By Gabriel Dike
Alaku Ayiwulu, a 38-year-old teacher, Federal Government College, Jos, Plateau State, recently emerged Maltina Teacher of the Year. He beat 30 other constants, and smiled home with N6.5 million.
He spoke with Daily Sun. Excerpt:
How do you feel emerging as the teacher of the year?
It’s an overwhelming feeling of joy and happiness. I feel happy and honoured to have won this award for all teachers, students, my school Federal Government College Jos, the Federal Ministry of Education, all people of Plateau State and for Nasarawa State, my state of origin.
Adding to this fact that receiving this honour validates my years of toil and commitment to the teaching profession. Because sometimes as individuals, we occasionally doubt ourselves, our impact, how our lives have changed or improved over time as a result of what we do, how we do if it was worth it or not, and so forth. In other words, this award does make me feel validated, appreciated and recognised.
Who encouraged you to enter the competition?
My inspiration came from a combination of sources. They include my own conviction, inspiration from the past Maltina state champions, who emerged from my school, Mrs Mbanefo Hope (2017), Mr Ukegbu Onyema (2020), and Miss Yusuf Rebecca Ughilli (2021). They also stood as models to us in the school.
Their winnings highlighted the benefits of participating in competitions. Encouragement from my Principal, Mrs V.V Pam, who has been a mother, a model. She always showcases opportunities and encourage teacher growth, development, wellbeing and exposure at all levels.
In addition, I saw it as an avenue to put myself out there and try something unique. There are not many competitions that allow teachers to compete among themselves. Making the Maltina Teacher of the Year a unique platform for all teachers to take advantage of.
I believe it is an avenue to allow us to gain visibility and continue to further grow in our professional lives. After all, Nigerian Breweries is a prestigious organisation and their scrutiny of teacher competitors will highlight only the best and top contenders.
Has winning the award changed your perception of Nigerian teachers?
No, it hasn›t, Teachers remain the backbone of nation building. We continue to imbue the right values in children, shape character and develop student’s level of cognition, attitudes, abilities, skills and other behaviours. These are of positive value to the society in which they live.
A teacher deserves to be accorded more respect and the profession with more benefits and prestige. However, oftentimes, when students are asked about their desired careers, it is very rare to find students who aspire to become teachers. Many set goals to pursue careers in Medicine, Law, Engineering, Accounting, Tech (ICT), etc. This alone speaks volumes about the societal perception of a Nigerian teacher.
How do you start your day?
I begin my day by ensuring my assigned classroom is clean, the register is marked, encouraging and uplifting the morale of my class and ensuring they’re ready for lessons.
I do my lesson planning a day before. So as I am in school, I quickly attend to my set lessons of the day by preparing my resource materials. Afterward, I tend to other schedules.
What is the worth of a Nigerian teacher?
It doesn’t matter whether the teacher performs his/her duties in a classroom, an open field, or under a tree, the value he/she offers is enormous. We owe our teachers a lot because they bring to fruition the promise of intelligence residing within our children/students. On that, we must rely for existence.
Society has no future without dedicated and motivated teachers. The worth of a Nigerian teacher cannot be quantified. Some teachers do beyond their prescribed duties. They take from their little salaries to buy materials for teaching, assist students and tend to theirs. As such, the value of a dedicated Nigerian teacher is priceless.
Do you think teachers should earn high than other professions?
I think all professions at different levels and stages require different skill sets and offer unique services. However, I do not think we cannot compare the magnitude of mental work a teacher and that of other professions as they both deserve some level of respect for the services they offer.
But do teachers deserve more pay for the service they offer? Yes. They do deserve more financial and job benefits. For example, a subsidised school fee for biological children where they work therefore ensuring 100 per cent dedication and motivation in many cases, etc.
They deserve to be more comfortable. The profession also deserves to be respected by the society, parents, the teachers themselves and younger students, who would aspire to become a teacher by choice, rather than by unwanted admittance into the teaching line because of desperation for higher education in the university, a job or only to gain societal value as a degree holder.
If you become President of Nigeria, how much will you pay teachers?
It is obvious that as a teacher I will want to improve the welfare of all teachers, accord more prestige to the teaching profession and review the education budget if I’m ever in the presidential seat.
Though one cannot put a price on the services of a teacher, there can be improvements in the sector. That will promote job satisfaction, retain seasoned and experienced hands from jumping ship when another Job offer presents itself.
However, the increase in service years, mandatory registration of teachers by TRCN and education bursary for students approved by the presidency are all welcome developments in a positive direction. These can go a long way in reshaping the mind set of many who use teaching as a placeholder pending other job opportunities yet end up spending years teaching without giving in their best.
Do you have any regret being a teacher?
None at all. I Thank God for where I am today. I give God all the glory, honour and adoration. Teaching has given me exposure in ways I couldn’t have imagined.
In 2019, we participated in the Korea Science Engineering Fair (KESEF, 2019) in Daejon. Our student, Anna Sokyes, was awarded a bronze medal award for her project exhibition and awarded best young female scientist.
I was also privileged to participate in the 2022 Fulbright Teaching Excellence Achievement (TEA) programme in Florida, USA. The programme allowed participants to teach for a period of two weeks in a US classroom. There were other pieces of training, cultural exchanges.
Currently, I serve as the 2022 Maltina Teacher of the Year. I cannot regret being a teacher. It has presented a lot of experiences and exposures.
I genuinely believe I’m making a difference, assisting children, encouraging real, long-lasting change and taking part in activities that, in my opinion, are aligned with our value system. Knowing you went above and beyond to support a student’s learning and development or hearing from a student or parent how much they value you is invaluable.
Yes, there are times when the workload is overwhelming. Every job has its highs and lows. Nevertheless, teaching is ultimately not for everyone. Although, when we constantly compare ourselves to others, it steals our joy and can lead to a lot of anger and resentment.
Instead, I think we should only compare ourselves to yesterday. Thus as educators, we need to often ask ourselves: Why are you teaching? After answering this question, we just have to learn a management system that works best for us so we don’t get burnt out and frustrated or bitter.
Narrate any unpleasant experience you encountered with a student.
I always view all of my students as my own. I treat them with respect and it is accorded back. However, I do my best to correct inappropriate behaviour right away. Unfortunately, I am unable to specifically name any unpleasant incident that has had a significant impact on me so far.
Students will always be students. It is our job to continue imputing and promoting the right values into them through our words, actions and how we associate with them.
What new things have you brought into the classroom after the award?
I believe at this point in my career, I feel a responsibility to groom young leaders in the profession. I’m more motivated, energised; more confident and encouraged to do more than teaching. I also stand as a model to students and young officers from what I do, say, carry myself and so on.
My perspectives on teaching methodology have been broadened from my Fulbright TEA and other experiences. I am looking forward to collaborating with other educators through continued service to the ministry, college, staff and my students. Together in synergy, we can advocate modern and best teaching practices, contribute to educational knowledge and continuously proffer solutions to educational challenges.