Opeifa Olasunkanmi, a Nigerian teacher has been named in the top 50 shortlists for the N360 million Global Teacher Prize 2020.

The English teacher, Opeifa Olasunkanmifrom Government Day Secondary School Karuhas been included in the top 50 shortlists for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2020 in partnership with UNESCO.

Now in its sixth year, the N360 Million award is the largest prize of its kind and was last year won by Kenyan science teacher Peter Tabichi.

Opeifa shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize 2020, was selected from over 12,000 nominations and applications from over 140 countries around the world.

The Global Teacher Prize was set up to recognize one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society.

Opeifa Olasunkanmi

Olasunkanmi decided that he would become a teacher at a very young age of eight years old, and has never wavered in his choice – despite teachers having low status in Nigeria.

As a student at Lagos State University, he volunteered as a teacher in a free tutorial centre that prepared underprivileged students for secondary school examinations and university entrance.

After graduation, he served for a year in a very remote part of the country, Koma, Adamawa, as the only English teacher in a village school of over 200 students.

There, he helped build the school’s first-ever library.

In 2012, Olasunkanmi moved to Government Day Secondary School Karu, a school in a semi-rural area of Abuja serving children of low-income earners in the civil service, market traders and artisans. Students often cannot afford textbooks or heavily subsidized school fees.

In a country where education is often seen as unnecessary for financial success, and the curriculum is often irrelevant to the 21st century, it is very difficult to make the students see school as a solution to hunger, and poverty.

With more than fifty students per class, he grappled with teaching English to children who had poor writing skills, some degree of reading disabilities and relative poverty.

Olasunkanmi has turned this situation around by using edutainment, fun-based learning, online videos and the Flip Classroom Model in his teaching. He has also published a book on learning English in order to reach more students beyond his community, and introduced free weekend tutorials in order to cover the syllabus with them.

With this approach, examination results have improved vastly, and many students have met the benchmark for admission to university. In 2018, Olasunkanmi was awarded Maltina Teacher of the Year (Best Teacher in Nigeria), and in 2019, his school was among the top ten schools nationwide in the Global Diamond Challenge.

As a result of winning the Teacher of the Year award, the school was able to build a block of six classrooms with a well-stocked library, combatting overpopulation in classrooms and vastly enlarging the school’s student capacity.

If Olasunkanmi wins the 2020 Global Teacher Prize, he would use the funds for a number of projects: a scholarship scheme for the underprivileged, the building of libraries in some of the surrounding rural communities, and the creation of a fully digitised K-12 not-for-profit school in his own community.

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