This UNIJOS first-class graduate left her city job to teach kids in a rural community
Written by Johnstone Kpilaakaa on January 26, 2022
In 2018, Agnes Onyekwere graduated as one of the pioneer first-class graduates at the Department of Mass Communication, University of Jos, she thereafter landed a managerial role at an online radio station based in Jos but a few years in “I was feeling empty, I did not feel like I was making impact anymore — I felt the need to become much better”, she said.
Miss Onyekwere decided to go in search of what will fill that vacuum, she narrated that “I started going online to look out for opportunities, and I came across Teach for Nigeria and I was really interested in being part of the impactful activities, the initiative was carried out through young people, I decided to quit my job [December 2020] considering the long process required to get in as a volunteer at Teach for Nigeria”.
After a rigorous application process, Teach for Nigeria accepted Agnes as one of its fellows, the implication being that she will leave her home in Jos, Plateau State and head to Ijebu Ode, Ogun state — a community grappling with several socio-economic challenges — to the end that the children in these communities get access to quality education.
According to UNESCO in 2013, Nigeria was ranked as the country with the highest number of out-of-school children in the world, approximately 10.5 million. Despite that, 60% of the children enrolled in primary school are not learning. The quality of teaching and learning is so poor that many do not go to secondary school, and of those that go to secondary school many can not even read and write when they finish and only about 10% make it to the tertiary level. This has frightening consequences for the development of our country.
The South-West, as it is presently, is facing serious challenges in relation to the phenomenon of out-of-school children. The development is a dwindling fortune for a region whose former Premier and visionary leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, while launching the free primary education in the Western Region in January 1955, had left an indelible imprint in the annals of education in Western Nigeria and the whole country.
Beyond lack of access to quality education, the high-level poverty in the community has made for a myriad of other challenges; “in my class, I have learners that come to school hungry, the school is free and all the parents need to do is provide learning materials but even that seems to be impossible for these kids”, Miss Onyekwere said.
She added, “most times, I need to get food for them before I can teach”, due to her slim purse, it is not easy for her to continually make those provisions, but through donations from family and friends, she has been able to not only teach and feed these kids but has been able to secure a full-ride scholarship for one of her students, aside from that “I am looking out for ways to empower these parents”, she added.
The Teach For Nigeria Fellowship is a transformational leadership program that equips Fellows with transferable leadership skills to effect change beyond the classrooms in the communities we serve. After the Fellowship, alumni of Teach For Nigeria build on their classroom teaching experience to drive long-term systemic changes in the educational sector in Nigeria as they progress into leadership roles in their varied professions.
She has always been someone who is passionate about teaching. While in high school and in the university, she dedicated her time to organising tutorials for most of her classmates who needed clarity on various topics, even while practising as a broadcast journalist, Agnes took up a part-time role as a teacher for two years, currently, she is taken a post-graduate diploma in education.
While many onlookers feel that she is “wasting her time” considering her excellent educational qualifications, her tenacity is even heightened — “I can’t give up on these kids”, as a Journalist, Agnes sees the opportunity as a way to tell the story of these communities to the world while equipping them with standard education to compete globally.
“By 3:00 AM, I am up to trying to figure out how to effectively help these children to learn — I connect with these kids and the experience on a very deep level”, Agnes narrated with an exciting voice.