PATHETIC: The Scarcity of Visionary Teachers in our School System


(By Taiwo Akinlami)

I came to value the attributes of a visionary teacher because I did not have the opportunity of being taught by too many. I think the two teachers, who  stood out in my life was Mr. Tugbobo, My English Language teacher in class 4 and 5 in the secondary school and one of my teachers in primary school.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember the name of my primary school teacher. She was light-in-complexion and tall.  I think she was a member of the Scripture Union of Nigeria. She would invite some of us to her house and preach to us. She showed us care beyond her responsibility as a school teacher. Faint as the memory may be, I remember some of the things she taught us, most particularly a song which goes thus: ‘good news (2 times) Christ died for me; good news (2 times), if I believe; good news (2 times) I am saved eternally; good news (2 times); that wonderful, extra, good news.’

Seeds (positive or negative) do produce. I believe strongly that this lady teacher sowed the seed of my salvation today. At a point her memory left my mind completely, but the value she taught me never left. When the fire of love is lit as a little flicker, as a seed, it has the inbuilt capacity to fan itself into an unquenchable conflagration in the hearts of men.

I guess that is why the Holy Writ enjoins us to cast our bread on many waters. I also read in the Holy Writ that ‘the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the least of all seeds, which a man planted in his field. When it was grown, it was greater than all trees, where the birds of the air perched and nested.’ A sage once profoundly said, ‘train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.’

These few lines are a tribute to my unknown teacher and instruction to us all. I do not know her name but God knows. I do not have any tangible reward for her, as I do not even know where she is now, but I know heaven holds eternal rewards for her. Alive or dead, she remains a darling in my heart.

The truth of the matter is that between primary and secondary school, I spent twelve years under the eyes of different teachers, at least six in primary school and about twenty in secondary school.  It is a sad commentary that in all of them, I found no role model, except the two mentioned above.

I have also heard the story of two teachers who, at different times, taught two great men, Peter J. Daniel and Myles Monroe. When Peter J. Daniel was in the fourth grade, his teacher, Mrs. Phillips, constantly said, “Peter J. Daniel, you’re no good, you’re a bad apple and you’re never going to amount anything” Peter was totally illiterate until he was 26. A friend stayed up with him all night and read him a copy of “think and grow rich”. Now Peter owns the street corner he used to fight on and just published his latest book: Mrs. Phillips, you were wrong!

Myles Monroe went to school under colonial rule. His teacher, Mr. Robertson called him all kinds of names including black monkey. He would say to him, you can never learn. The young Monroe was the bottom of a one-thousand-six-hundred pupil class.

At a point, he encountered God and took it upon himself to learn all the subjects his teacher had hitherto convinced him that he could not learn. At the time he was graduating from the school, he was the best graduating student. When he received his plaque for being the best graduating student, he presented it to Mr. Robertson with the following words: ‘this is to you from the black monkey.’

Many years later, Myles Monroe, who is today an individual member of the United Nation, was speaking in London and this old man came to him for a book autograph. He revealed himself as Mr. Robertson and told him, ‘I became a Christian reading your book. Thank God you never believed all the things I said about you.’

Please note that I am not talking about brilliance, knowledge and dissemination of same, which are the characters of an ordinary teacher, who do not succeed beyond ministering to the heads of his or her pupils and not their soul (mind, will and emotion). I must say that I came across some very brilliant teachers in my years in school, but only two were able to combine ministering to my head with reaching for my heart.

The tragedy again is that our schools today are filled with teachers, who neither have brilliance, knowledge nor a heart for the pupils. While it is alarming when a teacher cannot reach a child beyond the head, it’s chaotic when a teacher is not able to reach neither the head nor the heart.

Some, who are keen observers of the school system in Nigeria are of the view that the story has not change.

Well, I think, I agree with the fact that the Story has not changed! Let me share with you quickly recent field experiences:

  • I was at a UNICEF forum the other day and found a teacher hauling abusive words at one of his pupils outside the venue of the program. The child was just being a child and I was shocked that a child being herself irked an adult teacher, who is supposed to know better and provide creative correction and modelling.
  • I have visited many schools in the last fifteen years in the cause of this campaign and the story is not interesting in terms of teachers being concerned for the interest of the children under their care as caregivers.
  • Hear this story reported by the Daily Independent Breaking News Monday, March 21, 2005, page 5, Teacher beats student to death over N20 levy…School closed down: Tragedy recently befell Owode-Egba Grammar School in Owode Local Government area of Ogun State when a teacher beats a Senior Secondary School (SS3) student, Master Kehinde Jakede to death.  The offence of the deceased was that he refused to contribute N20 meant for send-forth party for a member of the National Service Corps (NYSC) in the school…



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