in over 200 centres across the nation with a reach of over 11,000 schools. To further underscore its expansion, the number of students participating jumped from 15,000 a few years ago to around 51,000 in 2017, this excludes the students who participated in the various school’s internal selection process.

In 2016, Promasidor Nigeria began to encourage mixed schools to present a minimum of two girls for each category to represent them in a bid to further encourage the girl-child to take interest in education.

This was a huge success in 2016 when we had an all-Girls affair in the finals of the Junior Category and in the Senior Category, girls won the 1st and 2nd runners-up positions.

In the last two decades, the Cowbellpedia Mathematics initiative has produced champions and heroes. In 2017, Munachi Ernest-Eze, a student of Loyola Jesuit College, set a new record by winning both the Junior and Senior categories of the Cowbellpedia Secondary School Mathematics Television Quiz Show within a period of two years.

Emmanuel Mebude, a student of Ogunlade Memorial Secondary School, Surulere, Lagos, also set a new competition record in speed and accuracy. He answered 17 questions in the “60 seconds of Fame” segment in the preliminary rounds of the senior category. Greater Tomorrow International College, Arigidi-Akoko, Ondo State got an award for producing finalists back-to-back in the last three years. They are Evans Owamoyo in 2015 (Junior category) and 2017 (Senior category), and Dennis Balogun in 2016.

The Ambassadors College, Ota, Ogun State received an award for its contribution to Mathematics education. The school, which boasts of 17 Mathematics teachers, produced eight out of the 12 finalists in 2016 and won the two categories that year as well as the teachers’ edition. Oluwanifise Onafowokan, the 2017 first runner-up in the senior category, is also a product of the school.

Since Promasidor has sustained this initiative for the past two decades, it is hoped that it will continue to do so especially in times like this where reality television shows and other related forms of entertainment is beginning to make the quest for education look like a waste of time.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the relationship between Cowbell and mathematics, the following initiatives have been included this year.

The prizes for this year’s edition have been doubled across all levels for students and teachers, the ultimate prize is now N2 million and an all-expense paid educational excursion outside the country, while the first and second runners up will go home with N1.5 million and N1 million naira respectively, the prize money for the state winners have also been increased.

The teachers of the top prize winners will be awarded N500,000 while those of the first and second runners-up will receive N400,000 and N300,000 respectively.

Reassuringly, Anders Einarsson, Managing Director of Promasidor Nigeria Limited, not only reiterated the commitment of the company towards education but also assured that the company would continue to support the academic development of Nigerian children.

He said: “I wish to reiterate at this juncture that Cowbell – Our Milk is passionate about helping young talents to discover themselves and we will continue to sustain this initiative. I hope that this competition will remind us all of the need to support and encourage young talents.”

That affirmation is the tonic students, teachers, schools, parents and other stakeholders in the education sector require to boost a Promasidor-inspired revolution in Mathematics education in Nigeria.

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