Starting a Debate to Support, Empower Teachers Better

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Rhoda Odigboh

The first Nigerian teachers TV show is being hosted in Abuja with a Bridge teacher among the contestants selected nationwide. The show, supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Teachers’ Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), will shine a spotlight on the incredible work that teachers do across the country in building our nation’s future.

Teaching is a highly skilled profession and many teachers consider it a vocation. Providing the teaching profession with a national platform that hopes to increase the welfare and relevance of teachers, in the minds of viewers, aims to boost the profession. The show is an opportunity to showcase the differing skills, experience and approaches that teachers use in their classrooms in order to educate future lawyers, doctors and engineers across the country.

Showcasing the importance of the teaching profession is an aspiration that we at Bridge naturally support, having championed the importance of teaching and advocated for better training, support and professional development since opening our first school in Lagos. Ubaka Enuagwuna, the founder of the show, echoes this sentiment, when he says: “Teachers are the ones that make other professions possible and they deserve to be appreciated.”

In Nigeria and elsewhere, teachers rarely get the support they need to be effective; there are limited resources, teachers are often left isolated without support and in many communities teachers can struggle to understand the lessons they are themselves teaching. For such an important profession laying the foundation of our society this lack of support is far from ideal. At Bridge we are changing this. The Bridge teacher on the TV show, MaryJane Ikeakaonwu is lucky to be part of a network where she receives daily and weekly feedback on her teaching; uses technology to help her teach lessons in the best possible way and benefits from on-going training to help her achieve the best learning outcomes possible for the children.

Having always been known among her colleagues and pupils for her outgoing and bubbly personality, this will undoubtedly make her a popular figure on the show. Having taught for over eight years, MaryJane has an abundance of experience at her disposal in achieving the best results for her pupils. We hope that her presence in the house will help her to showcase some of the techniques that she has been taught at Bridge such as narrating the positive and interactive teaching styles. When asked on the show to suggest what policy she would implement if she was in government, her answer was to ban corporal punishment so the bond between teacher and pupils can develop. An approach she has seen to be effective in Bridge schools.

Her love for teaching stems from the progress she sees among her pupils and the difference she is making in their learning. As a result, MaryJane has an excellent relationship with her pupils’ parents too, placing their faith in her to support all pupils in the school. She has said, “the parents come to me and say now they (their children) are well behaved and they even fold their own clothes.”

Teaching in an underprivileged community comes with its challenges and MaryJane embraces this daily. She focuses her teaching on the big four teaching techniques which include learning to follow the teacher guides to deliver effective lessons, checking on each child’s learning, responding with feedback that accelerates pupil learning outcomes, and motivating pupils towards ensuring good behaviour and academic result.

These four teaching areas are utilised by MaryJane to get the best out of her pupils, resulting in improved learning outcomes and higher levels of motivation in the classroom. MaryJane is confident that TRTS will showcase to the whole of Nigeria how important high-quality education is, stating that “the TV show will help people across Nigeria see that teaching is an amazing profession.”

At Bridge, one of the defining features of our work is teacher support. We are constantly thinking about how to give the right feedback, encourage them to do better and just celebrate what they do. We give 100 per cent support to our teachers because we know that when they do very well, it literally translates to learning outcomes for children.

Our teachers must take credit for the success of their pupils. It’s dedication, passion and hard work of our teachers who enable us to transform the opportunities for children each and every day across Nigeria. We know that the work they are doing is successful and in Lagos a DFID report showed equity of learning in Bridge schools. Our teachers are proud of their recent success in the national common entrance exam which saw some pupils from economically marginalised communities in Lagos excel, winning places at some of the best schools in Nigeria.

It is my hope that the first of its kind teachers reality show in Nigeria will showcase the life, strength, skills and important work a teacher does in nation building hence bolstering the importance of teachers in our society and starting a serious debate about supporting and empowering each and every one to get better.

Odigboh is the Director, Academics, Bridge International Academies, Nigeria