The first BTWSC Professor Allotey Science Prize ceremony recently recognised seven finalists in the Council Chamber at Harrow Civic Centre in north London.
Nominations for the Prize were based on the Year 9 SAT exam results and teacher assessments, and were open to Harrow secondary school students of African descent. The nominees were required to deliver a 3 minute presentation on global warming. The standard of the presentations were so high that instead of offering one laptop computer to the overall winner as originally planned, the organisers decided to offer two laptops.
“We were so impressed by the standard of the presentations that, we decided to offer the top girl and the top boy a laptop computer”, said Ms Serwah, Ghanaian-born barrister and coordinator of BTWSC, a pan-London voluntary organisation. “We were bowled over by the level of commitment and the fact that the nominees took the task of making their presentation very seriously.”
The Prize is named after distinguished Ghanaian mathematician and scientist Professor Allotey, who was awarded the BTWSC Black S/Heroes Award in 2006 for his contribution to the sciences. The scientific technique known as the Allotey Formalism is named after this internationally esteemed African scientist.
The purpose of the award is to motivate students of African descent to take up the sciences.
“BTWSC is of the view that young people of African descent have greater barriers to overcome when it comes to the sciences” noted Ms Serwah. “The recent irresponsible comments of Professor Watson, who said that Africans were less intelligent than Westerners, are just one example of the negativity they need to rise above.”
BTWSC was a member of Harrow Council's Promoting Achievement Group, which was focused on tackling under-achievement by Africans and African-Caribbeans, and instituted the Prize as a practical step towards promoting achievement.
The finalists were Emmanuel Obeng (Hatch End School), Rosebud Ruskie (Bentley Wood School), Elisabeth Fapuro (Rooks Heath School), Rebecca Gayle (Harrow High School), Nkenna Ibeakanma (Park High School), Kareem Alexander-Allen (Canons High School), and Louise Tyson (Whitmore High School)
All the finalists received a certificate, a book on Professor Allotey written by his wife Mrs. Asie Allotey, a retired Ghanaian chief state attorney, and books on black scientists and inventors sponsored by BIS Publications.
The winners were Louise Tyson (best girl), who thanked “all the teachers and my little sister Ashlee” for their help, and Kareem (best boy), who said “I didn't think I was going to win” and whose mother Dionne, overcome with emotion, added: “I am very, very proud of my son at this moment.” Nkenna Ibeakanma, the runner-up, received a DVD player.
Two of the finalists received a merit - Rebecca Gayle for presenting the best arguments regarding measures to combat global warming, and Rosebud Ruskie for her good knowledge of Professor Allotey and for giving a very confident presentation.
Although the Professor could not attend, he sent a congratulatory message to the finalists.
He said: “I thank BTWSC for the honour done to me for naming this Prize after me. I am very grateful and it is my hope and desire that this award will motivate many black youth to take science as a career. The talent which many black youth use in achieving great heights in music, sports and the entertainment fields, can also be re-directed successfully to the study of science.”
Mr. Annan Cato, Ghana's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom was confirmed to present the prizes. But sadly, his office rang on the day of the event to say that he could not attend because he had been invited by the Queen.
The event was well attended by the Prize finalists, their parents, well-wishers and teachers, plus elected representatives and a wide range of London's communities, who also enjoyed the [email protected] display and the Abolition Truths discussion marking the bicentenary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807.
The outcome from the panelists included the need to focus of the resilience of the enslaved Africans and be empowered by their struggles, and for people of African descent to re-engage with that struggle by describing themselves simply as African or African-British, irrespective of where they were born.
The BTWSC Professor Allotey Science Prize will be offered to students of Asie Allotey's alma mater Aburi Girls Secondary School in Ghana in April 2008.