July 19, 2024
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Book O’Clock marks 4th anniversary with literary prizes for secondary school students in Sokoto

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  • July 2, 2024
  • 4 min read
Book O’Clock marks 4th anniversary with literary prizes for secondary school students in Sokoto

By Editor

EVERY year, Book O’Clock, a literary organisation that seeks to promote literacy in northern Nigeria, organises an arts and literary prize among young people on various contemporary issues. This year’s was a writing and performance competition on mental health and was open to secondary school students and teens in Sokoto State to participate and win prizes.

Book O’Clock announced the call for participation on March 1, 2024. Students were invited to submit writing samples on the topic ‘What’s On your Mind?’, which aimed at teens and young adults and encouraging to express what was in their mind in line with their mental health. The call ended on May 13, 2024, and 42 submissions from students of 15 schools in Sokoto were recorded. Of the 15 schools, five were public, and ten were private.

The 42 entries were judged by three young Nigerian writers: Isaiah Adepoju, Ugochukwu Anadị and Haneefah Abdulrahman. They shortlisted 10 entries from the pile which advanced to the performance stage. The shortlist of 10 entries were announced on May 23, 2024, alongside a new contest theme, ‘My Mental Health: Hear Me!’ At this stage, the performers were expected, in five minutes, to use their words as a beacon to illuminate the often unseen aspects of their mental health and invite empathy and understanding from the audience and judges. The account could be fictional or non-fictional and in their preferred genre. The top 10 students had about three weeks to prepare for their performance.

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Miss Mariya Sa’ad Liman (middle) receiving her prize from Book O’Clock board member, Dr. Mansur Isah Buhari and a teacher from Government Girls College, Sokoto, Mr. Basheer Abdullahi

June 11, 2024 was the D-day, closing and award ceremony. The shortlisted contestants were to compete and get the results on the spot, and the winners and runners-up awarded their prizes. It was a packed event. In addition to the performance contest, there were two lectures – one on the mental health of teenagers in Nigeria, facilitated by Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative and the other on personal development with the topic, “Acquiring A Growth Mindset: Gearing for the Future,” facilitated by Ajibike Abdulbasit. Four writers and poets in Sokoto, led by Mazeed Mukhtar Oyeleye, judged the performance contest. The performers made their presentations using different art forms: poetry, storytelling, and speech, which made the contest colourful.

According to the Founder of Book O’Clock, Mr. Uchenna Emelife, a student of Government Girls College, Sokoto, Maria Saad Liman, emerged in first place with an average of 89%. The judges described her presentation as “eye-opening, insightful, well-researched with the confidence of a speaker who is passionate about what they speak. A very memorable performance”. Fatima Bello Yahya of Brilliant Footsteps International Academy, with 84%, was ranked next to Liman. Her spoken word performance was described as “an emotional rendition of the woes of mental illness often swept under the carpet. A beautiful poem with verses that will stay with us”. Ochidi Favour of Royal Comprehensive School scored 78.7% and came third. “A sad narrative about the lack of mental health resources in schools. Easily a winning performance,” the judges said of her story.

Courtesy of the sponsors, the first prize winner was given a cash prize of N50,000 and copies of books, while her school got an award and another set of books donated to their library. Yahya, who came second, got a cash prize of N30,000 and a set of books, while her school got an award and another set of books. Third placed Ochidi was awarded N20,000, a set of books, and her school got an award and books for their library. In addition to these prizes, students of Sautul-Haqq School, who were the youngest participants in the competition, were given cash prizes by Book O’Clock’s patron, Dr. Mansur Isah Buhari, Co-founder of Greenline Nurture Initiative, Dr. Kazeem Aremu and Sir Christopher Emelife.

The Book O’Clock Anniversary Prize 2024 was sponsored by the Centre for Health Ethics Law and Development (CHELD), Greenline Nurture Initiative and supported by Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative (MANI).

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