‘Current curriculum must be reviewed to address learning needs’
Alaku Ayiwulu, winner of the 2022 Maltina Teacher of the Year Competition, in this interview with IYABO LAWAL, talks about his journey and impact of the competition on the teaching profession.
How would you describe your journey to becoming the winner of the 2022 Maltina Teacher of the Year Competition?
I would say it has been a great journey thus far and remembering how this journey started with a goal, vision and determination to put myself out there and try something different, something of great magnitude and it was definitely worth it.
I am glad to allow myself take baby steps towards reaching the set goal of becoming winner of the 2022 Maltina Teacher of the Year competition.
What does this award and recognition mean to you?
The award means a lot to me, it symbolises great honour to myself, my students, my school, teachers I have learnt from, worked with, taught, guided and received direction from, and my journey in education so far. As far as recognition is concerned, it is also a thrill to be in the limelight and be appreciated by people from different facets of life.
Were you optimistic or confident that you will win the coveted prize at this year’s edition of the Maltina Teacher of the Year competition?
No, I wasn’t optimistic at first, probably because I saw myself surrounded by teachers having different pools of experiences and so on. But on second thought, I told myself that I will put in my best, confident that when I leave Lagos, I can beat my chest that I did my best and gave my all. So, I guess that was my conviction at the end of the day.
To what extent do you see your emergence as winner of the 2022 Maltina Teacher of the Year helping to broaden your capacity as teacher?
I believe this win will only push me further to develop myself, help in developing others in different capacities and work towards contributing to national development as a teacher. I am also appreciative of incentives from the competition, especially the opportunity to be part of other capacity development training to come.
As an educationist involved in the development of human capital in Nigeria, how best do you think the Nigerian education system can be managed to achieve productivity and competitiveness?
I think a review of our current curriculum will go a long way in addressing some of our learning needs. Additionally, I would suggest that relevant education stakeholders such as National Universities Commission (NUC) should introduce an inter-university exhibition as a way of promoting innovation among the nation’s tertiary institutions.
Government-owned e-learning platforms and digital tool infrastructure should be invested in, while teacher training and capacity development with appropriate infrastructure for practicability should also be giving priority attention.
It has been very tough getting trained, tested and passionate professionals in the teaching profession in Nigeria. What do you consider the major hurdle to finding the right set of teachers? What are the major challenges you have encountered carrying out your duties as a teacher?
One of my major challenges in teaching was meeting the needs of diverse students; a classroom is filled with learners with different ability levels and backgrounds. The utilisation of different approaches in the classroom (differentiated instruction) takes a lot of preparation time, creativity and patience, but at the end of it all, it’s an empowering experience.
Secondly, steady electricity was a major issue for me because teaching with multimedia (video, picture, sound, simulations and so on) required that to allow learning broaden the imagination of learners beyond the walls of the classroom and make learning deeper and more meaningful, especially in the sciences, which can be full of abstract concepts.
Thirdly, I would say that inadequate infrastructure (laboratory equipment, projectors, computers, among others,) is a major issue.
Finally, there is also the issue of having a feeling of being overworked, unsupported or underpaid, the difficulty of work-life balance and not getting proper rest can result in burnout and increased work stress.
How well does your teaching model fit into 21st-century learning given that there is an increasing clamour for digital learning globally?
I do well to keep track of educational trends and suitable digital tools to be adopted in the classroom with ease. We are dealing with digital native students (born into the digital age), who are characterised by multimedia-oriented, extremely social, intuitive learners, who crave speed and learn by doing (active learners). It is only right I design lessons in tune with the type of learners I have.
Can you share the key drivers of the successes you have achieved in your career as a teacher since joining the profession?
For me, I believe hard work, patience with students, daring to be different, research, continuous personal development, seeking counsel from experienced people and faith in what I do have continued to stand me out.
Nigerian Breweries-Felix Ohiwerei Education Trust Fund has embarked on a series of interventions to improve the educational system in Nigeria, one of which is the Maltina Teacher of The Year Competition. How would you evaluate the impact of the competition on the teaching profession?
Over the years, the Maltina Teacher of the Year competition has rewarded schools with various projects and sponsored teachers abroad for training. It is my biggest joy that I won this year’s competition and I am happy that my school and students will benefit from this venture since infrastructure will be donated to the school.
I believe that this competition has increased the drive of teachers to do more, to become more than just teachers to students. It’s also a great honour to every teacher to be placed on this platform as this would definitely increase the passion for the profession, which, at some point in time, was considered ‘a last resort career’ after all job hunts have bitten the dust.
For students, the projects donated to the school, including blocks of classrooms, laboratories and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) centres will be of immense benefit to them because they are the end users, and it is my great joy that I can be a contributor towards rewarding my school with a major infrastructural project.
What are the things that motivate you in life and career?
For me, it is the desire to make a positive impact and growth. By that, I mean the impact I make in students’ lives both in academic and non-academic pursuits.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
In the next five years, I hope to have earned a Ph.D., gain more expertise in teaching and learning, establish my own online learning platform, partake in projects that promote equity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), make even greater contributions to the sector, while also providing students with more support in the most efficient and creative manner possible.