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Changing narratives for teachers’ reward, support in Akwa Ibom

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A cross section of pupils and teachers from public schools, and their mentors during a mentoring clinic organised as part of the award ceremony


In April 2018, the Kaduna State government ordered the sack of 4, 562 out of the 15, 897 teachers that it newly recruited to replace the 22, 000 unqualified teachers, which it sacked earlier in 2017. Then state Commissioner of Education, Ja’afaru Sani, explained that the sacked teachers were incapable of writing proper acceptance letters after they were offered their employment letters. Before the 15, 897 teachers were recruited, the state governor, Nasir el-Rufai, in one fell swoop sacked 22, 000 teachers, whom he alleged were unqualified to educate pupils.

Before his demise, the government of the late Sir Patrick Yakowa had also dismissed 4, 000 teachers, who were alleged to possess fake credentials, and gave more than half of primary school teachers in the state a five-year deadline to acquire appropriate qualifications or get sacked.

In Edo State, former governor Adams Oshiomhole, made a huge spectacle of the pathetic development, after he picked on a primary school teacher, Mrs. Augusta Odemwingie, who found it arduous to read her age declaration certificate, after spending 20 years in service.Six years after a short video of Oshiomhole’s encounter with Mrs. Odemwingie went viral leaving the former governor shell-shocked, and the teaching profession embarrassed, many Nigerians are of the view that these ugly scenarios recorded in Kaduna and Edo states are not in any way peculiar to these states, but a clear reflection of the state of the teaching profession in the country.

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Nikos Kazantzakis, legendary Greek writer, nine-time Nobel Prize in Literature nominee widely considered a giant of modern Greek literature, it was who said, “True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.”

Truth be told, while mediocre, poorly resourced, and ill-equipped teachers flood the length and breadth of the nation, recycling ignorance, some others are still striving for excellence, and sacrificing themselves all in a bid to make their students better than they are.

Sadly, the efforts of the few well-meaning public school teachers, the sacrifices they make, and good gestures are either not acknowledged, or reciprocated by the society, which they labour to educate. Also, despite the important role that regular training, retraining and improved welfare packages play in boosting the performance of public school teachers, not many states are looking in that direction.

This perhaps prompted the Inoyo Toro Foundation (ITF), a non-governmental group to take up the challenge of rewarding outstanding teachers through the annual Teachers Award For Teaching Excellence

In Akwa Ibom State Public Secondary Schools.
Apart from rewarding teaching excellence, the foundation also trains teachers; provides skills enhancement opportunities to enhance their career and make them better teachers, as well as provides the platform to facilitate their certification by recognised institutions and bodies.

The 12th anniversary of the foundation, which recently took place at the Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, was a fusion of the annual award of excellence for deserving teachers, and a mentoring session between students from different schools and their mentors.Since coming on board, the foundation has ensured that teachers that have excelled in the teaching of the sciences, mathematics, and English language are selected through a rigorous process and recognised at the awards ceremony, which is attended by very prominent Nigerians.

According to the foundation, which has trained over 3, 500 teachers, by focusing on the achievements of teachers and rewarding them, it aims to restore the integrity and pride of teachers, thereby motivating them to be more diligent in their work, and by so doing produce better students.Importantly also, the foundation collaborates with local and international agencies and institutions in sharing information and facilitating training opportunities, in furtherance of its stated objectives.

School principals, who have excelled in driving the educational goals of their institutions, in the last three years have equally earned deserved recognition for their hard work. Over the years, keynote speakers at the awards have shared heart-rending stories of what life threw at them before they meandered their way to the zenith. These they do to serve as exemplars to the pupils.

Those that have spoken in the past include Governor el-Rufai of Kaduna State, former chief executive officer of MTN Nigeria, Mike Ikpoki, and former Corps Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) Osita Chidoka, among others. For teachers and pupils who lacked inspiration, and prefer to wallow in self-pity, the keynote speaker at this year’s award, Ini Abimbola, urged them to buckle up, stressing that with the right attitude, self-motivation and diligence, help would always locate a hard worker.

Not only did Abimbola the Lead Consultant of ThistlePraxis Consulting Limited (a management consultancy, sustainability, strategy and business advisory firm) rubbish the theory of, “I had no one to send me to school or pick my bills,” she fed everyone present at the award ceremony with a dose of the elixir that catapulted her from penury to the zenith of her practice.

Abimbola, who described herself as the daughter of a “watch repairer, who started putting food on the table at 16,” advised pupils against being ashamed of their family backgrounds. She tasked them to “contribute your quota to sustaining a good family life, and make your parents proud of you.

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“Learn skills because there is no shame in honest labour. You must work and have integrity in order not to lose respect. This is because if you are diligent in what you do, help will find you,” said Abimbola, who also serves as Country & Regional Lead (Sub Saharan Africa) for The CSR Company, a global CSR network of organisations spanning four continents – South East Asia, Europe, Middle East & Africa.

With the world getting highly competitive as each day passes by, the lead consultant advised pupils to toughen up and “design your lives in such a way that you don’t believe in impossibility. It is your choice to succeed, so work hard for recognition to come from your toil because recognition bought will only be for a fleeting period, while the one end will surely endure. Be responsible and enthusiastic for work and always be willing to compete fairly.”

To the teachers, Abimbola, who said teachers have made serious impressions in her life, challenged them to leave lasting legacies in the lives of their students.Abimbola, who has over 18 years experience working in the international development space, with broad consulting experience and expertise on corporate governance, strategic policy formulation, and change management stressed, “as teachers, you can’t afford to entrench a culture of lateness in your students because leadership is by example. In today’s world, it is simply abominable for you not to respect time.

“So, I urge you to be truly invested in the lives of your students and change how you teach because the world is moving at a very fast pace. Excellence is an attitude, so you must constantly interrogate your intentions and there must be a reason for doing whatever you do,” said Abimbola, a 2008 Draper Hills Fellow on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law at Stanford University, California, United States, and an alumnus of the Harvard Business School Executive Education Programme.

In his welcome address, the Award’s Committee Chairman, Dr. Enobong E. Joshua, said the Teachers’ Award for Excellence is meant to encourage teachers of Science, Mathematics, English, and some other endangered subjects in public secondary schools, stimulate awareness for the study of these subjects, promote healthy and positive competition for excellence among teachers, and help teachers to be more committed to their profession as they constantly update their knowledge and help to mentor other colleagues.

This year, the awards were in seven subjects: English language, mathematics, biology, chemistry, physics, economics, and history. In each subject, the first, second and third prize winners received N250, 000; N150, 000 and N100, 000 in that order.

Applications were sent to over 200 public secondary schools in the state, and a total of 706 teachers of various subjects responded, while 384 met the set requirements for participation and were accordingly invited. Nine mentors, 38 mentees and seven school principals were also invited to the screening at the end of which only 239 teachers (made up of 56 English, 38 mathematics, 36 biology, 39 chemistry, 30 physics, 36 economics and four history teachers, as well as seven secondary school principals, attended the screening test.

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In the Grand Mentor Teachers’ Award category, the mentor must himself scale through the written test (at least 50 per cent), in addition to his field performance indices, before being considered for the award. Also, he must produce a prizewinner, to qualify. The Grand Mentor award attracts N500, 000. Of the number of mentors that attended the screening test this year, only three were successful each in biology, chemistry, and physics. There are no grand mentors in mathematics and the English language this year, as no mentor could scale the initial requirements in the screening test.

Governor Udom Emmanuel, who was represented by his deputy, Mr. Moses Ekpo, commended founders of the foundation, Udom and Ntekpe Inoyo for contributing their quota to the educational development of the state.Emmanuel, who said their vision and passion for the awards keeps growing by the day, urged beneficiaries to be good ambassadors of the awards by redoubling their efforts.

He said since teachers constitute key drivers of his administration’s completion agenda, the government would continue working towards bettering their lot, as well as moving education to greater heights in the state.“As a government, we are taking steps to ensure that teachers in the state are not found wanting. We are also working hard to ensure that education standard is not compromised,” Emmanuel assured.

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