‘My interest in educating young minds was borne out of passion’

Onyeka

The International Educational Management Network (IEDUMAN), a leading educational advocacy group and think-tank, is set to empower 2,000 teachers this year as part of the group’s yearly Educational Empowerment Series. Dr. Onyeka Jaibvo-Ojigbo, President/Convener, IEDUMAN, and Evan Udogbo, IEDUMAN’s partnership and engagement officer, sat down with TOBI AWODIPE to talk about the educational problems in Nigeria and what they are doing to solve it.

What is the motivation behind IEDUMAN’s activities?
IT has been our tradition since we started. Yearly, we roll out a programme, something we think is going to impact or change the way we do things in our educational sector.

It is obvious that there is a crack in the wall of education in this nation, and everyone is blaming one another without proffering solutions. We have left so much to the government and we forget that our children are the beneficiaries of the system.

Many of our leaders’ children are not schooling within Nigeria and the rest of us cannot afford education outside the country.

So, are we going to remain stuck? As part of our duty, we are trying to provide a platform, where we can all come as professionals, look at what is going on, discuss it and proffer workable solutions.

Most times, we talk and there is no follow-up action, and if you really want to follow up, how much finance do you have to embark on it? You can’t save the world but we believe that we can, at least, lend our voice and save a portion of the world that we can save.

What is your focus this year?
This year, we took our theme from our Educational Empowerment Series. We are going to focus on the Nigerian Teachers’ Skill Project. We are going to work with many teachers from nursery, primary, and secondary schools. That is the basics of education. If the foundation is right and well-laid, the building will stand much stronger.

The Nigerian Teachers’ Skill project is essentially focused on teachers in the foundation stages of education. We will talk to them about professionalism and offer training and anything we know to make them perform their duties better.

What are the key drivers of the Teachers’ Skill Project?
The society is evolving and our world is changing. There is disruption in the system and technology has changed the way things used to work in the education sector.

That is why we sat down and asked ourselves, ‘what can we do for Nigerian teachers?’ There are a number of gaps in our education sector that we have been able to identify, like the issue of blended learning that is integration of digital tools technique, materials into learning in the traditional classroom model. This is one of the solutions that we are proffering as part of the NTS project.

Secondly, we are urged to create this intervention to provide life skills to teachers to better themselves.

There is this misconception that just educating young minds is okay. This intervention, we are going to be providing a whole number of skills to equip the Nigerian teachers themselves.

Also another key driver for the project is low morale among teachers. This intervention is going to afford them the opportunity for professional recognition.

We are going to recognise them. We need to celebrate, especially, those who are doing exceptionally well.

This will be a sort of Nigeria Teachers’ Award. The project also aims at building a well-equipped resource centre for teachers to create an innovative mind in them.

Starting here in Lagos, we will begin with the number we can manage, which is 2,000 teachers for a start. We know that we can reach them for sure around us.

How do you hope to get the government to key into this project?
For every project we have done in the past, we had always involved officials from the Ministry of Education in Lagos.

This year, we are working with Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria. That is also a government body. The last one we had in September, we had two directors from the ministry.

Incidentally, I own and run a school and I have done this in the last 13 years and seen so much in both government and private sectors. I know what is going on. School owners these days are only focusing on Return On Investment.

There is no crime in doing it as a business but do it right is what we are saying.

Besides, the government has stopped building schools and has left it for the private sector and it doesn’t even monitor schools again.

This whole thing came out of passion from what I have seen running a school myself and I know it can be better. I know there is something government could do to make these schools better.

So, 2,000 teachers are the ones we know we can handle on our own. We have done so many things on our own these past two years and people believe in us now. That is why we are reaching out to partners and most of them have given us their word.

Come April, we know that many of them will make good their promises. We are involving partners, people of like mind; they are people, who own organisations.

Some of them are not even in the education sector but when they hear the story of the rot going on, they said, “okay, what can I do to make this change? So, we have such people and we are still reaching out to more.

What kind of empowerment are you going to provide?
The content of the empowerment is going to be the best anywhere in the world because of the kind of collaborators we are working with.

The partners are experts in that field. They are the ones to tell us this is the kind of content that we design for the teachers.

It will go through the necessary approval and the government will look into it and the management of IEDUMAN has to approve it and deploy it. One of our partners this year is Google, so you know it will be of international standards.

How do you get funds for this project?
In the last two years, we have been funding everything from our pockets. That is why we are reaching out to partners this year. We are involving people of like minds and they have given us their word.

What criteria will be used to select the teachers?
We are going to reach out to the government, their associations and some of the schools, but the registration is basically going to be online. The event website is going to be up, so teachers can go there and register.

Once you register and your registration is confirmed, you are in. With the website, any teacher can register, even from outside Lagos. The number of teachers could be more than 2,000 but we are planning for just 2,000.

What other programmes are you expecting to organise?
This year, as has been our practice, we are going to be doing Eduskill fair, which is part of our commitment to also stress the importance of vocation in education.

What is common now is everybody chases certificate, while nobody has any skill to offer. So, what do we find? People finish from school and they are unemployed and they have no clue of what they can do.

Some state governments are doing some things and we hear a lot of empowerment, but it has to be channeled in the right direction.

If we add vocation to education, it will be very beneficial in the long run because you will have people, who graduate from school and they will have vocation to fall back on because everybody cannot do white collar jobs or be employed by the government.

This year’s education skills fair will be taking place between April 18-20. We hope it is going to be bigger than past editions because we have a lot of new partners, who have subscribed to the project.

It has always been a one-day programme, but this year, it is going to be two-day programme.

We will do seminar and training, skills and vocation on the first day, while the second day will be for exhibition.

Later in the year, we will hold our yearly conference, where we will get all the professionals that are major players in the education sector and we sit down in a town hall to dissect the country’s educational syetem, spotlight the problems and proffer solutions.

What is next for IEDUMAN?
In the next five years, I would like to see a well-equipped, functional Educational Resource Centre.

In most developed countries, they have this. The world is now a global village, we should not be left out.

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