Olasunkanmi Opeifa, 34
When you do your work diligently and with consistency you might get to stand before kings. Or in the case of Olasunkanmi Opeifa, you might have your name mispronounced by Stephen Fry.
The English actor and comedian via a video recording in October, announced Opeifa as a finalist for the 2020 edition of the prestigious Global Teacher Prize. Opeifa was one of ten nominees based in countries such as Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Noticed for his work with students of Government Day Secondary School, Karu, a semi-rural area of Abuja. Opeifa teaches English Language to children of low-income earners in the civil service, market traders and artisans. According to his Global Teacher Prize application, his students often cannot afford textbooks or heavily subsidised school fees.
With over sixteen years of experience in the classroom, Opeifa has developed a reputation for innovation that matches his uncommon passion. He is the kind of tutor that goes out of his way to ensure his students receive the best possible tuition regardless of obvious limitations.
His colleagues respect him, his students love him and their parents can identify measurable improvements. Opeifa’s techniques are drawn from up to date 21st century learning skills. His tool bank includes flipped classroom model for teaching essay writing, Google forms for assessment, online videos and e-past questions.
Learning is fun for Opeifa and his students. His classes are filled with excitement as his passion seeps through the walls of the classroom. To stimulate the kids, he often falls back on fun-based learning for teaching English language concepts.
Perhaps, his is the only classroom where you will find that essay writing can be linked with the popular Gbese dance step made famous by popstars. Phonology and grammar can hardly be called tedious when Opeifa infuses his demonstration with rap and hip-hop songs. Don’t you wish you had him in your corner?
The world may be coming around now to Opeifa’s generosity of spirit, but he is no stranger to awards and prizes. In 2018, he emerged winner of the Maltina Teacher of the Year Award. This prize essentially meant that for that year, he was the best teacher in the entire country. As part of the dividend from this prize, a block of six classrooms was built at the school with a stocked library. The school was thus able to take in more students.
A proponent of making the most out of scarce resources, Opeifa’s motto is that even with scarce resources, every child deserves the best instruction that they can get. An educator through and through, Opeifa’s long term dream is to start his own school to fill the widening education gap. At some point he would also like to start a reading club to improve the reading culture among students. “There’s a huge dichotomy between school’s curricula and our societal needs.” He once told the Guardian.
To whom much is given, much is expected and Opeifa hopes to give back the quality of tutorship that was made available to him by his mentor. Growing up in the Iyana Ipaja neighborhood of Lagos, he excelled in his studies and went out of his way to tutor his colleagues. It never occurred to him to do anything else apart from teach.
His dreams were nearly derailed when his family could not raise the funds for his qualifying exams. Through sheer pluck and determination, Opeifa got admission to study English Education at the Lagos State University. He supplemented his income in school by taking on part time tutorials. He served in a very remote part of Adamawa as the only English teacher in a village school of over 200 students. While stationed there, Opeifa helped build the school’s first ever library.
He has published a book on oral English pedagogy and offers free tutorial classes for students willing to take advantage of the opportunity. On occasion, he is known to open his home for students who may be facing hardship.
The arc of the universe does bend towards justice and Opeifa is living proof. For the first time in the history of the Global Teachers Prize, the winner, Ranjitsinh Disale from India offered to share half of his $1million prize money with the nine other finalists meaning Opeifa still gets a piece of the pie.
Who says a teacher’s reward is only in heaven?
To vote Olasunkanmi Opeifa as YNaija Person of the Year 2020; visit ynaija.com/personoftheyear2020