“A teacher’s reward is in heaven,” so goes an old saying. But the community of Umunama, Ezinihitte Mbaise Local Government Area of Imo State, recently decided to reward and celebrate an accomplished teacher, Mrs. Bridget Unegbu.
Mrs. Unegbu worked for the Lagos State government for 35 years and retired in 2017. Aside from contributing her quota to improving education in her community, Mrs. Unegbu also brought home her knowledge when she served as treasurer for the women’s wing of her town’s union. And her time as the treasurer brought in proper financial accountability.
Recently, the Lagos branch of Umunama Progressive Union (UPU) honoured Mrs. Unegbu with an award of excellence in recognition of her commitment to work and dedication to educating the younger generation in the community and beyond.
The colourful ceremony took place at the Media Centre Hall at the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos.
A member of the planning committee for the event, Mr. Romanus Olewuike, explained that Mrs. Unegbu was honoured alongside many other awardees to recognise their contributions to sustaining the union, at a time when many youths do not show much interest in community affairs.
“We have many professionals in our community, but Mrs. Unegbu has distinguished herself as a school teacher. So, we want to show our gratitude to her now that she is alive,” he said.
Chairman of the UPU, Mr. Emeka Ukachi, described the awardees as role models that Umunama was proud of.
“The award goes to special people that have made our community proud in different endeavours, and we are proud to say that we are proud of you,” he said.
Traditional ruler of Umunama, Eze Jude Ebii, who came from Imo State to grace the event, urged youths to not only emulate Mrs. Unegbu and the other awardees but also seek ways to serve their community: “Our community is unique because we celebrate excellence. I want to appeal to our youths to also strive and learn from the success stories, contributions and the good examples shown by our awardees. They should aim for excellence and come to serve and develop Umunama so that we will converge one day to also honour them.”
For Mrs. Unegbu, the award was like a dream. She expressed gratitude to the organisers, saying the award was a statement that integrity, hard work and sacrifice were still profitable.
“I feel so happy to be recognised by my community,” she said. “This award indeed proves that the saying ‘a teacher’s reward is in heaven’ is an old saying. Because teachers today are getting their rewards here on earth and in heaven too, especially here in Lagos State, where some high educational positions are well renumerated.”
For the many Nigerian teachers that feel disillusioned with their careers, Mrs. Unegbu advised them to understand their worth and realise their huge roles in ensuring a better society.
“As a teacher, realise that you are a teacher to everyone. Always try and let your profession reflect in everything you do. In the community I was married into, I made sure to be a good ambassador for my profession. I look into the affairs of the children educationally. Though I didn’t have money to pay school fees, I offered my knowledge, by counselling children and parents on education issues. Also, I’ve written several acclaimed life-changing books on exam success, study habits, career choice, and family life. So as a teacher, your horizon is limitless.”