By Abubakar Adam Ibrahim
I remember in JSS One, having an English language teacher who couldn’t read. Every time she started, students would be correcting her mistakes. She was later assigned to teach Integrated Science, and later Agricultural Science, none of which she did with distinction. I was never sure what her area of specialty was.
But we had this really amazing English teacher at the Senior Secondary level. Oral English was her thing. The woman knew her stuff. Eventually, she started coming to school with peppered meat for sale and by SS3, she fully focused on selling meat to students rather than teaching them. If her pay package had been great, I am sure she would have focused on her teaching.
In that final year, my biology teacher, a man of little amity, perpetually in a state of angst, gathered a few of us after our final WAEC exams and said he had only one advice for us: “Never ever become a teacher,” he said.
You could see it was coming from a deep place and he had had to cope with a lot of frustration on the job. I hope he is a happier man now.
You understand that a lot of these people are frustrated by the conditions of service, by the total disregard for their wellbeing, forcing the good ones out and leaving mostly people with limited options teaching until something better comes along. Mostly, these are the kind of people that governor Oshimole, at the time, humiliated on national TV. Those are mostly the types that Governor El Rufai has sacked en masse.
I have seen their likes at the university. A lot of them came to get their degrees, their B.Eds, and one thing I can tell you, no one cheats in exams more than these people. When they ask for help with their studies, it is not so they could learn, it is so they could add it to the cheat notes they store on all parts of their bodies. It makes you wonder what they are teaching their students.
But in the bleakness, you find rare gems, people who are committed to impacting on the lives of their students, sometimes even beyond the academic. People who make you look back at your school days with a glow in your heart.
Garba Ahmed was my teacher in secondary school. He was brought in to teach Hausa Language but was soon offering lessons in physics and chemistry and just about everything else. And he taught with passion and distinction you wondered what his area of specialty really is. He was passionate about the holistic development of his students and to this day, I count him as a teacher, a mentor and a friend.
So was Badung Gonzaga, a fine gentleman. I don’t know where he is now but I surely hope he is doing well. And at the university Dr. Taye Obateru, became a beacon, an exemplary man, teacher and role model. When I think of teachers of distinction, I think of men like these.
The impact teachers have on their students last a lifetime and until education is prioritized and teachers’ welfare is standardized, we will continue sacking teachers en masse and producing graduates who don’t know their left from their right.
But today, I just want to say thanks to all the wonderful teachers out there who are happily burning themselves to shine the path for others. Thank you.
Abubakar writes from Abuja