By Zariat Yetunde Ayoade

The Book O’Clock Literary Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes literacy in Africa using arts and literature as tools for social advocacy, held its anniversary prize ceremony on Tuesday, 11th June 2024 at the American Space of Sokoto state.

Partnered with the Center for Health Ethics Law and Development (CHELD) Africa, Mentally Aware Nigeria Initiative, and the Greenline Nurture Initiative: the anniversary prize recognized outstanding secondary school students who participated in the 2024 edition themed, “Teens’ Mental Health in Nigeria.”

The Participants

The competition commenced with the call for submissions from secondary school students in Sokoto State, drawing submissions from 42 students across 15 schools, and shortlisting the best 10 entrants to proceed to the final stage.

For the finale, the shortlisted students performed on-stage at the ceremony, where Mariam Sa’ad Liman of the Government Girls College, Sokoto emerged as the winner, with Fatima Bello Yahya of Brilliant Footsteps International Academy and Ochidi Favour of Royal Comprehensive School, Sokoto coming in the second and third places, respectively.

The winner was awarded a cash prize of fifty thousand naira, while the second and third places got thirty and twenty thousand. They also received book prizes, alongside other shortlisted entrants and participating schools.

Sautul Haqq School also received special recognition for being the only primary school in the contest, winning cash donations from dignitaries at the ceremony.

The Executive Director of Book O’Clock, Uchenna Emelife, extended his gratitude to everyone who contributed to the success of the prize.

In his words, “While I’m proud of the schools and students for their active participation in leading to the event’s success, I must add that there is only so much we can do without the cooperation of teachers and school management, who we consider stakeholders,” Mr. Emelife said. Noting that “they must realize the importance of opportunities like this and provide the appropriate guidance to their learners. That is the only way the aim of the prize can be achieved. If not, we will have an intervention that solves no problem.”

He recalled that, in 2021, when the organization wanted to mark its first anniversary, the team decided to include children and teens in their target audience. Since, at that time, it was just a book club for university students.

The club initiated an outreach program for secondary schools in Sokoto, where they held reading campaigns and donated books to students, equally surveyed them to determine their reception of arts and literature, and proposed systems that promote their engagement in the arts.

The outreach project spanned two years, and in 2023, informed by their findings, they initiated the Book O’Clock Anniversary Prize, an annual prize rewarding children and teens in Sokoto who engage in creative arts. This was to consolidate the budding passion the organization had found in the students during the survey and to challenge them to build on that passion.

“The prize equally morphed into how we can include children and teenagers in contemporary social discourses as our themes resonate with ongoing conversations. This is important, especially in a society where the audience is seldom given to young people,” the executive director, Mr Emelife concluded.

The ceremony closed with goodwill messages from representatives of CHELD Africa and the Greenline Nurture Initiative, cheering on the students and encouraging them to prioritize their mental health and well-being.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *