|Piqued by the falling standard of education in the country and the dwindling respect for the teaching profession, Ojuolape Akinyemi did not want to join the league of disgruntled and ever grumbling Nigerians who are doing nothing to salvage the sector.As one that strongly believes that we are the change we seek, she rose to contribute her own quota towards ameliorating the situation; a move that led to the birth of Hopegate Foundation. “The falling standard of education as evidenced by the continuous mass failure in the WAEC exams is a situation that calls for urgent attention.
We considered many forms of intervention but found that the most critical factor in student success was the teacher – more than class size, the curriculum, or the amount of money spent per student. We also realized that the teaching profession in Nigeria is no more respected like it used to be.
So we decided to do something to encourage teachers to be the best they can be,” Ojuolape said. Hopegate Foundation was therefore established to support the effort of the government in taking quality education to the grassroots.
It does that through a number of activities such as capacity building programs (trainings and seminars), as well as performance reward schemes and so much more; that are targeted at teachers in public primary and secondary schools in Lagos.
All those help to support, motivate and improve the Nigerian teacher, thereby improving the learning opportunities for the children who are the future leaders of the nation. “It is our considered opinion that these individuals – the teachers – daily mould the minds of our children and so are literally the shapers of the future.
So it is in our best interest that they are not just well trained but also well motivated,” Ojuolape said. The Hopegate “Honour thE Teachers Programme” is part of the October 5 global celebration of quality teachers and quality education instituted by the United Nations as World Teachers’ day.
Talking about the programme, Ojuolape said it is gaining both acceptance and recognition, adding that the feedback from last year’s events indicate that the programme has had a positive impact on the moral of the teachers.
A development she said, will definitely lead to better student participation and performance. “The maiden edition which held last year was more like a pilot programme,” she said, adding that the award is always preceded by a golf kitty, followed by dinner and presentation of trophies to winners, with the kitties serving as part of the awareness and fundraising drive. “That maiden edition was held for 17 secondary and 30 primary schools making a total of 47 schools in Oshodi axis only.
This is because we wanted to see how well we can go. When we saw we did well we decided to take up the whole LGA making 47 secondary and 66 primary schools including vocational centres, and we had a total of 113 schools this year. Now that we have the experience, we intend to take it to the state level next year.
That is hoping that we get more support/partnership from corporate organizations and good spirited Nigerians,” Ojuolape said. Hopegate was in March 2015, nominated by State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) and got an award from the Babatunde Raji Fashola administration for partnering with the State Government in the “Support Our Schools’ Initiative”.
On the reason for the choice of name for the foundation, Ojuolape said she chose HOPEGATE because she believes the foundation is the medium (gateway) through which hope will come to our future. She hopes to see a significant, verifiable upturn in standard of primary and secondary education in the state, evidenced by better WAEC results as a result of the activities of the foundation. “We also hope to become a key partner with government in setting the agenda for and providing support for education in Nigeria in no distant time, and the first choice ally of cooperate organizations in achieving their CSR objectives, so that together we can create a better future for our children.”
Reacting to the saying that the reward of teachers is in heaven, Ojuolape had this to say; “Teachers reward is in heaven, it’s true! Think about it. A teacher who teaches a class of 20 would have had 200 students pass through his/her hands over a ten year period. Fewer than 5% of whom would ever see the teacher again to say thank you.
That’s on one side! It however cannot be taken literally to the point where teachers are neglected and underappreciated. Whenever the government is broke, teachers’ salaries are always the first to go because ‘teachers’ reward is in heaven?’
That is ridiculous! Teachers are nation builders and any nation without good quality, highly motivated teachers laying a solid educational foundation is heading downwards. Teachers should be rewarded right here on earth just like those in the telecoms, oil or banking sector.”
That is why Hopegate Foundation came to be in the first place to celebrate, encourage, motivate, build capacity and reward teachers; and get government and business to value their input and do the same. She advised the government prioritize teachers’ welfare, insisting that they are the greatest nation builders and should not be neglected. “Because I know that a teacher teaching pupils under a tree will have more impact on the lives of his students than an uninterested teacher in an “ultra-modern” classroom, my first advice to government is to put priority on Teachers’ welfare. This will drive up teacher quality and teacher effectiveness.
Having a high–quality teacher throughout elementary school can substantially offset or even eliminate the disadvantage of low socio-economic background. If poor children consistently get great teachers, the achievement gap would disappear. That’s poverty alleviation right there! My second advice would be the renovation, rehabilitation and rebuilding of dilapidated classroom blocks in schools, especially the primary schools. Many are no better than poultry sheds.
Improved learning environment will bring out the best in students and teachers alike,” she said. A native of Buguma in Rivers State, Ojuolape studied Communication Arts at the University of Uyo before proceeding to the Pan Atlantic University, Lagos for her Post Graduate Diploma in Community Relations. Describing her husband as the man whom God made specially for her, she said he is her greatest supporter, her cheerleader and friend.