By Tom FredFish
One of the parameters for measuring a country’s development index in this era of globalization is the quality of education that a country offers its citizens. This is because education is the aggregate of ideas, methods, resources, facilities, and personnel, designed by the society to teach its members how to pursue realistic goals in life.
However, for some time in Nigeria’s recent history, education in many states of the federation is beset with a plethora of crises.
The role that teachers play in the realization of a solid education in any country cannot be easily quantified. That is why Mr. Udom Inoyo established the Inoyo Toro Foundation in 2007 to support the government in extricating the sector from total collapse by awarding, training, and impacting students and teachers in Akwa Ibom state Public Secondary Schools with cash prizes.
Mr. Inoyo who is determined to achieve his vision of improving the standard of education in Akwa Ibom state using teachers as a focal point to complement the government’s effort in enhancing the quality of education in Nigeria; galvanized resources to invest in the development of Science, Mathematics, and English Language as the foundation’s core objective.
Thus, for 14 years running, the foundation has empowered teachers with cash prizes ranging from N150,000 to N500,000 to motivate them. Besides that, the foundation also focuses on the training of secondary school teachers to build their capacity for effective impacting of students each year, as it runs a mentorship program where credible individuals in the society adopt schools of their choices to mentor young pupils.
In 14 years of its existence, the Inoyo Toro Foundation has recorded numerous positive impact on men and women who never thought they could be remembered or appreciated for doing their jobs. Their lives have been touched for the better.
According to a beneficiary, Dr. Regina Udo John – a mathematics teacher at the State College, Ikot Ekpene, she was awarded first prize in mathematics in 2014 with the sum of N250,00 and later won the Grand Mentor’s prize of N500,000 in 2016. Mrs. Udo recounted that the foundation gave her the required training and finance that has changed her life for good, explaining that she didn’t know anybody in the foundation before she was invited for the selection process which was very transparent as the award has catapulted her teaching career to the next level placing her at the top of her career.
Talking about the impact of the training by the foundation, she said, “Before now, Nigerians and my pupils saw mathematics as abstract but through the Inoyo Toro Foundation, I now make mathematics easier by bringing real-life situations for pupils to understand using Annang Language and Ibibio to get geometric objects interpreted to local names that allow students to relate and understand easily.”
Does the Inoyo Toro foundation prize money have any impact on teachers like Dr. Udo and others in Akwa Ibom state? Yes, it does. Dr. Udo used the cash prize to pursue a Ph.D. program in Mathematics as well as finance the co-authoring of three national mathematics textbooks, among other benefits.
Mr. David Ufot Jacob who teaches Physics at the Community Secondary Commercial School, Ikot Okubo, Uyo, is a proud owner of landed property.
Utibe Billy Oruk of Nsit Peoples Grammar School, Afaha Offiong, Akwa Ibom State, experienced a dramatic life-changing episode. He used the cash prize to enroll in some professional programs to upgrade his credentials and became a financier of indigent students in his school.
Mr. Noah Cyril Noah, a Biology teacher of the Community Comprehensive Secondary School Ikot Eba, Etinan who expressed shock that teachers could be awarded for not supporting any political party other than appreciation for hard work, noted that the foundation has tremendously motivated him to work hard as well as afford personal items he lacked.
For other Akwa Ibom teachers such as Mrs. Favour Leo Norbert, an English teacher of Aka Community High School, Uyo, Mr. Anthony Enefiok Bassey, a Creative and Cultural Arts teacher,Mrs. Imaobong Ekaette Ekaette, a biology teacher at the Christian Commercial Secondary school, Uyo, Mr. Blessed Peter Sunday of Secondary School, Ibotio Ndon, Etinan, Mr. Cyprian Patrick Udoh, Mr. Joseph Ubon, a chemistry teacher, and Mrs. Patricia Michael Usenobong, an English teacher at Uyo High School, remain grateful to the foundation.
Mr. Aniefiok Joseph Okpon, a mathematics teacher from Etinan Institute, who has won the foundation’s award five times and believes he is the “greatest beneficiary” from the foundation, thinks he would not be driving a car or own a house if not for the foundation; as he recounted various life-changing experiences and appreciation to Mr. Udom Inoyo.
These and more are some of the noiseless impacts of Mr. Inoyo on the Akwa Ibom Educational Sector in the last 14 years.
The build-up/selection of this year’s awardees is usually done through a process where candidates undertake screening procedures by writing an aptitude test and oral examination after which winners are drawn from the various subjects. After the aptitude test, they wait for the results from the first screening and after the whole process, all the attendees are given stipends to augment transportation spent to the venue.
The modalities for selecting the awardees are productivity and professional competence in the subject area, aptitude tests based on WAEC / NECO curriculum, and oral interaction with the resource persons. Preliminary assessment of schools for the award is based on an appraisal of learning facilities and environment, availability of modestly equipped laboratories, and libraries.
This weekend, about 21 teachers will be going home with cash prizes ranging from N150,000 to N500,000 each, including a week’s training at one of the best schools in Lagos.
Looking back from where the Inoyo Toro foundation is coming from in the last 14 years and where it is heading, the Foundation has come out stronger to impact the lives of the teachers looking at the deep appreciation and commitments in words by the teachers and other stakeholders. The teachers are pleased with the foundation and very thankful to Mr. Udom Inoyo for initiating the idea many years ago.
The undoubtable consolation from the foregoing is that, with what Mr. Inoyo has done in the past 14 years, the age-long mantra that “teacher’s reward is in heaven” can no longer survive any conscientious scrutiny because their reward is now on earth. Thus one can confidently conclude that nothing dares humanity than working to appreciate those who make sacrifices daily to better society. On this particular issue, the initiator of the foundation, Mr. Udom Inoyo has left an indelible impression in Akwa Ibom state, especially in the lives of the teachers and students.
Dr. Tom FredFish is a journalist and lecturer at the Institute of Journalism, Uyo.