Peace Sule (Information Communication Technology teacher at Akoka Junior High School) and Stephanie Akinwoya (Physics teacher at Iju Senior Grammar School) have been shortlisted in the top 50 US$1 million Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2023.
The Varkey Foundation Global Teachers Prize was set up eight years ago to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession and spotlight on the important role teachers play in society.
It is also open to working teachers who teach children who are in compulsory schooling or are between the ages of five and eighteen. The USD 1 million Global Teacher Prize is said to be the largest prize of its kind as it enters eight years.
Peace became a teacher due to her conviction that ignorance is the greatest obstacle to progress.
While discharging her duties in the classrooms, she contributes significantly to attaining educational goals through innovation, unique instructional methodologies, creativity, sacrifice, and selfless service.
Outside the classroom, the passionate teacher has conducted adult and literacy education programmes to address the needs of individuals who have not received formal schooling.
Since 2013, she has also consistently been recognised as the ‘Best Teacher’ or ‘Most Resourceful Teacher’ under the guidance of 10 different principals across various schools in the country.
With the Global Teacher Prize funds, Peace hopes to establish a pioneering Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Institute in Africa and create a floating school to ensure uninterrupted access to education in flood-prone areas.
She also hopes to establish a vocational institute that nurtures students’ talents in acting, music, dance, and fashion design, among others.
Meanwhile, her colleague Stephanie Akinwoya’s journey towards teaching began by observing her mother’s total dedication to being a chemistry teacher.
Teaching in rural schools as an undergraduate showed Stephanie how many students, especially female students, have a phobia for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM subjects.
To fill this vacuum, she started her Girls-Pro-STEM initiative to generate interest in STEM amongst girls in public secondary schools.
Stephanie has since then partnered with international organisations to provide training, support and mentorship to over 200 girls – many of whom have gone on to represent their school in national and international competitions.
The Nigerian duo were selected from over 7,000 nominations and applications from 130 countries around the world.
In a congratulatory message to spur the two Nigerian nominees and the 48 others, the Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares, Dr Tariq Al Gurg lauded the efforts teachers make to solve global problems, especially in the area of science and technology.
Al Gurg who doubles as Vice Chairman of Dubai Cares averred that the role of teachers needs to be redefined as coaches, mentors, and facilitators who can empower their students to achieve their full potential by instilling in their students the values, skills, knowledge, and experiences they need to contribute solutions to the global challenges facing humanity and thrive in the ever-changing world.
“Congratulations to the teachers who have secured a place in the top 50 list of the prestigious Global Teacher Prize. Teachers are the driving force behind progress, inspiring and shaping the leaders and innovators of tomorrow. In addition to imparting knowledge, the role of teachers needs to be redefined as coaches, mentors, and facilitators who can empower their students to achieve their full potential by instilling in their students the values, skills, knowledge, and experiences they need to contribute solutions to the global challenges facing humanity and thrive in our ever-changing world.”
On his part, Assistant Director-General for Education of UNESCO, Stefania Giannini, also echoed teachers’ sacrifices to groom young minds.
“I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Peace Sule and Stephanie Akinwoya. UNESCO is a proud partner of the Global Teacher Prize because teachers deserve our great recognition. They inspire and prepare children and youth to navigate a rapidly evolving world. Their efforts play a leading role in transforming education for the future.”
Similarly, the founder of the Varkey Foundation, Sunny Varkey said the Global Teacher Prize was launched to highlight the importance of education in tackling the great challenges ahead.
“Congratulations to Peace Sule and Stephanie Akinwoya. The Global Teacher Prize was launched to highlight the importance of education in tackling the great challenges ahead – from climate change to growing inequality to sweeping changes in technology.”
The prize is open to working teachers who teach children who are in compulsory schooling or are between the ages of five and eighteen. Teachers who teach children age four plus in an early years government-recognised curriculum are also eligible, as are teachers who teach on a part-time basis and teachers of online courses.
Teachers must spend at least 10 hours per week teaching and plan to remain in the profession for the next 5 years. It is open to teachers in every kind of school and subject to local laws in every country in the world.
Teachers applying for the Global Teacher Prize are assessed on teaching practices, how they innovate to address local challenges, achieve demonstrable learning outcomes, impact the community beyond the classroom, help children become global citizens, improve the teaching profession and gain recognition from external bodies.