‘Teaching special children gives me job satisfaction’
Imoh Eno Essien was among the teachers invited to Lagos for the grand finale of the 2016 Maltina Teacher of the Year, having qualified from his region. At the end of proceedings inside the Oriental Hotels, Lekki, Lagos, Essien beat 10 other finalists to emerge 2016 Maltina Teacher of the Year. Apart from becoming an instant celebrity, he has been blessed with a car, a house and a baby. Essien was in Lagos recently for the flag-off this year’s contest where he shed more light on his life and the teaching profession.
How has winning the Maltina Teacher of the Year affected your life?
In just eight months of winning the competition, I have been transformed into an instant celebrity. Now, you can Google my name and you will see everything about me. It has been a fantastic experience and it has granted a lot of opportunities for me to meet people who are ready to listen to my opinion on various issues.
What was the reaction from your school and community to your winning the competition?
Everybody was happy that I won and they never thought it would come to reality. They were happy that I could achieve such a feat. My school threw a party for me to celebrate me that I have made them and the state proud.
You are a special education teacher, what is it all about?
It has to do with teaching persons with special needs. When people with special needs are taught, it is regarded as special education. Teaching and bringing education to that level requires special passion, considering the fact that there are people with different classes of disability, from the physically challenged, mentally challenged and other forms of disability. These people are all brought to school and are taught under special education.
How did you find yourself in special education?
I have always wanted to be a teacher and my desire is to help people with special needs. So, when the opportunity came and l got to that school, l was excited. Though some universities and colleges of education have asked me to come and teach, I told them that I was interested in people with special needs and I’m proud to be where I am; getting satisfaction from teaching people that are vulnerable. I am happy doing that.
If you have the opportunity to leave, will you?
Yes, I have opportunity, some universities have invited me to come and teach, and I have a Masters and I am working on my PhD right now. With those opportunities, I still say no. I am satisfied being a special education teacher because it gives me job satisfaction. So, there is no point going anywhere.
Do you have background in special education?
Yes, I studied Special Education at my Master’s degree. For my first degree, it was Health Education.
What actually motivated you into the teaching profession?
I have always wanted to be a teacher and have always known this from the time I took the JAMB form and I filled Education and when I graduated, I started teaching. I did not want to be an engineer or a medical doctor, I wanted to be a teacher and I am proud to be a teacher and that is who I am.
As a teacher, what are the challenges facing the teaching profession today?
There are so many challenges facing the teaching profession. We have the student factor, the government factor, the teacher factor and the school factor. The challenges are enormous, from students not willing to learn, to government not providing basic facilities in school, to teachers not being motivated. We have to look at all these in trying to make the best out of it positively.
How best can we address the decline in our education?
If we say a decline in the quality of education, in my own view, I will say there is no decline and if you say the quality of education has gone down, what are the rules or yardstick in determining it? It is all about personal opinion. In fact, the education sector is attracting the best brains now. You see graduates of Engineering, Social Sciences or the Humanities going into teaching now, because there is no job for them in their areas of study. This is unlike before. So, education is getting the best hands to push up the quality and standard. What we need is just the regulation of standards to weed out the chaffs.
What would you have been, if you were not a teacher?
Teaching is my calling…and I am passionate about it. But if I have to make a second choice, I would have been a musician or a footballer.
What it is your advice to fellow teachers?
It is simple. They should believe in themselves, follow their passion and be tenacious. The reward will come. Their days will surely come. Teachers should stop looking down on themselves. I believe teaching is the best and the most honourable profession in the world. It is the mother of all professions. So, teachers are the best, and they should see themselves as such.