Olasunkomi Opeifa teaches English at Government Day Secondary School Karu, Abuja. He won the 2018 Maltina Teacher of the Year award and is among the top 10 selected for the Global Teachers Prize, making him the first Nigerian and West African to come this far. In this interview, he spoke on his journey as a teacher and how he uses edutainment concept to teach!
Tell us about the Global Teachers Prize contest
The Global Teachers Prize is an annual prize for teachers all over the world organised by Varkey Foundation. The foundation looks for teachers with extraordinary skills in teaching; resilience and a sense of sacrifice. They want to see how much you have sacrificed.
It is generally about telling your story in teaching with different methodologies; how you make your students global citizens, produce results, help other teachers and how you encourage other people to join the profession.
Once you can narrate that, they put it under certain scores based on some eligibility and the top 50 will be selected in the first round. From there we have been narrowed down to 10. On 13th October, I was announced as one of the top 10. The prize is one million dollars for the winner and the winner will be unveiled by the 3rd of December. I am hoping Nigeria will win as this is the first time a Nigerian is getting to the top 10 in the history of the award and also first for someone from West Africa.
What is special about what you do as a teacher?
I have several uncommon teaching methodologies in my classroom. One of the things that stood me out is that I use what is called Edutainment. I believe that students of this generation would not learn if you don’t add fun to your teaching, so it must be fun-based. I rap with some of the concepts in English language; I sing around and I use some cultural songs too. I also use the concept of dance steps like Kpese for a full stop and shaku shaku whenever I am teaching. I use it here and there, as far as you can understand their language they are always ready to learn and learn more from you.
I also integrate ICT into teaching in my classroom a lot because children of this generation are digitally wired. If you want to get the best from them push it to them through the computer and they will be glued to the screen and want to learn.
I got that from UTME; as soon as UTME became computer-based, I don’t know if people have observed, but the scores are now higher. When I did it for my students, I noticed that students that could not pass WAEC because it is paper-based did well in UTME.
I also have what I call fleet classroom where I produce video lessons, give them to students to study at home, then come to class and do the assignment. I get the question paper, teach the students how to mark as an examiner and give them to mark.
As they mark their classmate’s work, they behave like the judges and that will help them when they are writing to remember what they judged so they become careful and it has been producing results.
These are the three things I submitted in my write up.
Considering the impression by many that public school teachers do not teach well, and you having a background in such school, would you say that gave you an edge over others?
Not really. I have always been different, right from childhood. I was not a dull student. I chose education; I decided to be a teacher from when I was very young. I told my father and initially, he doubted it but later he supported me.
I love being a teacher and I found out, even as a child that I could explain things better than many other persons around me. I can learn something and say it in my language. So I feel I have the skill. I was also very brilliant in school and always came top of my class. It has always been in me to give my best.
I belong to the generation of youths that believe that an average life is a decorated failure, just be the best.
So no matter what, even when my teacher didn’t come to class, I was determined to give back the quality education that I acquired to society. I was ready to give my best to the teaching profession.
What is your assessment of public school teachers in the country?
Yes, there is the impression that public schools teachers do not teach well and that may not be far from the truth. But now things are changing and the regulation is different; they gave me strict instructions that you cannot go out during the teaching period. We have about five inspectors that come in a term and so you have to be around and do the work.
Another thing is that young people are coming into the job now due to the fact that there are no jobs and some are discovering themselves and seeing us as their mentors and for every young person that I have noticed they are really dedicated.
Some of us are tired and we are not happy about the way things are in the country. We want to give quality education to those who are coming because that is one of the ways we will come out of poverty.
So many young people are coming into it and they are very dedicated, they are discovering technology and that makes them more interested in the job.
I have not less than 500 around me in different connections and we train them to be better. So things are changing compared to what they used to be in the past.
If you are to be in government what would you do for teachers?
First, I will make sure that their environment is very good; our environment is poor. Must governments build schools near garages, markets or close to cemeteries or shrines? If you observe public schools, most of them have some funny names like local authority. I think they should work on the environment and there should be facilities; enough ICT facilities for teachers. That will reduce the stress of the job.
I can stay in a place and teach like five classes and I can still move and continue my work at home.
Secondly, I would like to see the curriculum updated. The one we have now has served the past generation and they need to redesign the curriculum for this generation. The world has changed totally.
The curriculum should be worked on to include 21st century skills. Teachers training too should not just be that you are a graduate and you are coming in. There should be proper in-service teacher training, too, for them to embrace a lot of 21st century skills.
If you emerge winner, what would you do with the prize money?
The prize is for my community, society and country. First, I would like to have what is called a digitised school in one community where students do not need to carry their bags to school. I would like to build like nine libraries across local communities.
I really benefited from libraries growing up because I never had textbooks. I used the libraries to read and pass my exams. I would like to build one too so that people can benefit from it.
I will also give full scholarships. It is my goal in life to sponsor, every year, 100 students from primary through to university. So these are the things I am going to do with the money.