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Otumfuo Reading Challenge: 15-year-old crowned 2022 champion

Lordina Agyapong, 15, who represented the Tafo community in the reading challenge run by the Otumfuo Foundation, took home a grand prize of GHC10,000

Lordina Serwaa Agyapong, a student at the Tafo-Pankrono Municipal Assembly Junior High School in the Ashanti Region, has won the second edition of the Otumfuo Community Reading Challenge, which took place at Manhyia Palace on Friday (11 November 2022).

Agyapong, 15, who represented the Tafo community in the grand finale of the reading challenge run by the Otumfuo Foundation, took home a grand prize of GHC10,000, a plaque and a scholarship to fund her tertiary education, as well as other prizes from the sponsors.

In a closely fought, all-girl competition with five contestants – representing the communities of Adum, Kotei, Maakro, Obuasi and Tafo, all in the Ashanti Region – Agyapong achieved a top score of 78.9 to snatch the ultimate prize.

Henrietta Diyour of Obuasi, who earned a jury score of 77.4, came second. Melissa Braimah Saeed of Adum, Tiwaa Antwi from Maakro and Fransisca Boakye Mensah from Kotei followed in third, fourth and fifth positions.

Speaking to Asaase News on the sidelines after the event, the 2022 OCRC champion said she wants to use the opportunity to raise awareness of childhood cancers, as she aims to become a paediatric oncologist.

“I want to set up a foundation that will take care of children with cancer,” Agyapong said. “Somebody is going to take care of me through my university, so I need to also extend a helping hand to every child in Ghana.

“I know many Ghanaian people do not know much about childhood cancer, so I want to sensitise the public and also take care of children with cancer.”

Access to education

Highlighting the importance of the reading challenge, Otumfuo Hiahene, Nana Professor Oheneba Boachie-Adjei II, who also chaired the event, said the initiative signals the Asantehene’s commitment to ensuring access to quality education in Ghana.

“This contest and all other projects of the foundation is a testimony of the unfading commitment of the king towards seeking multiple avenues to providing and ensuring access to quality education over the years. It has been the king’s aspiration and legacy to ensure all our children have access to good-quality education,” he said.

The executive director of the Otumfuo Foundation, Nana Afia Kobi Prempeh, bemoaned the gradual neglect of the local language by some parents in day-to-day communication with their wards. She urged parents and educationists to promote the use of Twi for daily communication.

“We are abandoning the use of our local languages as a means of communicating in our various homes and we are fast losing our cultural identity as a people, because of behaviours and habits like this,” she said.

“We think it’s questionable and it shows bias to speak only English with our kids, and this is indeed a real existential threat to our core identity as a people.”

Requisite skills

The Minister of Education, Yaw Osei Adutwum, commended the Asantehene and the Otumfuo Foundation for the reading challenge, initiated to promote reading in both Twi and English.

Speaking on behalf of the Education Minister, the chief executive officer of the Student Loan Trust Fund, Nana Agyei Yeboah, said that the challenge, together with certain government policies such as the one on Stem programmes, “will go a long way to equip the Ghanaian child with the requisite skills to thrive in this 21st century. At the ministry, we look forward to working with all stakeholders to provide the necessary support for our socio-economic transformation.”

The Ashanti regional director of the Ghana Education Service, David Oppong, appealed to parents to support the Otumfuo Foundation’s initiative by encouraging their wards in the habit of reading.

“Empirical studies have shown that avid readers get better results across all subjects,” Oppong said. “Children from disadvantaged backgrounds who read often … often tend to score better than more privileged people who do not read at all.

“We therefore appeal to parents and other stakeholders to support the Ministry of Education, the Ghana Education Service, and the Otumfuo Osei Tutu II Foundation to promote the reading and reading culture.”

The Otumfuo Community Reading Challenge (OCRC) is one of the flagship projects initiated by the Otumfuo Osei Tutu II Foundation in 2021. The OCRC project is a community-based reading challenge, organised specially for junior high xchool students to promote reading in English and Twi, thus encouraging positive reading habits among students.

With the sole purpose of enriching students’ communicative skills and promoting the habit and interest in reading, OCRC has been designed to be conducted in 60 selected communities in Asanteman. In each community, one outstanding student is crowned the winner, known as the OCRC Community Champion in the community where he or she first competed. Competitors are assessed on four key metrics: pronunciation, punctuation, fluency and speed during the competition.

Irene Pomaa Kumi

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