Inside the story of a semi-rural school tutor tipped for Global Teacher Prize
By Temitope Mustapha, Abuja.
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“TODAY I can write letters, standard 450-500 words without a single mistake because I know what I am writing, I know my punctuation marks.”
“I wish he teaches us physics or chemistry so that you can get the same flow, even as it is, I feel we should have English language lessons every day,” says 14-year-old Anjola Bodunde, a student of Olasunkanmi Opeifa, A Nigerian teacher, in the top ten finalist of the Global Teacher prize 2020.
“In his class, we all are equal, on the same page, he uses teenagers language to teach us, I mean we love music as young people and so he puts his lessons in this format, precisely sounds & letter writing, almost all English language topics are either in rap or hip-hop”
“we teenagers are addicted to music, before, I had challenges in my letter writing, specifically with punctuation marks, I get them mixed up, the sound pronunciation was not also easy for me, but since he started teaching us, he uses special concepts as methods in teaching his letter writing,” Anjorin added.
Sitting in Ope-Ifa’s S.S. 3 English language class of Government Day Secondary School Karu, Abuja, on 19th of November, 2020, I would comfortably define the Lagos State University graduate of English Education as an inspiration to his students due to his use of a fun-based approach to teaching English language.
Another student, Henry Njikonye narrated how Opeifa’s classes have simplified his understanding of grammatical names and functions.
“The way he breaks down the topics, you will understand it clearly, it’s super-made easy for me”
For Ope-Ifa, Essay writing and phonology should be linked to a Nigerian popular dance step, “Shakushaku”, he simplifies grammar by demonstrating it in rapping and hip-hop songs.
Teaching Profession has been Mr. Olasunkanmi Opeifa’s dream since he was 8years old, his passion was kept alive through a composition he wrote about his desire to be a teacher in primary 5.
“I wrote a composition on my desire to be a teacher and my English teacher then was excited, he read it to my classmates and asked other pupils to clap for me, I was encouraged that a teacher could encourage me to become a teacher”.
Not deterred by others’ desire to study choice courses in university, with a 230 JAMB score, Opeifa remained un-waivered to be a teacher.
“Most times people ask why I opted to study English Education, I tell them I am a potential teacher, I am living my dream”
Not perturbed by the acceptance of his chosen career by society, the passion to impart knowledge made him devise and counter the anti-21st century curriculum made available to teach in Nigerian public schools, he beat traditional methods of teaching the English language.
“I told myself that if I can speak teenagers language, I researched into the teenagers’ diaries, their languages, I extracted more of their expressions, I composed my lessons, topics like plosives, letter writing others into music and would simply bring my composed edutainment into class, we would sing it together, sometimes rap it, even use dance steps to note the punctuation marks, I downloaded this on my phone and made it available to them to listen to it at home as well, for them to make a master of their lessons, I had to improvise instructional materials with available resources,” Ope Ifa said.
This earned the edutainment teacher the first position in the 2018 Nigeria Breweries Teacher of the year award with a reward of N1m and an additional N500,000, which he received as a state champion from the Federal Capital Territory.
The Lagos-born teacher also attracted a block of six classrooms built for the school where he teaches GDSS Karu, while he receives N1M annually for 5years since 2018 when he won the contest.
A technophile teacher, Opeifa became a micro-soft innovative educator expert, providing a lead in converting lesson noted to Microsoft word, using Excel for assessment, PowerPoint, presentations in classrooms, also exposing his students to life classes connecting them to students across the world.
In March 2020, the semi-rural school teacher was scheduled among the top-50 for the Global Teacher Prize, a 1 million dollars award by the Varkey foundation to a teacher who makes an outstanding contribution to the profession.
Mid-October 2020, Opeifa was announced as one of the 10 Global Best Teacher by Stephen Fry, he merged West Africa’s sole finalist, the first-ever from Nigeria to be tipped for the over 300million naira Global prize.
Millions of Nigerians await Ope-Ifa’s victory by December 2020, when the announcement for the winner of the Varkey foundation 2020 Global Teacher prize would be made.
Already, Ope-Ifa’s nomination to his students and stakeholders is seen as a progressive opportunity to re-write narratives about Nigeria who has been severally wrongly represented to be filled with inept corrupt and fraudulent people.