As part of the World Teachers Day celebrated in Nigeria every October 5, the Federal Ministry of Education, Nigeria Union of Teachers and The Presidency announced on Tuesday winners of the 25 prizes they award annually to primary and secondary schools throughout Nigeria, both private and public, for excellence. Most states didn’t get any; none of the few which received prizes got more than one except Anambra which went home with four plus a car from President Muhammadu Buhari. The star winner was Mrs. Bridget Nnabueze of Modebe Secondary School in Onitsha who was declared the best of all teachers in public schools in Nigeria.
It was like a replay of the 2019 awards where Anambra received four at Eagle Square, emerging the only state to get more than one and the state that carted home two of the five cars which President Buhari donated. Anambra last Tuesday received a prize in each of the five categories, except in the private schools category where Grundtvig International secondary School, Oba, last year won the first prize.
Though it may be argued that the endless prizes which the state has been receiving since the past six years is a concomitant of the culture of excellence started by ex-Governor Chris Ngige who returned 14 schools to their original missionary owners, no one is surprised Anambra is doing so well under Governor Willie Obiano’s leadership. Obiano himself won the first prize in the nationwide essay competition organized in 1974 by the American embassy in honour of the beloved American President John F. Kennedy. Deputy Governor Nkem Okeke obtained a degree in engineering in the United States, but later received a doctorate in economics, becoming the head of the Department of Economics at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. Professor Solo Chukwulobelu, Secretary to the State Government, was teaching economics in Birmingham, United Kingdom, when he was brought home to join the administration. Obiano’s first chief of staff, Professor Joe Asike, is still the chair of the Department of Philosophy at Howard University, Washington, DC. While Professor Kate Azuka Omenugha is the Commissioner for Basic Education, Professor Theresa Obiekezie is her counterpart in the ministry of Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, on a leave of absence from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, where she lectures in geophysics. The list goes on.
Obiano proudly introduces himself everywhere as a son of a teacher. On obtaining the West African School Certificate (WASC), he headed straight to the University of Lagos where he got a bachelor’s degree (Second Class Honours, Upper Division) in accounting. He quickly received a master’s in marketing from the same university, and in no time became a chartered accountant and Fellow, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN). If not for family challenges as the first son in a fairly big family, he certainly would have been an academic.
The fervor with which the governor supported the five students of Regina Pacis Model Secondary School in Onitsha in 2018 who won the Golden Prize in the prestigious annual Technovation Competition in California was infectious. No wonder that the students, the first and only set from Africa to clinch the prize, dedicated the honour to Obiano. When he received information that Miss Tochukwu Anyigbo from Eziani, Ihiala, though schooling in Lagos, was participating in the 2018 Global Robotics Competition in Mexico, Chief Obiano quickly sponsored the trip. His infectious support to students of St John’s Secondary School at Alor in Idemili South Local Government Area saw the students win bronze in the 2019 annual World Festival of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) held in Tunisia from February 21 to 27. Within one year of being in office, he sponsored Anambra students to Germany and South Korea to participate in global debates, and they did very well. He has also sponsored Anambra teachers to places like Singapore to learn modern educational skills.
A couple of years ago, Governor Obiano directed the Ministry of Education and Public Enlightenment to work closely with the Ministry of Basic Education and the Ministry of Tertiary Education to celebrate every Anambra indigene in the world or any person resident in the state who excels in education. Hence, when Ego Agnes Maduafokwa last year made history by scoring 365 out of a maximum 400 marks in the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination and was followed closely by David Nwobi, the governor directed that at least one page be devoted to them in the state’s 2021 calendar, alongside Nelson Uwakwe who got the second position in the President’s Scientist Award organized by the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, and Favour Obiajulu who got the first position in the same competition the year before, as well as Professor Charles Egbu who became the first African to be appointed the vice chancellor of a British university.
There is nothing which motivates persons more than what Francis Fukuyama calls the search for recognition. When Clement Okodo of Abagana Central School was honoured by the Anambra State Government for winning the Overall Best Teacher prize in the 2017 President’s Teachers and Schools Excellence Award (PTSEA) in Abuja, he was over the moon. The same goes for Mrs. Amala Ezenwa of Awada 1V Primary School for winning the 2018 Overall Best Administrator and Dr Vera Ikegwuani of Anglican Girls Secondary School, Onitsha, for getting the fourth position in the school administrators’ category.
Not to be forgotten are Reverend Sister Onwuadi of Maria Regina Model Secondary School, Nnewi, whose school was declared the best run in the country; Dr. Samuel Izegbu honoured as the 2nd runner up in the best public teacher class while Gabriel Izuegbunam took the position of the 1st runner-up in the private schools category. The winners of the 2021 PTEAS from Anambra State are, apart from Mrs. Nnabueze who won the Best School Administrator, Njideka Nwoye of Our Lady’s Secondary School, Onitsha; Amaka Nzekwe of All Saints Primary School at Nkpor; and Ifeoma Nwankwo of Akpakaogwe Primary School, Ogidi.
Earlier in 2014, Mater Amabilis Secondary School in Umuoji, Ngozi Agbasimilo of New Era Secondary School in Onitsha as well as All Saints Secondary School in Onitsha were among the laureates. The result was spectacular the next year as Loretto Special Science Secondary School at Adazi Nnukwu was named the best among senior secondary schools in Nigeria, Queen of the Rosary College, Onitsha, the best junior secondary school, Angela Obodozie the best school administrator and Mrs. Julie Ofoefuna the best administrator, as well as the late Reverend Sister Mary James Ntajiokwu who emerged the best classroom teacher.
Anambra State has done brilliantly in educational development. It recognizes that education is the most effective vehicle for rapid development. It is sound education which has enabled Japan, Israel, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan to achieve fantastic progress in the last few decades. Truly, Anambra State is living up to its reputation as the Light of the Nation.
C. Don Adinuba is Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Anambra State.