Jewel’s Glorious Outings at the HIASFEST
By Jerry Adesewo
The fifth edition of the annual Hadiza Ibrahim Aliyu Schools Art Festival, popularly known as HIASFEST, has come and gone. This year, though bugged down by security challenges, which prevented many regular participants from outside Niger State from participating. However, one school, the Jewel Model School, Abuja was among the over forty schools that attended this edition.
Jewel Model School is a co-educational senior secondary school, situated in Kubwa Resettlement Town, a satellite town in Abuja popularly known and referred to as ‘Kubwa Village.’
Accolades from previous editions
In 2021, students from Jewel Model School picked up three awards in the keenly contested festival: First Place Winner in On-The-Spot Poetry Writing, Second Place Winner in On-The-Spot Poetry Writing, and Third Place Winner in Spoken Word
They return again in 2022, where they scooped a total of eight awards and accolades. They emerged Third Place Winner in On-The-Spot Poetry Writing, Second Place Winner in the Spoken Word category, First Runner-Up Winner in the Nigeria Poetry Prize for Teen Authors Second Runner-Up Winner in the Nigeria Poetry Prize for Teen Authors, Second Runner-Up Winner in the Nigeria Prose Prize for Teen Authors, and of course,
Besides emerging Winner in the Innovation (Craft) category. They also picked the award for the Most Valuable Contestant (Female), won for the school by Pacella Chukwuma-Eke with her collection of poems titled ‘Love in its Bliss and Sins. And in the tradition of the HIASFEST organisers, her collection was one of six teen authors whose winning entries were published and presented to the public at this year’s festival. She was the golden girl of the 2022 edition.
Sharing her view about the impact of HIASFEST and her victories at the 2022 edition had on her writing, Pacella said, “Being a participant at HIASFEST 2022 had a lot of positive impacts on me. The joy of communicating with foreign students, and beautiful writers, molded a pretty view of creative writing for me. And the fun I had as well. Before HIASFEST, I had only won one international on-the-spot poetry writing contest. So I had to put extra effort into writing and all.
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The result came out pretty good. After this win, a speaker at the award ceremony gave us some advice that would be stuck with me for a very long time. “That you’ve won something here today doesn’t make you a writer. A writer is consistent. He doesn’t dwell on his wins but his growth…” After this, I told myself that I would not stop writing. When I returned home, I wrote to a lot of magazines and literary journals. Got acceptances and rejections. But I was focused on being consistent with writing, so I didn’t stop. I haven’t stopped yet.”
For 2023, things got even better for Jewel Model School as they emerged as the Third Place Winner, Overall at the 5th edition of HIASFEST held between January 18 and 21, 2023. Their scoop, at this schools art festival, which is unarguably the largest in Africa at the moment, includes emerging as: Winner in three different categories – On-The-Spot Poetry Writing, Nigeria Poetry Prize for Teen Authors, won by Bella Ogwuche with her poetry collection, To Girls with fading Dreams; and the Nigeria Prose Prize for Teen Authors. They also emerged, as Third Place Winner in the Craft (Innovation) category, and Second Place in HCAF Best Performing Branches Award.
Sa’adatu Yahaya, the Golden Girl
While Pacella Chukwuma-Eke was the golden girl of the 2022 era, another Jewel Model School Student, Sa’adatu Yahaya, an SS 2 student, claimed that coveted spot in the 2023 edition, thereby retaining the prize for Jewel Model School.
Emerging the Most Valuable Contestant in 2023, is surely not a walk in the pack, considering the fierceness of competition in the various categories she participated, but deservedly, she improved on her 3rd place showing in the last edition (with her novella titled Strong Bond), to emerge winners in both the On-the-Spot Poetry Writing and the Nigerian Prose Prize for Teen Authors (with her novella, AGNES)
In addition to monitory rewards, apart from getting her winning entry published as is the tradition, next year, Sa’adatu will be the keynote speaker at the HIASFEST 2023 where she would have the opportunity to speak to thousands of students, parents, teachers, policymakers and industry stakeholders on a topic or issue of her choice at the opening ceremony of HIASFEST 2024.
What a Blessing!
For Jewel Model School, Kubwa-Abuja, the young man, Blessing Omeiza Ojo, a literature teacher in the school, is no doubt a blessing, as his name suggests. Blessing, who is currently the coordinator of the Hilltop Creative Arts Foundation (HCAF), Abuja branch, is the reason behind JMS’s excellent performances in all of its literary and creative engagements.
Blessing as simply known is passionate about creative writing, and that passion is clearly visible in his mentorship of his students at the Jewel Model School, and other young members of the HCAF in Abuja and beyond. He invests his time and resources in nurturing these young writers, and this begins to yield results. He is a maker of champions and history will no doubt remember him.
Last year, Blessing Ojo won the Maryam Aliyu Award for Best Teacher (Male). He not only retained that award for the second consecutive time but also emerged winner of the Nigeria Prize for Indigenous Language (Yoruba Category)
Blessing Omeiza Ojo is a Nigerian poet, teacher, and author. His works have appeared in Split Lip Magazine, Parousia, Olney, Cọ́n-scìò, Rough cut Press, ArtsLounge, Wax Poetry Journal, Lunaris Review, Last Girls Club, Artmosterrific, Trampoline, Praxis and elsewhere. His poem, “Everything Around Us Sings” was selected for publication at the Castello di Duino 2021 International Poetry and Theatre Competition. In 2020, Omeiza was named the Arts Lounge’s Literature Teacher of the Year. He was on the shortlist of the Eriata Oribhabor Poetry Prize 2020, a semi-finalist for Jack Grapes Poetry Prize 2020, and the winner of, 9th Korea-Nigeria Poetry Prize (Ambassador Special Prize).
With his rising profile, it is left to be seen if they can keep hold of this jewel for long, as his legacy must by now be attracting some big schools in and around Abuja. How well they appreciate his effort and respond to it in like manners would determine his reaction if any such opportunity comes knocking. Welfare is the word!
Jewel: A True Model
The management of Jewel Model School sure deserved a thumbs-up. First, is the first that they are one, of very few schools you can find anywhere in Nigeria that offers creative writing as a stand-alone subject, and even have a teacher specifically dedicated to it. Secondly, is that they did not shy away from investing in their student’s literary development as they ensure the students participate in major literary and art activities that could enhance their appreciation of art, and further horn their skills.
In 2018, The Jewel Model School published a collection of poetry titled Ocean of Dreams, which featured the works of nine students and Blessing Ojo himself, who doubled as the editor of the anthology. A second anthology is in the making.
These accolades being won by their students, individually and as a collective, is no doubt a befitting return on the school’s faith and investments in their students beyond the normal classroom engagements.
Jewel’s Glorious Outings at the HIASFEST