The winner, which will be announced March next year in Dubai, will receive $1 million prize money for being “an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to their profession,” according to the information posted on the Global Teacher Prize website.
The shortlisted Nigerian teachers are Itodo Anthony and Ayodele Odeogbola of the Gateway Excel College Otukpa, Benue State, and the Abeokuta Grammar School, Ogun State, respectively.
The prize, which is considered the ‘Nobel Prize for teaching’, is sponsored by the Varkey Foundation, a non-profit organisation with interest in the education of underprivileged children around the world.
“The prize serves to underline the importance of educators and the fact that, throughout the world, their efforts deserve to be recognised and celebrated,” says the organisers of the prize.
“It seeks to acknowledge the impacts of the very best teachers – not only on their students but on the communities around them.”
The organisers said that one of the shortlisted Nigerians, Mr. Anthony, founded a community-based organisation for youths – New Frontiers Youth Forum – in May 2017 and used it to raise young leaders who in turn would act as the agent of positive change within the community.
“This October, The Forum commissioned a community library. The community had no library where students and others could study in comfort or have access to resources they could afford,” the organisers said.
They said further of him: “At the beginning of his career, in a small rural school in Nigeria, not many people understood why Anthony would get a masters degree from a UK university and end up teaching in a village for ‘peanuts’.
“But this was part of his mission – to elevate the teaching profession to a place of pride, to say with his own life that the profession is a noble one whose value is not tied to how much we earn. Today, the same people who mocked his decision to teach especially in a rural area are publicly celebrating his and his students’ successes.
“When he teaches in class he tries to introduce positive values from other parts of the world to broaden their view of life. When he told them that in some European countries a woman gets half the property at divorce, it shocked them, coming from a culture where gender inequality is grave and women can actually be kicked out of their husband’s homes at will.
“So he preaches the virtues of justice, institutional soundness, community service, value creation, among others that are elements from other cultures that can help create an ideal value system in Nigerian youth.”
An obviously elated Mr. Anthony reacted to his shortlisting thus, in a post he put up on Facebook, Wednesday: “As a Top 50 finalist, a teacher becomes a part of the prestigious Varkey Teacher Ambassadors programme, which has the Top 50 finalists from the past three editions as members.
“For me this is one of the biggest attractions of the prize, the opportunity to share a platform with over 200 of the world’s finest teachers, to learn and share best practices.
“Top 50 was my primary target and I achieved that.
“In the past three editions of this prize no Nigerian teacher made Top 50 and that was pretty unsettling for me, seeing how Kenyan teachers dominated African representation. This year we are two Nigerians, me and my friend Odeogbola Ay. I am happy we’re changing the narrative and opening the path for other Nigerian teachers,” he said.