For seeking out secondary school dropouts and connecting them with mentors and skill acquisition centres in their communities, a 31-year-old teacher, Abiodun Odueke, has been awarded the Inspirational Teacher of the Year Award.
Odueke, a Basic Science and Technology teacher with the Station Junior Grammar School, Iju-Ishaga, Lagos State, was presented with the sum of N1m on Sunday during the Inspirational Educators Awards organised by the Meadow Hall Foundation in Lagos.
She was honoured alongside Mrs. Oluremi Tanimola, a head teacher and Mr. Tolulope Odusanya, a Chemistry teacher at the Abibatu Magaji Millennium Secondary School, Agege, Lagos, who emerged the first runner-up. While the Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Idiat Adebule, was also presented with the Education Champion Award for her contributions to quality education in Lagos State, both Tanimola and Odusanya were rewarded with N2m and N500,000, respectively.
Speaking to our correspondent, Odueke said she started working with dropouts in 2011 after the best pupil in her class got pregnant and left the school.
“I was disappointed and did not look for her for a long time. She was also running away from me. But I looked for her after she put to bed and we discussed the way forward for her. Since then, I have worked with many other girls and boys. Some of them dropped out of school because of financial challenges and some could not cope academically. Others could not stand the shame of repeating a class.
“They all live in my community and I took them to centres where they could acquire skills in tailoring, hairdressing, plumbing and carpentry. I pay for their training. It is not easy, but I have never thought of moving over to a private school because this is where my calling can affect lives,’’ she said.
For Odusanya, the’ psychological state of the pupils is an important factor in learning. He said, “I see mentoring as very crucial to teaching. Learning and teaching should be an interactive process. But how will a pupil who has not eaten learn anything? Some pupils tell me that they have not had a proper meal in a week. So I consider their psychological state and mentor them. For me, it starts with asking them why they are not doing well. I have had offers to move to private schools, but what is more important to me is to see less privileged pupils compete favourably with the privileged ones.’’