Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The general saying that “hard work” pays was justified, on Saturday, October 5, in lives of some basic and secondary school teachers whose amazing, diligence and commitment to professional duties were recognised by the Federal Government and “handsomely” rewarded at an elaborate event to mark the 2019 World Teachers’ Day, at Eagle Square, Abuja.
It was a moment of recompense from the government and corporate organisations, for teachers who have distinguished themselves, professionally, administratively and otherwise, under the platform of President’s Teachers’ and Schools Excellence Awards (PTSEA).
The open recognition and reward nullified the saying that teachers’ rewards are in heaven. Undoubtedly, their services and contributions to human capital development have begun to attract good rewards and open recognition on earth.
For 2019, brand new vehicles, refrigerators, generator sets, laptops, and several other consolation prizes were distributed to some teachers who distinguished themselves in their professional responsibilities.
After a rigorous and transparent selection process from entries received from 28 states, Elusakin Agnes Iyabo, from Oriwu Senior Model College, Ikorodu, Lagos State, emerged the 2019 best teacher in public school category. She was rewarded with a brand new Hyundai Sonata car.
Adeibiyi Abiola Temitayo, from Vasity Children Grammar School, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State, emerged 2019 best teacher for private school category, with a brand new Hyundai Accent as a reward.
A Catholic Reverend Sister, Onwuadi Ifeoma, from Maria Regina Model Comprehensive Secondary School, Nnewi, Anambra state, won the best administrator in public school category got a car, while Flora Azikiwe Model Comprehensive Secondary School, Neni, Anambra State, emerged the 2019 best school in public school category received a bus.
PearVille School, Avu, Owerri, Imo State, emerged the 2019 best school in the private school category, with a brand new 15 seater bus as a reward. There were several consolation prizes for teachers and schools that had outstanding records in the year under review.
President Muhammadu Buhari, who was represented by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, presented the awards and other consolation prizes to the teachers at the World Teachers’ Day event in Abuja.
Speaking to reporters, the winner of the best teacher in public school category, Elusakin Iyabo, said the president’s award was a testimony that hard work pays, even though it might take time in some cases.
She said: “I knew this will come one day because I am dedicated, focused and committed to my teaching profession. This is my 27th year as a professional teacher and I never had reason(s) to regret being a teacher.
“Teaching profession has given a great platform to achieve my goals, and I desire that any of my children should take after me as a professional teacher.
“I am from a village where the only well-dressed people then were teachers. They confidently appear in their Knicker, with long sleeve shirts, tie, and long stockings. They are disciplinarians and embodiment of knowledge. That made me love them and aspire to be like them. They were behind my dream of being a teacher and I never had reason(s) to regret it.
“I have won several awards in Lagos state and elsewhere. I have attended several trainings, locally and internationally, and that helped me to be a better teacher, making a great impact on the lives of the younger generation.”
Elusakin, however, appealed to the government to support regular training of teachers to prepare them ahead of changing dynamics in the education system.
She equally promised to double her effort in the discharge of her duty, and also encouraged younger teachers to put in their best in the profession, as rewards always await a diligent, dedicated and committed worker.
On his side, the best teacher, private school category, Adebiyi Temitayo, said he has spent 19 years as a teacher in private school, and it has been a privilege and wonderful experience to help build the academic and moral destiny of younger Nigerians.
He said: “I had the opportunity of quitting teaching profession when different employment offer came but I chose to remain in the profession and I have vowed to die as a teacher because that’s where I found joy and fulfillment.”
“However, I was shocked when I was informed that I won the president’s teachers’ award. I didn’t see it coming. I was only doing my work diligently and never knew that such a huge award was coming. It’s a big motivation for me, and I appreciate God and the Federal Government for it.”
Ngozi Amako, who is the principal of Flora Azikiwe Model Comprehensive Secondary School, Neni, Anambra state, that emerged the 2019 best public school in Nigeria, attributed the success to teachers in the school who, according to her, are passionate, dedicated and committed to the delivery of quality education to students.
She said: “It amazes me how these teachers go out of their way or commit personal resources to ensure that students get the best education, not minding several challenges and poor working environment. It’s a pointer to the passion and zeal they have for human capital development.”
She appreciated the state government for its support and friendly environment that enhanced quality and affordable education for students irrespective of their social status.
At the ceremony to mark the World Teachers’ Day, guests were entertained with march past, drama and cultural dance, all of which contained messages that amplify the campaign for better working conditions and welfare package for the teachers.
Buhari, in his remarks, explained that the award was instituted a few years ago to openly appreciate the teachers for their contributions to human capital development and also motivate others to put in more effort for open recognition in years to come.
He acknowledged the need for improved working conditions for the teachers and assured them that plans are underway to provide incentives for them especially those working in rural areas in order to retain them and also lure younger talents into the profession.
Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, confirmed in his remarks, that the Federal Ministry of Education has engaged the National Association of Insurance Companies to provide life insurance packages for the teachers.
He said: “It will take off with one million Naira for non-core science, technology, and mathematics teachers and N1.5 million for science, technology and mathematics teachers.”
President of Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Nasir Idris, in his remarks, re-echoed the need for government to prioritise the welfare and other things that enhance the working condition of teachers.
He demanded for extension of the retirement age of teachers to 65 years, and to also discourage early exit of experienced teachers from active service, and also help reduce the gap and shortage of experienced hands in public schools.
He requested of government to increase funding for basic education, professionalised teaching, improve teachers’ conditions of service particularly for teachers in Federal Government Colleges (FGCs) otherwise known as Unity Schools.
The event ended with special recognition that was given to Ebonyi, Kebbi, and Edo State governors for their contribution to the welfare and human capital development of teachers.