Friday, 31st March 2023
Breaking News:

Decade and a half of value addition, support for Akwa Ibom teachers, students

By Inem Akpan-Nsoh, Uyo
12 February 2023   |   3:41 am
The nation’s education milieu is replete with instances of teachers being scorned, disgraced and humiliated for bad behaviour, incompetence, or for generally being found wanting in the discharge of their functions as educationists, pedagogues, guides, and counsellors.

The nation’s education milieu is replete with instances of teachers being scorned, disgraced and humiliated for bad behaviour, incompetence, or for generally being found wanting in the discharge of their functions as educationists, pedagogues, guides, and counsellors. 

While the society is sometimes unnecessarily pedantic about the conduct of these purveyors of knowledge, scant attention is routinely paid to their development/improvement, comfort, and general well-being despite their proven capacity to spur national development through the education of present and generations yet unborn.

Simply put, not enough is being done to reward hard work and excellence in the teaching profession. Heartbreakingly, despite the incandescent performances of some of the best teachers of yesteryears, their labour of love has, in most cases not been rewarded with commensurate comfort after service. This can be gleaned from the fact that most of them retire into grinding poverty, and their harrowing tales of penury unending.  
The sad spectacles created by their existence in society are not only a disincentive to the teaching profession, but also responsible for young persons not seeing a future in the profession, and ultimately shunning the noble trade. This, coupled with the perennial lip-service paid to education development by successive governments has ensured that deficits in the sector become gapping, and outcomes abysmal. 
It was this compelling need for private sector involvement in eradicating poverty through quality education (using teachers as the focal point), and improving the standard of education in Akwa Ibom State, that the Inoyo Toro Foundation was birthed in 2007. It was also to complement the state government’s effort in enhancing the quality of education.
Coming on stream, the foundation designed several avenues and programmes to actualise its aims and objectives, with its flagship programme being the Annual Award for Teaching Excellence in Akwa Ibom State Public Secondary Schools.

This initiative focuses on rewarding the achievements of teachers primarily in the science subjects of physics, chemistry, and biology. It also covers the English language and mathematics. Importantly, the award is geared towards restoring the integrity and glory of teachers thereby, motivating them to be more diligent in the task of churning out better students. 
Barely five years into the awards, organisers felt the need to widen the pool of award subjects, hence the inclusion of history and economics, and later on, fine arts were included in the awards.
The Principal’s Award also came on board in 2017 and is aimed at rewarding the efforts of exceptional public secondary school heads, who have distinguished themselves in pushing the academic and administrative advancement of their institutions, by providing a congenial learning environment.
Instructively, for 15 years, the finest and the best public school teachers in the state have been recognised, rewarded, and trained by the foundation, which is administering what appears to be the longest-running teacher reward programme in the country.
Apart from the awards, the foundation also carries out a students mentoring programme. This flagship programme of the outfit is aimed at creating a platform for well-meaning professionals or organisations to adopt a secondary school of their choice in the state (either their alma mater or a school in their community or community of operations in the case of organisations) and engage in mentoring of selected students from the school on an ongoing basis.
 In its teacher training and professional development programme, it, among other things, collaborates with Accenture (a world-class consulting firm) to organise workshops and seminars aimed at honing their skills for better performance and improved mentoring capabilities.
In addition to the Information Communication Technology (ICT) Skills Acquisition for Students, the foundation has also initiated the Grand Mentor Teachers’ Award (GMTA), a star event on its right.
This initiative is designed to challenge past and present winners in the annual awards to up their game and not rest on their oars. In other words, it is intended to encourage the awardees to reproduce excellence in their colleagues through a series of mentoring sessions and other activities.
The last event in Uyo coincided with the foundation’s 15th anniversary, and indigenous firm, Accugas Limited dished out N2.5m to five teachers that won in the different subject areas. They were John Udoh (English language); Ekpedeme Akpan (mathematics); Joshua Effiong (chemistry); Akpan Inyang (physics), and Aniefiok Antia (biology). 
The winners were selected by a panel, which reviewed the performances of the teachers that participated in the selection process. In his welcome address, the Chairman of the Screening and Award Committee of the foundation, Dr. Enobong E. Joshua, said that: “Teachers’ motivation and appreciation are critical in addressing the apathy exhibited in the teacher’s work experience, and will subsequently enhance performance and service delivery in our schools. We believe that an annual Mandatory Professional Development (MPD) seminar/workshop that can be held during the long vacation period would be a good start. The government can also facilitate an in-service training programme for teachers and school heads. These will update the teacher’s professional and academic competence to enable them to cope with modern challenges.”
According to Joshua: “The purpose of this annual event is to appreciate our public secondary school teachers and principals who have excelled during the year in their various roles in education delivery. This is our 15th Award ceremony. Borrowing from the 2022 World Teachers’ Day theme: “The Transformation of Education Begins with Teachers”, we see that teachers are indispensable assets in revolutionising education delivery, particularly in the formative stage of human development. When we also reason that teaching is more than imparting knowledge, but actually inspiring change, we conclude that there can be no meaningful development of any society without the teacher. It was Barak Obama, who said, “invest in our teachers and our children will succeed”. This is why Inoyo Toro Foundation cannot but focus on teacher development and motivation for optimum results in our education enterprise.” 

The screening committee chair urged students to “buckle down to their studies and other worthwhile endeavours, rather than being distracted by pressures of society and friends.  Studying facilitates deeper understanding. Develop a reading culture that can help expand your horizon, sharpen your creative mind, and expose you to other facets of life, beyond your core area of interest. In particular, try to heed the counsel of your teachers, as well as our foundation’s external mentors who have themselves made their mark in the society.”
Ephraim Jacob Inyangudo, a physics teacher at Comprehensive Secondary School, Ediene, Abak Local Council, and past winner of the annual award for teaching excellence is full of praises for the foundation for bolstering the fortunes of teachers in the state and complementing the state government’s effort in enhancing the quality of education. 

The teacher, who bagged a Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement (FTEA) award, last year, from the United States (US) government was selected as the best teacher in Nigeria/Africa to receive the global award in which 90 teachers were selected from 55 countries of the world. 

As a Fulbright Fellow and as one of the Fulbright Alumni worldwide, Inyangudo, in a way, represents the US-Nigeria interest in education, and the State Department has mandated him and other Fulbright Fellows to send in proposals of projects that they might want to carry out that will benefit the students, teachers, and even their communities for sponsorship by the US government from time-to-time as they (the US government) will deem necessary.

On how the foundation has impacted his career, he said: “In 2016, Inoyo Toro foundation sent all the 2015 award winners to American International School, Lagos for a world conference/training. It was a very beneficial experience. Also, in 2020, the foundation trained us again on how to mentor both teachers and students. I mentored another seven physics teachers out of which two came out successful in 2021, and I got my second Grand Mentor Award in physics, in 2021. I became the first person in Akwa Ibom State to receive the Grand Mentor’s Award in physics twice since the inception of the foundation.
He thanked the foundation for the “ massive investment in me, which has changed my life forever. I am a better teacher today not because I went to the US, but because someone laid the foundation for my international flight. I am eternally grateful to Mr. Udom Inoyo for this uncommon vision of repositioning education in our state.”

While thanking the foundation for striving to reposition education in the state, he charged other organisations to follow suit, adding that, “Inoyo Toro Foundation has also taught our teachers to cultivate the habit of giving back to the society, and this has truly reshaped my life. Today, I invest part of my salary in my students.”