Their names have been in the news but the formal ceremony only took place last Sunday in Dubai. They did not make the Top Ten finalists for the Global Teachers Prize, not to talk of being the final winner for 2018 as to have got the $1m that comes with it but they made the Top 40 finalists, two of them from Nigeria. The two are Anthony Itodo and Ayodele Odeogbolu. While Itodo is with The Gateway Excel College Otukpa in Ogbadibo Local Government Area of Benue State, Odeogbolu is with the famous Abeokuta Grammar School in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
The prize is a rating of teachers in relation to expanding the frontiers of knowledge transmission. The UK based Varkey Foundation which runs the prize instituted by the Emir of Dubai and Vice-President of the United Arab Emirate, (UAE) referred to the finalists as “teachers who have made a significant difference in their students’ lives – sometimes against all odds” and who it says deserve to be celebrated. The award could be said to have come at no better time than today when the question of the most appropriate techniques for teaching is in serious contention across the world.
South Africa, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana were the other African countries that made it to the top 40 finalists out of which the United States alone captured four. All the great powers: Brazil, China, France, India, Russia, United States, United Kingdom have at least a citizen on the list. Only South Africa got to the Top ten finalists from which a Briton emerged as the global best teacher. Reproduced below is Global Teachers Prize’s bio-brief on the two Nigerian educational diplomats:
Anthony Itodo, The Gateway Excel College, Otukpa
At the beginning of his career, in a small rural school in Nigeria, not many people understood why Anthony would get a masters degree from a UK university (Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh in Scotland, UK) and end up teaching in a village for “peanuts”. But this was part of his mission – to elevate the teaching profession to a place of pride, to show with his own life that the profession is a noble one whose value is not tied to how much we earn. Today, the same people who mocked his decision to teach especially in a rural area are publicly celebrating him and his students’ successes.
When he teaches in class he tries to introduce positive values from other parts of the world to broaden their view of life. When he told them that in some European countries a woman gets half the property at divorce, it shocked them, coming from a culture where gender inequality is grave and women can actually be kicked out of their husband’s homes at will. So he preaches the virtues of justice, institutional soundness, community service, value creation, among others that are elements from other cultures that can help create an ideal value system in Nigerian youth.
In May 2017, Itodo founded a community-based organisation for youths – New Frontiers Youth Forum. This organisation welcomes membership from 13-35 year olds, and the aim is to raise an army of young leaders who will act as positive change agents within the community.
In October 2017, The Forum commissioned a community library. Before this, the community had no library where students and others could study in comfort or have access to resources they couldn’t afford.
Ayodele Odeogbolu, Abeokuta Grammar School, Nigeria
Ayodele teaches STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) Education and Global Studies to 11-15 year olds in Ogun State, Nigeria. He is passionate about developing his learners to be future leaders and become stakeholders in their world. He uses collaboration, critical thinking, creativity and communication, combined with innovation and new technology to transform learning.
In class he has chosen gifted students as leaders to head groups and review every learning activity – many of these have gone on to become leaders in higher education. Rather than teach the same thing in the same way to all, Ayodele seeks to match the different needs, potentials and learning paths of each child. He says, “For every human challenge in the new world we live in, there is always a technological solution”. As part of this he has brought technology industry experts into his classroom and linked his class to peers in schools in India and Lebanon using Skype and social media .
He is active in many projects focusing on education and youth development. He acts as mentor to other teachers, Youth Service Corps leaders and young African leaders. He was lead of Beyond School Community Challenge Project – a flagship initiative of Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Association of Nigeria. The initiative involved over 300 schools in developing young people to be the solution to their communities, in line with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Ayodele has also developed a professional development scheme that has so far trained over 2,000 teachers with the support of the United States Mission in Nigeria, Microsoft Nigeria and Ogun State Government.