Another praise day for Akwa Ibom teachers

Grand mentors awardees for Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics, Mbet Udoudo, Mfonobong Umo, Blessed Peter and Aniekan Okpo respectively

Daily, they toil very hard; they leave home very early, trek long distances to and from school, and sometimes, under very harsh weather conditions.

Apart from earning a living doing what they love to do, teachers contribute in no small measure to riding the society of ignorance, just as their efforts remain critical to engendering national development.

But despite all these, they are often discountenanced by the society they help to educate in ways that draw tears from the eyes, even as their welfare is routinely compromised with brazen impunity.

Conscious of the fact that teachers appreciate being appreciated, and as part of efforts towards promoting teaching excellence in public secondary Schools in Akwa Ibom State, the Inoyo Toro Foundation in the last 11 years, took it upon itself to celebrated them for their labour of love and for their role in societal advancement.

Apart from rewarding excellence in teaching by recognising the achievements of teachers, the foundation trains teachers; provides training and skills enhancement opportunities to enhance their career and make them better teachers, as well as provides the platform to facilitate teachers’ certification by recognised institutions and bodies.

At the 2018 edition of the event, which held recently at Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, Uyo, two proud daughters of teachers- the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (HCSF), Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, and Nollywood producer and Founder, Royal Arts Academy, Mrs. Emem Isong-Misodi, joined others to pay befitting tributes to teachers, for the labour of love and for being exceptional even with little reward for what they do.

Oyo-Ita, who said that her mother, the late Mrs. Angelica Ekpeyong Nyong, was for several years, a primary school teacher and taught at Ireti Primary School, Ikoyi, Lagos, from 1969, explained that back in the day, teachers were highly respected members of the society, who were considered the epitome/custodians of wisdom and knowledge in the communities they lived in.

The HCSF, who drew attention to the respect for and confidence reposed in the teacher, by the king in the now rested TV series, “The Village Headmaster,” equally narrated how her uncle, the late Asako Otu Nyong Edet Asido of Adiabo Okurikang in then Western Calabar (now under Odukpani Local Council) was revered in Victoria Town, Cameroun, Port Harcourt, Lagos and Calabar, where he made his mark as a teacher.

With a good number of teachers, whose praises are still being sung across the length and breadth of the country, and the sense of pride they had doing their job, Oyo-Ita said, the question society is trying to answer now is, “why are our teachers no longer feeling that amount of pride and accomplishment in their career? Where did we go wrong? I still remember then in those days when we were little, my mother used to tell us stories of how it was really fashionable and extremely prestigious to send your brilliant daughters to teacher training colleges, just as she attended Teacher Training College (TTC), Ifuho, Ikot Ekpene, Akwa Ibom State. In those days, it was a thing of pride to introduce your daughter as a student of TTC and you were sure that there would be a long line of potential suitors, who would like to have such a lady as a wife as did my mother… Also, children of teachers were always the lucky ones because at home we had a very good foundation educationally, and were ready to move to schools, where we would get the icing on the cake. So, you can see that we enjoyed both ways.”

While assuring teachers that their pupils and the society will never forget their selfless services, the HCSF added, “the impact you have left on us is very important. Personally, I’ve I learnt from my teachers in primary and secondary school, love for God, my nation and my community. I’ve learnt self-respect, dignity, self-esteem, confidence and ability to speak well in public. I have also learnt to be disciplined, time conscious, read widely, taking notes and that every action of mine has its reward and consequences. Furthermore, I’ve learnt physical fitness, how to play sports and games. All these I learnt from my teachers.”

Turning to the celebrants, she said: “Teachers, many of you here today have done marvelously well. You have students who have excelled in JAMB and in the university. I was very happy to hear that some of your students have gone out of this country for competitions and are doing well. All these because of your impact, your effort, and it gives me joy that one of us who has gained so much from having a good education couldn’t have been done without teachers like you and is now giving back to teaching and I’ll tell you something, no matter what or who we are, you the teachers are very important to us and to our children,” she stated.

Oyo-Ita who said the country does not have to wait until teachers down tools before their grievances are looked into, praised the Inoyo Toro Foundation for rewarding teachers, thereby boosting their confidence.

“This is a message I’ll be going back to Abuja with, we need to develop a very strong policy to encourage teachers and teaching. Teaching should not be seen as a last resort to that desired job, rather teaching should be made the first choice. We always talk about the standard of education falling in Nigeria, we have so many reasons for that and if we don’t support teachers to put in their best for these little children, then that educational standard we keep talking about will keep falling. We must go back to where government schools are schools that everybody’s child can attend…”

In her remarks, Isong-Misodi, who was the chairperson of the occasion, described investment in education as “perhaps the most important investment every society should undergo.

She expressed delight in contributing to education by encouraging the people who pass on knowledge so that they can in turn be an inspiration to their students, while also lending a voice to girl-child education.

She added: “Increasing the girl child’s access to education and ensuring the gender sensitivity of educational settings, methods, contents, teachers and administrators is critical for their empowerment. Like a lot of people in this audience, I was brought up here in Akwa Ibom State, Ikot Ekpene to be precise. Who would have thought that the little girl from that part of Nigeria would grow up to be a household name? The single most important reason for that turn of events is the power of education.

“My Mother was a teacher, so not studying was not even an option. I burnt the midnight candle and studied hard in the belief that in so doing, I would put in place a platform to create a better future for myself. I am a film producer and I come telling stories visually, but I needed to go a step further, so I created the Royal Arts Academy, with the aim of passing on knowledge, creating a platform for people to be educated via the arts and incorporating human resources from within and outside the country in order to better our script.

“Capacity building and human capital development through skills acquisition is very important in any society. I believe film is a powerful tool for social change so I decided to train other filmmakers so that we can all work together as agents of change.”

At this year’s celebration, which theme was, “Contribute to Building a Solid Future for Akwa Ibom State awards were presented in six subjects- Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Economics and Visual Arts. In each subject, the first prizewinner received N250, 000, the second, N150, 000, and the third N100, 000.

A total of 203 persons made up of 194 teachers and nine principals were invited. However, only 109 teachers, made up of 24 (English Language), 22 (Mathematics), 15 (Biology), 22 (Chemistry), 19 (Physics), six (Economics) and one Visual Arts teachers, and eight school principals, attended the selection test, which modalities for preliminary assessment of schools for the award include appraisal of the learning facilities and environment; availability of modestly equipped laboratories (for the science subjects) and libraries, while the score of students of the school in the final external examinations must be at least 80 per cent at credit level and above .

Assessment of the teacher was based on productivity and professional competence in the subject area, while the two-part final screening test for selection was an aptitude test based on the WAEC/NECO curriculum, and an oral interaction between the resource persons and those who pass reasonably well (at least 40 per cent) in the written test.

In order to strengthen the excellence of the award, the first, second and third prizes are only achieved if a contestant scores at least 70 per cent, at least 60 per cent, and at least 50 per cent, respectively, in the final results. This explains the absence of first prize in Economics and Mathematics this year.

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. In addition, 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, four were successful each in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and Physics. There was no grand mentor in English Language this year as no mentor scaled the initial requirements in the screening test.

In his welcome address, the Award’s Committee Chairman, Dr. Enobong E. Joshua said the screening committee and the foundation’s Board of Trustees consider as worrisome, the current apparent decline in the performance of some of the teachers in some of the subjects, and was putting in place measures to strengthen the Grand Mentor award category for effectiveness and fulfillment of its objectives. “The candidate for Grand Mentor award will subsequently be required to achieve at least 60 per cent in the mentoring aspect of the scoring. The foundation is also exploring modalities for organising retraining and refresher programmes to address these deficiencies.

“It is observed that public schools are not performing optimally because of non-commitment of some of the teachers and school heads. Educational managers should brace up to their responsibilities. The supervising government departments should strengthen their machinery for proper and effective supervision and honest appraisal of all sectors of the school system. The teachers should note that our children would excel to whatever height in their academics if given the proper mentoring by their teachers.”

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