Akwa Ibom teachers’ day of glory


First prize winner (Economics) Mr. Kubiat Bassey Umo, being presented with his “cheque” by a representative of one of the sponsors, while his wife assits

DAILY, tones of arguments are advanced regarding the fallen of failing quality of education in the country. While this pathetic “sermon” lasts, the main characters in the business of imparting knowledge -teachers, are routinely lambasted and taunted by the society they live, and serve.

While some accuse the bulk of them of being unfit for teaching and needing to be educated themselves, others accuse them of approaching their esteemed assignments with levity.

Be that as it may, despite teachers’ highly significant role in bringing about national development, seldom do the very dedicated ones amongst them get improved pay, enhanced welfare packages, national honours or sundry recognitions that bolster their collective self esteem as at when due.

In fact, more often than not, their worries are only addressed when they are forced to drop chalks, disperse their pupils and shut down classrooms.

Bothered that in our clime, scant heed is paid to Greek philoshoper and scientist, Aristotle’s assertion that, “Those who educate children well are more to be honoured than parents, for these (parents) only gave life, those (teachers) the art of living,” the Inoyo Toro Foundation elected to, eight years ago, pick up the gauntlet and lead the charge, hence the birth of the Annual Awards for Teaching Excellence in Akwa Ibom State Public Secondary Schools.

What makes the annual celebration of teaching excellence more heartwarming is the fact that it is not the kind of award that yields any form of political capital or sundry recognitions to the brain behind exercise. Rather, it is one that recognises those that the society chooses to discountenance.

To date, past and present winners as well as those that have gone ahead to become grand mentors are still in awe as to how an organisation conceived and given birth to by private individuals, has decided to bring so much laughter, joy and increase the self-worth of public school teachers in the state.

It was not for lack of what to say that one of the past winners, who ended up mentoring another teacher to victory remarked at the last event, penultimate weekend, in Uyo, that the yearly event was very much looked forward to by public school teachers in the state, who have also dubbed it their Nobel Prize.

In the words of Chairman, Award Screening Committee, Dr. Enobong Joshua, “The main purpose of this event is to appreciate and celebrate excellence in the prime profession, which is most often ignored in the list of attractive professions. I wish to remind us that teaching is more than a service, profession or a job; it is a ‘pillar of the society’ and should be appreciated.”

According to Joshua, other than the awards ceremony, which is the flagship event of the foundation’s year-round activities, the foundation seeks to encourage teachers of science, mathematics, English language, and some other endangered subjects in our public secondary schools to stimulate awareness for the study of these subjects; promote healthy and positive competition for excellence among teachers; help teachers to be more committed to their profession as they constantly update their knowledge and help to mentor other colleagues, and to provide mentorship opportunities for students of the public secondary schools by volunteers drawn from different professions.”

Through the project, Joshua said, “the foundation is also supplementing the Akwa Ibom State government’s effort in her educational development, because when the teacher is well recognised and motivated, he will teach from the heart, not from the book. We also believe that teacher motivation is the key turnaround strategy for addressing the poor learning and subsequently the poor results in these subjects in our schools.”

In this year’s event, which took place at Le Meridien Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort, Uruan, seven awards were given out in seven subjects namely mathematics, English language, biology, chemistry, physics, economics and fine arts. Each subject has three winners, with the first prizewinner receiving N250, 000; the second, N150, 000 and the third N100, 000.

A total of 159 teachers attended the selection test out of the 217 that were invited. And modalities for assessment include appraisal of the learning environment, availability of laboratories (for the science subjects) and libraries, as well as the score of the school in external examinations. The teacher is thereafter assessed based on his productivity and professional competence in the subject area.

The final screening test for selection of the winning teacher is was in two parts-the first, a 40 minute aptitude test based on the WAEC syllabus, and the second, the second, an oral examination meant for those who pass reasonably well in the written test.
“In order to strengthen the excellence of the award, the screening committee decided that henceforth the first, second and third prizes can only be merited if a contestant scores at least 70 per cent, 60 per cent and 50 per cent respectively in the final results. This explains the absence of a first prize in English language and first and second prizes in mathematics this year,” Dr Joshua stated.

He continued, “The Grand Mentor Teacher’s Award, through which the foundation challenges past winners to produce their kind through regular mentoring of other teachers in their subject area within their neighbourhood. The mentor must himself scale the written test, in addition to the field performance, before being considered for the award. Of the number of mentors that attended the screening test, five were successful each in English language, chemistry, biology, physics and mathematics.”

In his remarks, chairman of the event and Deputy Managing Director of the Thisday Newspapers Group, Kayode Komolafe, deplored the condition of teaching and teachers in the country, stressing that incessant strike actions by teachers, who are struggling for improved conditions in the education sector were an eloquent proof of the fact that all was not well with the profession.
Komolafe, a member of the Governing Council of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) who said, “essentially we are faced with an old problem and we are still searching for a solution,” praised the Inoyo Toro Foundation for commendably electing “to be part of the solution by promoting excellence in teaching (especially the teaching of science).

In the presentation, which he titled, The Teacher and His Products,” the deputy managing director said the foundation was reinvigorating the argument about the centrality of teachers to any education reform by complementing government’s efforts in promoting quality education, just as he noted that any reform in public education must put as immediate, a huge investment in the quality and quantity of teaching services.

It is also noteworthy that the foundation links these efforts ultimately to poverty reduction. A nation in which education is an instrument for deepening inequality is surely a nation preparing a recipe for a profound social crisis in the future. Those who could afford it pay exorbitant fees for their children to have “quality education” in private schools. But the public schools would continue to be the ones accessible to the poor (in the majority) who cannot afford the designer-education of private schools. You cannot reduce (much less eradicate) poverty or tackle inequality when education is made another commodity. That is why all tiers of governments should invest in quality education in public schools.

He continued, “A significant part of the investment should be the enhancement of the conditions of service for teachers to boost their morale and, therefore, productivity. The government’s efforts should be heavily supported by private organisations and endowed individuals just as the Inoyo Foundation is doing with the promotion of teaching excellence. From a social perspective, it is hardly feasible to tackle the crisis in the education sector by turning it into another field of business as the Nigerian elite is doing with a grand delusion.
“This is not the path to take by a nation craving for equity and social justice. Indeed, the trend of commercialisation in the education sector is a categorical negation of the spirit and letters of the Chapter II of the 1999 Constitution, which a makes education for all a fundamental objective and directive principle of state policy… A nation that wants good products from its schools must pay adequate attention to the quality of teachers.”

Guest speaker and Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, who showered praises on the foundation for sustaining the initiative thus far, pledged that his administration would strive to ensure that teachers in the state reap the fruits of their hard work here on earth.

He urged all and sundry to emulate the foundation, which for eight years has been striving to bolster the self worth of teachers, pointing out that “we owe a debt of gratitude to our teachers for what and who we are.”
The governor, who said that “we will make it a priority to ensure that no other worker in the state receives salary if teachers have not, stressed the importance of education in the life of a nation insisting that “no country has ever made progress without prioritizing education.
“We are leaving no stone unturned in investing in free and compulsory education because we are planning for a life time. We are ready to educate our children and will continue to do the most with our limited resources because education breeds knowledge, knowledge breeds confidence and confidence breeds hope.”

Some of the winners in this year’s edition of the award were David Ufot Jacob of Community Secondary School, Ikot Okubo (physics); Imaobong Ekaete Ekaete of Cornelia Connelly College, Afaha Oku, Uyo (biology); Aniefiok Asuquo Ekanem (chemistry) and Kubiat Bassey Umoh of Community Secondary School, Ikot Usen, Ibiono Ibom (economics) among others.

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