You can be anything you choose to be, Stanbic’s Anne Juuko tells learners as Comboni College is crowned National Schools Champions.

By Our Reporter

LIRA: Comboni College School, in Lira district, emerged the overall winner of the 2023 Stanbic National Schools Championship (NSC), which kicked off in March.

The school won a fully installed solar system worth UGX20 million, a laptop each for the participating students, and UGX1.2 million for the teacher responsible for them.

The annual competition is aimed at empowering and equipping the participants to become a generation of innovative job creators with appropriate knowledge and life skills such as managing personal finances, entrepreneurship, and business management.

The overall theme is ‘Empowering the job creators of tomorrow’, with the 2023 tagline ‘Powering Innovation for Job Creation’,  intended to encourage learners to develop innovative solutions to the challenges in their communities.

The NSC is a four-category competition, including students (Startup Challenge); schools with existing businesses that competed in Startup the previous year (BizGrow Challenge); alumni (AlumGrow Challenge); and teachers (TeachGrow Challenge).

With the cooperation of the Ministry of Education and Sports, more than 420,000 students have participated in the NSC since its launch in 2016.

The Comboni team developed a solar concentrator, a clean energy alternative cooking stove that uses solar energy to cook food as an alternative to charcoal, briquettes, and firewood stoves, which are harmful to the environment.

 According to Stanbic Chief Executive Anne Juuko, the government should remove taxes on the internet for schools so that useful knowledge can be accessed more easily.

Juuko, while speaking at the NSC Grand Finale last Friday, said that in the present era, information is available on an equal basis on the internet for all children across the globe, and this presents an opportunity for students in Uganda to learn at the same level as everyone else.

She said, “When you open the internet, you’re equal. Everything you’ve ever wanted to learn is available for you to learn. And I have been on a campaign for free internet for children in schools. I will continue making noise about this. Let’s remove the tax on the internet for schools for learning so that that ground can be leveled, she stated, adding: “If I am standing here today and I want to learn about aeronautical engineering, I just have to go and find it. The information is there, free, and available. So, our young friends, go and find it. You will become what you choose to become.”

A hundred schools started out in this year’s edition, and 40 of these were new signups. Participating students went through various competitive knockout stages before the final winners were announced.

The Stanbic Uganda Holdings Limited (SUHL) Chairman of the Board, Baker Magunda, said, “Entrepreneurship in schools teaches students essential life skills that they can use to navigate through an uncertain future. It empowers them to rise to complex challenges and makes it easier to face any difficulties.”

Officiating at the grand finale last week, State Minister for Higher Education, Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo, praised the Stanbic NSC initiative for being in line with the new lower secondary school curriculum. Muyingo said equipping children with a business mindset at a young age is very essential, as it allows them to approach the future with a sense of responsibility and resilience.

He said, “The sight of our young people actively engaging their minds and looking for practical solutions to certain problems captures the essence of what the Ministry of Education and Sports aspires to achieve. Through competency-based education, we want to harness the full potential of our learners by giving them room to innovate and room to think.”

Muyingo, who is also a school owner and renowned teacher, applauded the participants as confident young people who do not shy away from challenges. He was speaking on behalf of the Minister for Education and Sports, Mrs. Janet Museveni.

He said, “These confident young people who do not shy away from challenges, as you have seen, will surely be in a better position to bring us closer to the realization of our ambitious national development agenda.”

Annually, 200 business ideas are mooted by the students, and to date, nearly 200 startups have been brought to life, along with numerous growth stories from alumni and patron teachers, as a direct result of the championship. 

According to Juuko, the championships are a platform that the bank uses to demonstrate its commitment to Uganda’s growth and development. “At Stanbic, we are fueled by growth. Our purpose, ‘Uganda is our home; we drive her growth’, is not merely a slogan but a resolute commitment that underscores our every action. What better conduit for driving this growth than through our young people?”

Juuko said the bank looks at the business ideas of the students as potential clients in the future.

Meanwhile, winners of the other categories include Children of the Nation (C.O.T.N.) under the BizGrow category, whose project was for making reusable knicker pads; Emily Babirye won under the TeachGrow category with a shoe-making project; and Ivan Nuwamanya, a maker of yoghurt, was declared the winner of the AlumGrow.

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