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How Passion drives Akeem Badru to Transform Education and Empower Children in Western Nigeria

Akeem Badru, a teacher in Ogun State’s St. Michael RCM Primary School, has recently won the 2023 Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Award organized by Cambridge University Press Education! The Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards are a global competition in which you can nominate a current primary or secondary teacher for something wonderful they have done. Read his story!

Education develops in individuals those values which make for good citizenship, such as honesty, selflessness, tolerance, dedication, hard- work and personal integrity, all of which provide the rich soil from which good leadership potential is groomed. It also plays an important role in the personal growth. The more you have knowledge the more you grow and me able to face the difficult world. While education in Nigeria is based on a 6-3-3-4 system, which involves three levels of institutional learning processes: at the primary school level. at the secondary school level. and at the tertiary level. However, many children in Nigeria don’t have access to quality education (and the opportunities it brings) and as a result, are repeating the cycles of poverty.

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Children in the official primary school age range who are not enrolled in either primary or secondary schools are known as out-of-school children. According to the statistics, India, Nigeria and Pakistan has the highest figures for out-of-school children globally. Expert says that the causes of out-of-school children in Nigeria are; poor funding of education, corruption, poor implementation of the Child Rights Act, insecurity problems, lack of political will to address the problems, high rate of poverty, and high fertility rate. A 2022 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) report noted that approximately 20 million Nigerian individuals of its approximately 200 million population are not enrolled in school. This amounts to 20 percent of Nigeria’s entire population and is more than the overall population of various countries in Africa.

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In Ogunpa- Lunloye’s underserved community, Western Nigeria, Akeem Badru, 45, works as a residence teacher. According to Mr. Akeem, he left his family and the comfort of city life to reside in a village which lacks the basic social amenities. Similarly, his selfless service, sacrifice and steadfastness eradicated the age long practice of parents withdrawing their children from school after primary 3 (age 10) to work as domestic servants in the city which made the school produced primary six graduates after over ten years break. “Growing up, I faced numerous challenges and encountered failures at every turn. Academic struggles followed me until primary school, and financial difficulties forced me to abandon my secondary education at the age of twenty. I became the epitome of an underachiever in my community. However, rather than succumbing to despair, I embraced these hardships as catalysts for achieving greatness. Given my background, I chose to pursue a career in teaching, driven by a deep desire to uplift underprivileged children and defy societal expectations. Being a teacher allows me to instill hope in those who feel hopeless and empower them to rise above their circumstances. As a naturally giving person, no other profession aligns better with my nature and purpose than teaching. It grants me the opportunity to impart all that I have learned and immerse myself in the lives of those I encounter. This calling has bestowed upon me the chance to make a meaningful contribution to the lives of children and nurture within them a positive mindset towards their future. The passion that fuels my commitment to teaching is unwavering, as I continue to be an agent of change and a beacon of hope in the lives of the students I am privileged to serve.”

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With the use of technology, schools can now decide to have online classes for students in and out of the country they are located in. Rather than having to do a lot of paperwork as before, technology has reduced that and made access to records so much easier. “One of the most memorable teaching moments in my career occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic, from February to August 2020. As schools were forced to close their doors, I had the opportunity to be a tutor on the state-sponsored virtual teaching program called “Ogun Digiclass.” This program was broadcasted daily on various channels, including OGTV Channel 25 UHF, DSTV Channel 260, GOTV Channel 100, and Startimes Channel 113. It aimed to provide alternative learning options for students who were unable to access traditional classroom education. Being part of this initiative brought me immense joy and satisfaction. Despite the prevailing fear and uncertainty that gripped the world, I was among teachers who willingly sacrificed their time and efforts to ensure that students had access to quality education. It was a true testament to my passion for teaching and my commitment to making a positive impact on the lives of my students, even in the face of adversity. The experience reinforced my belief in the transformative power of education and highlighted the importance of dedication and selflessness in the teaching profession,” he told the award organizers.

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Meanwhile, through “First Step Initiatives” a STEM and project-based project, Akeem uses craft and model making to promote inquisitiveness, creativity potentials and critical thinking skills of children. He said, “The Nigeria National Policy on Education has long emphasized the need to lay a solid foundation for scientific and reflective thinking in primary school education. However, this objective has remained a mere aspiration since 1977. As an advocate for project-based learning, I firmly believe that achieving this objective requires intentional and focused efforts. This belief led me to establish First Step Initiatives. First Step Initiative is a pioneering initiative that aims to equip children with the skills and abilities to create prototypes of complex projects on a smaller scale through model and craft making. By challenging and developing pupils’ creative and critical thinking skills, this project empowers them to ask insightful questions and challenge the theories of physics. Through systematic observation and inquiry, children can enhance their understanding, curiosity, and creativity. This project specifically targets children who represent the future power of our nation, as they are filled with hopes, energy, ideas, dreams, and untapped potentials that are invaluable assets to society. With the right preparation, children can be instrumental in addressing the technological deficiencies of our nation. Education in the African context has often been limited to the cognitive abilities of learners, resulting in a lack of critical thinking skills and hindering technological advancements. The First Step Initiative seeks to bridge this gap by developing children’s psychomotor skills, fostering an appreciation for the world around them, cultivating curiosity, nurturing hidden creative potentials, and encouraging innovative problem-solving. Furthermore, the project promotes a culture of recycling and empowers children to develop local technology abilities. To expand the impact of this initiative, I aspire to establish a school of Basic Technology that moves beyond theory and prioritizes practical application. I am open to partnerships and collaborations to further this project’s reach and create meaningful change in our educational system.” “Passion drives me to transform education, empowering children to become active participants in shaping a brighter future,” Akeem continued.

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In addition, as a teach SDG Ambassador, he financed the construction of a borehole for the village as his contribution towards the achievement of 2030 SDGs and to solve the problem water related diseases that keep his pupils out of school as well to promote healthy living of his pupils.

The 2023 Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards judges chose Primary Teacher Akeem Badru from St. Michael R.C.M School in Nigeria as the regional winner for Central and Southern Africa after the organizers received over 11,000 entries from 99 different countries for the 2023 awards. He was subsequently selected as the overall winner by the public! “Out of 11,000 nominations from 99 countries, 60 shortlisted entries, and 6 regional winners, he was voted as the winner of the 2023 Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards for going above and beyond for his students.”

“Congratulations to this year’s inspirational winner, Akeem Badru, whose important STEM project and ambassador role is helping to build brighter futures for young people in his community,” said Rob Laing, managing director for Sub-Saharan Africa at Cambridge University Press. “The major growth in nominations worldwide and from Sub-Saharan Africa clearly demonstrates the value communities place on dedicated teachers, making Akeem Badru’s recognition first as the regional winner for Central and Southern Africa – and now global winner – all the more significant.”

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