On Monday 5th October, 2015, teachers in Nigeria joined their counterparts in other parts of the world to mark the Teacher’s Day, a day set aside to celebrate teachers and the teaching profession as the foundation of all other professions.
In Nigeria however, it was a mixed blessing for the teachers. The raging Boko Haram insurgency which adorned the garb of a rampaging bloodletting terror four years ago, has become a pain in the neck of Nigerians residing and working in Nigeria’s North East. Michael Olukoya, the President of the Nigerian Union of Teachers, NUT painted a grim picture in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, where he observed the Teacher’s Day. According to him, Six hundred teachers have died as a result of the Boko Haram insurgency in North-East Nigeria.
“It is on record that over 600 teachers have lost their lives to the terror attacks. These include 308 in Borno, 75 on Adamawa, 18 in Yobe, 25 in Kaduna, 120 in Plateau, 63 in Kano and 2 in Gombe States. This is additional to 19,000 teachers that have been displaced and are suffering great losses due to barbaric activities of the insurgents,” he lamented.
The kidnap of over two hundred school girls in Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State two years ago actual put a seal of misery and hopelessness on education and teaching in the war weary North East.
Not a few Nigerians have concluded that with the raging fire from the insurgents, education and teaching have collapsed in the North East, especially in Borno State which has become the epicentre of the terror fight.
But on Monday 12th October 2015, inside the Grand Ball Hall of the prestigious Oriental Hotel, Lekki-Lagos, expectations were high on who wears the crown in the maiden edition of the Maltina Teacher-of-the-Year. Eventually, a piece of good news came in from the North East as Federal Government College, Maiduguri produced the second best teacher in Nigeria.
The race for Maltina Teacher-of-The-Year started on Wednesday, 20th May, 2015 and generated unprecedented interest from teachers across the country. The award instituted by Maltina, the non-alcoholic malt brand from the staple of Nigerian Breweries Plc, is courtesy of Felix Ohiwerei Education Trust Fund. It is aimed at restoring the pride of teachers and the dignity of the teaching profession.
The collection of application forms was to end on Tuesday, 30th June, 2015. The deadline was extended to Friday, 17th July, 2015, based on the appeal by secondary school teachers for more time to file their entries.
The initiative with prizes worth N50 million annually, is to reward commitment and diligence to duty by exceptional teachers across the country.
The sponsors also raised a Panel of Judges comprising eminent Nigerian academics and professionals, which was chaired by Prof. Pat Utomi, Founder/CEO, Centre for Values in Leadership. Others include: Mrs. Mopelola O. Omoegun, Professor of Education, University of Lagos; Prof. Thomas I. Ofuya, Vice Chancellor, Wellspring University and Member, Committee of Vice Chancellors of Nigerian Universities; as well as Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, Chairman, Editorial Board, ThisDay Newspapers. Other members are: Dr. (Mrs.) Abdulrahman Binta Fatima, National President, All-Nigeria Confederation of Principals of Secondary Schools; and Professor Tijjani Abubakar, Dean, Faculty of Education, Ahmadu Bello University.
Managing Director of Nigerian Breweries, Mr. Nicolaas Vervelde explained that the valid entries received were subjected to an intensive selection and judging process by an independent, external panel of judges to ensure transparency, credibility and objectivity.
Pat Utomi, the chairman of the Jury attested to this when he revealed that the job was challenging. “We saw many disappointment and also saw many things we were are happy about. Each judge scored the bulky documents submitted before we arrived at our conclusion,” he said.
Out of the numerous entries, nineteen state champions emerged representing Abia, Adamawa, Anambra, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Imo, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Katsina. From these, ten finalists emerged. The finalists who slugged it out at the final lap, were winners from Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Benue, Borno, Delta, Ebonyi, Imo, Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States.
The great moment of anxiety came when the ten were reduced to three – one man, two women – from where the second runner-up, first runner-up and the winner emerged. After some moments of suspense by the duo of Frank Edoho and Gbenga Adeyinka who handled the programme, Mr. Daniel Sunday Udiong from Akwa Ibom was announced as the second runner-up. Then the real moment. Two women; one from Borno, the other from Anambra.
When Mrs. Binta Mohammed Lawan of Federal Government College Maiduguri was eventually announced by Edoho as the first runner-up, there was a pin-drop silence in the hall before it was taken over by loud applause and a standing ovation. It was a golden silver medal for Binta, who defiled the insurgent’s bullets and bombs to remain at her duty post in Maiduguri.
She could neither control her composure nor her emotion, as tears rolled down her cheeks. “Iam shocked, Iam shocked…but I thank God today for putting a crown on my determination to trudge on despite the threatening odds.
“I was determined not to run away. Education remains the best weapon against terror…and teachers are the foot soldiers. And the terrorists know; that is why the schools, students and teachers are the target. What they don’t know perhaps is that no force that can defeat an idea whose time has come,” she said.
The ovation only stopped when the winner was eventually called out to receive her award. The last woman standing, a 37 year-old teacher from Anambra State, Mrs. Rose Nkemdilim Obi emerged winner of the maiden edition of the Maltina Teacher-of-the-Year.
Obi, who is equally a daughter of a teacher, teaches Mathematics and Chemistry at the Federal Government Girls College, FGGC Onitsha. She is a year 2000 graduate of Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka, Anambra
For their effort, the national winner got one million and another one million naira will be paid into her account annually for five years. Obi will also be sent abroad for professional training on the bill of Nigerian Breweries/Felix Ohiwerei Education Trust Fund, just as the Federal Government College Onitsha, Obi’s school, has also become an instant beneficiary of a block of six classrooms.
Binta, first runner-up got one million naira plus another five hundred thousand naira finalists’ prize money, while the second runner-up took seven hundred and fifty naira and another five hundred thousand naira for getting to the finals.
In his welcome remark, Vervelde explained that the company operates with a philosophy of “winning with Nigeria” and has championed causes that add value to the society since its inception in 1946. “In 1994, we raised the profile of our support of the education sector when we established the Nigerian Breweries-Felix Ohiwerei Education Trust Fund to enable us to contribute to the development of the sector. Everywhere in the world, teachers play a vital role in sustainable national development by training, coaching and modelling which is critical to determining the quality of education, “he said.
Ohiwerei is the first indigenous Chairman of the leading beverage conglomerate which has been operating in the country since 1946. The Trust Fund was established in 1994, with a seed capital of N100 million, to contribute to the development of educational sector in the country. Over the years, the company has used the fund to assist over 20,000 students, built over 250 classrooms and 22 libraries in both primary and secondary schools across 49 communities in the country.