Along with the rest of the world, Akwa Ibom State marked the 2022 World Teachers’ Day on Wednesday, 5 October, with a very colourful and glamorous celebration. The event, which held at the West Itam Secondary School Mini Sport Stadium, was well-attended by stakeholders in the state education sector. In line with this year’s global theme, “The Transformation of Education Begins With Teachers”, the celebration in Akwa Ibom centered on the critical role of teachers in the transformation of education. But beyond the march past by teachers and various groups in the education sector, beautiful goodwill messages from stakeholders and other regular activities which are typical of the event, this year’s teachers’ day was very significant for teachers in the state.
In an effort to motivate teachers towards achieving the much needed transformation in education, the state government through the Ministry of Education honoured 30 deserving teachers with the Governor’s Award of Excellence. In addition to the award, each of the teachers were given the sum of one hundred thousand naira (N100,000). The excellence award called “Governor Udom Emmanuel Teachers’ Award” was the Season 2. The initiative kicked started last year where 30 teachers went home with awards and one hundred thousand naira (N100,000) each. This means that in just two editions, the Ministry of Education has splashed six million naira (N6,000,000) on outstanding teachers in the State.
Notably, the good side to this novel and laudable initiative is the composition of the beneficiaries of the Season 2. They are evenly selected from deserving teachers/head teachers in primary schools and teachers/principals in secondary schools. To ensure that teachers were selected strictly on merit, the selection committee relied on field reports and recommendations from the monitoring teams of the Ministry of Education, State Secondary Education Board (SSEB), and Governor’s office. “After we got a list of recommended teachers from monitoring teams, they were all subjected to interview to ascertain their achievements and performance,” a member of the committee said. “In the end, the best 30 were selected”. The selection committee comprises representatives of the Ministry of Education, SSEB, State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), State Technical School Board (STSB), and Governor’s office monitoring team.
According to the list of awardees, about 20 of the 30 winners are in schools located in the hinterlands. For instance, the primary school teachers’ category has Louis Sunday Udo of Government School, Ikot Ebak, Mkpat Enin; Grace Francis Enyenaka of St Mary’s Catholic School, Ikot Ekaide, Obio Akpa, Oruk Anam; Aniefiok Okon Inyang of St Victor’s Catholic School, Ikot Uno, Ikot Ekpene, among others. While the primary school head teachers’ category has Ikwo Dan Bassey of Government School, Etebi 1, Esit Eket; Patricia Luke Attang of St John’s Lutheran School, Ukat, Onna; Friday Michael Udoh of Government School, Utu Nsehe, Etim Ekpo; Sunday Moses Akpan of Government School, Ikot Obio Okpoho, Ukanafun; and Paulinus Sunday Isong of St Mary’s Catholic School, Not Edino, Obot Akara.
In the secondary school teachers’ category, they are Usoro Odoronam Bob of Eket Modern High School, Ekpene Obo, Esit Eket; Idorenyin Sunday Udo of Odoro Ikono Secondary School, Mbiabong Ikot Udofia, Ini; Unyime Harrison Ukowo of Community Secondary School, Urua Ekpa Enang, Oruk Anam; among others. While the secondary school principal’ category has Augusta Afahaenam Etukudo of Girls High School, Ikot Ibiok, Eket; Bassey Godwin Umanah of Government Comprehensive Secondary School, Amadaka, Eastern Obolo; Udeme Henry Akpan of Western Anang Secondary Commercial School, Ukanafun; and Friday Joseph Etukudo of State Secondary Commercial School, Okop Eto Road, Ikot Ekpene. Other teachers on the list are in schools within the state capital and neighbouring urban towns.
This statistics could be a further motivation for teachers in the rural areas. In their separate remarks, the winners expressed their excitement about the recognition and cash reward, while other teachers revealed that they were inspired to work harder with the hope of winning in the subsequent editions. They now have a convincing reason to believe that Governor Udom Emmanuel’s reward for excellence is not location biased. If properly sustained, this pattern of reward could significantly cushion the rural-urban migration of teachers; because the massive interventions undertaken by the state government in schools in the rural areas will only be valuable if there are committed and passionate teachers serving in the schools.
Obviously, the essence of the regular inspections and monitoring visits to schools by the Ministry of Education led by the Commissioner, Mrs Idongesit Etiebiet; Education Monitoring Team of the Governor’s office and Board, goes beyond ensuring that teachers and school administrators’ are up and doing. These interfaces have been good opportunities for the representatives of the government to have first-hand information on the individual and collective performances of teachers and school administrators in the state. This revelation will go a long way to oppugn the insinuations that some of the inspections are ill-motivated or usually targeted at certain people or schools. The approach, if properly leveraged, will sustain the the already established vista of synergy between teachers/school administrators and education monitors. It will potentially build more trust among stakeholders in the education sector.
Having fully recognised the role of teachers in the transformation of education, the state government through the Ministry of Education, the State Secondary Education Board and other relevant government agencies, is working tirelessly not only to reposition the education sector, but also provide enabling conditions for the teachers to succeed. To ensure a well-coordinated operation, the Commissioner for Education, Mrs Etiebet created the Education Sector Management Committee which comprises the Commissioner, all Education Board Chairmen and Permanent Secretaries, the Honorary Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, and Special Advisers to the Governor on Education Monitoring. Through the carrot and stick motivation approach, the Committee applauds outstanding teachers as well as penalise recalcitrant ones in line with the Civil Service Rules. For instance, while about 60 teachers/school heads have won excellence awards within the last two years, over 200 have either been queried, suspended or demoted within the last seven years.
It is on record that the Ministry of Education under Mrs Etiebet in collaboration with other government bodies in the education sector, has introduced many laudable initiatives, policies and programmes aimed at bringing out the best in the state education sector. Recently, the Ministry in collaboration with a non-governmental organisation, Young Giants Agency, organised a 3-day training workshop with the theme “Succeeding As A 21st Century Teacher” for public school teachers. It is therefore expected that the award of excellence if sustained will motivate teachers in the State to continously maximise the skills and knowledge they acquire from these regular government-sponsored trainings in order for the State to achieve the desired outcomes in the education sector.