PERSONALITY PROFILE: CoEWJ Interview with Mr. Olasunkanmi Samuel Opeifa, 2020 Top 10 Finalist for $1M Global Teacher Prize award. Nigeria’s 2018 Maltina Teacher of the year

CoEWJ: Good morning and welcome to the Colleges of Education Weekly Journal Personality Profile interactive segment.

Mr. Olasunkanmi: Thank you for your invitation.

CoEWJ: Kindly tell us your full name.

Mr. Olasunkanmi: Olasunkanmi Samuel Opeifa

CoEWJ: Thank you. So, who is Olasunkanmi Opeifa Samuel?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: Thank you. Olasunkanmi is a passionate teacher who believes that learning must be fun or else it’s not worth it. I teach English language in Government Day Secondary School Karu Abuja Nigeria. I am also an author of Oral English Pedagogue. Currently, I am one of the Top 10 teachers in the ongoing Global Teacher Prize contest.

CoEWJ: Wow. Congratulations! That is no mean achievement. I can’t wait for you to tell us how you got there? Let’s begin with life growing up. What do you remember of life as child?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: As a little boy, I remember loving to keep to myself, playing alone and reading alone. I enjoyed discovering ideas from books and imagining how I could communicate same in a simpler way to people. It wasn’t entirely rosy as I grew up in the suburb of the city of Lagos in Nigeria but I lived more in my imagination of a great future. I used to write short stories and compose Christian songs. I must add that I was the best in all my classes in primary school.

CoEWJ: You were obviously brilliant. Now, please tell us about your family; who are your parents and siblings?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: My father was a civil servant briefly, a full-time tailor and now retired. My mother traded food stuffs. I have three siblings and we are all into education. My parents are disciplinarians and believe so much in education even though they didn’t have much opportunity to be fully schooled. We are a Christian and peace-loving family.

CoEWJ: Which part of Nigeria do you hail from?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: I hail from Yewaland (Egbado) in Ogun State.

CoEWJ: How was life growing up, generally? Would you say things were rosy for you growing up?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: As I said earlier, not entirely. But my parents made adequate efforts to be sure that we were above average in clothing, feeding and education.

CoEWJ: What has been your motivation growing up as a child despite the difficult times you had to go through?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: I had so much hope that education was just the channel to liberation in life. Discovering my purpose early in life also helped me to live a life of rapt focus.

CoEWJ: What was that purpose? What were your aspirations, if any?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: I have always wanted to be a teacher. I had this urge right from primary 3. I was only 8 years then. I never wavered from this dream. I knew I would become a great teacher one day, and glory be to God I am closer to that dream today.

CoEWJ: Take us through your school days, from primary school till date. How has the journey been?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: I had my primary school education at Zion African Church Primary School, Alaagba-Agege, Lagos. I mentioned earlier that I topped all my primary school classes. I became the Assistant Senior Prefect in class 6. I was once nicknamed Math Master because of my love for mathematics then.

I went to Community Grammar School Isale-Ilu Ipaja for my secondary school education. It was a struggle to get quality education in that school. The school lacked basic facilities for learning like good classrooms, library, laboratory etc. Despite this, I took solace in personal studies and I emerged second best in WASSCE in my school. I immediately gained admission to the Lagos State University where I studied Education (English). My University education was just typically similar to what was obtainable almost everywhere in the country. It was characterized by strikes, violence, missing results, cultism and others but I kept my focus.

CoEWJ: Any regrets on how life has unfolded for you all these years?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: I have no regrets at all. All things have worked out for my good.

CoEWJ: At what point did you develop the interest to be trained as a teacher?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: I discovered the interest in me when I was just 8 years old.

CoEWJ: Any further fond memories of your days in school?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: I remember in my primary six 6 when I went for a competition in mathematics. I beat the other competitors hands down with so wide a margin that my school was asked to bring another student because the organizer doubted I was a primary 6 pupil. It was rather funny to me and I felt great.

CoEWJ: Which school leadership positions did you occupy during your school days?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: I was a class captain all through my primary school and the assistant senior prefect in primary six. I was the Games Prefect in my secondary school and I was the Public Relation Officer of my University Department’s student union.

CoEWJ: Besides being Games Prefect, were you personally engaged in sports or any extra-curricular activity during your school days?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: I never enjoyed proper education in my secondary school where extra-curricular was common. I never had any. I was the Game Prefect but my school had banned sports then because of violence. I missed that. But in Grade 11 (called SS-2), I personally founded a group where we organized debates, mathematics competition and other students’ engagements. We called the group Student with Glorious Destiny Fellowship.

CoEWJ: Please share your work experience with us.

Mr. Olasunkanmi: I started teaching while I was in year one in the University as a volunteer in Relief Club Tutorial Centre in Lagos. I started teaching professionally in 2008 and I have taught in both private school and public schools.

CoEWJ: For how long have you been in the teaching field?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: Professionally 12 years

CoEWJ: Life as a teacher in Nigeria, how is it like?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: It is quite tough. Our living standard is generally low. We are hoping nevertheless, that the government, as promised recently, will turn things around.

CoEWJ: Are Nigerian teachers licensed? If yes, how is the process to being licensed like?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: You must be licensed to be a teacher in Nigeria. You need the Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria certificate to be able to teach. Those that made their way into teaching without it are being fished out now.

CoEWJ: In 2018, you were awarded the Maltina Teacher of the Year in Nigeria. What is the Maltina Teacher Award and what is the process to winning it?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: The Maltina Teacher of the Year award is the most prestigious teachers’ award in Nigeria. I qualified as a state champion after submitting my application in which I stated my teaching philosophy and strategic approaches to teaching which are basically fun-based learning and integration of ICT. I then attended an interview with a panel of judges and I displayed my teaching skills, and ideas to move Nigeria education forward. At the grand finale, I was named the winner; that is Best Teacher in Nigeria.

CoEWJ: Here we are in 2020 and you have been shortlisted among the top 10 finalists of the Global Teacher Prize. How did you earn this enviable feat?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: Global Teacher Prize is a yearly opoortunity for teachers to shine. I narrated my story as summarized on their website and got listed in the Top 50. The applications were subjected to further scrutiny and I made Top 10. I think it still boils down to my teaching skills, methods, community activities etc.

CoEWJ: What is your secret to being a good teacher?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: My secret? I always want to get better to make our education better. I think outside the box using uncommon pedagogies like music and card games.

CoEWJ: Tell us about your immediate family; wife and children.

Mr. Olasunkanmi: I have a happy family. My wife gives me her support and believes so much in me. My children are lovely. They are always proud of their father.

CoEWJ: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment in life so far?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: So far, I can say emerging best in my country and the fact that a block of six classrooms was built for my school as a result of the award so that we can combat class congestion and even accommodate more students is quite fulfilling. Emerging Top 10 also is another very great achievement. If for nothing at all, I have put my country on the world map as far as teaching is concerned and I hope to do more, God willing.

CoEWJ: What is your greatest challenge as teacher?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: The curriculum that is a little bit old is my major challenge. I wish the stakeholders in education can redesign a new curriculum taking a view of the present needs of the country and emerging issues.

CoEWJ: What do you do to relax?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: Playing with PowerPoint designs and hanging out with friends on social media.

CoEWJ: Who is your role model?

Mr. Olasunkanmi:  Professor Woke Soyinka and American educational reformer, John Dewey.

CoEWJ: What is your view on the current situation in Nigeria; the EndSars protest?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: The youth are asking for an end in police brutality. I belong to that generation and I think the government should heed our request.

CoEWJ: Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: I see myself as an owner of a fully digitized k-12 school. I see myself as one of the foremost educators in the world using modern technology to foster collaboration, communication and connection among teachers across the world.

CoEWJ: Do you think we are doing well as a continent (Africa) when it comes to education?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: No. We still have a lot to do in providing modern learning facilities, need-based Curriculum and relevant teacher training.

CoEWJ: Do you think teachers are being treated fairly with regards to their conditions of service?

Mr. Olasunkanmi: I believe that we can still do far better. I believe teachers with regards to salaries can still be accorded the nobility that characterizes the nature of our job.

CoEWJ: Your final words to our cherished readers, please.

Mr. Olasunkanmi: Endeavor to always be better today than your yesterday’s best.

CoEWJ: Thank you very much for interacting with us.

Mr. Olasunkanmi: It is my pleasure.

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