The Evangelist.com.ng edition, Tuesday, November 7, 2023.
By Emem Nkereuwem
Over the weekend (3/11/2023), I sat through a session of a most illuminating and yet a sombre ceremony of Inoyo Toro Foundations 16th Teachers Award ceremony and the official unveiling of Savannah Energy Education & Internship Training SEE-IT Scholarship for fifty (50) undergraduates from Akwa Ibom State in both the Private and Public Schools.
Whilst I went through a regime of quiet introspection on the state of our public schools, it struck me that our suppressed amnesia and the idealised utopian faith in government or men in power is a delusory fallacy. A vexing phantom! Ironically most of todays power men were literally beneficiaries of good quality public school education. Some even had juicy scholarships. Then they became gods. They forgot their beginnings and abandoned the ladders they once used to its final eclipse. Not just that, they turned a blind eye to the intractable decay of public schools, their once-upon-a-time lifelines. They have chosen to ignore such concerns because they do not concern them anymore. And why not! Oga is now a very big man with a very big god!
But my fears are beyond the physical structure. My interface with some students during the preliminary stages of the SEE-IT tests before the final lap got me pondering how our public school students are being prepared for integration in the global economy. What skills set are the teachers equipped with to impact their students? How integrative is the curriculum in view of the current global interface? What is the teacher-students ratio like? Too many whys and why not!
Let me get to the crux of my discourse on SEE-IT. There are scholarships of diverse moulds but when it comes like some pleasant tsunami of unimaginable hope as SEE-IT has for the beneficiaries, it highlights the strength of service to both community and humanity. At a time when most families are in quandary and most organisations are facing a down turn, SEE-IT has offered to look beyond these challenges to offer hope to Akwa Ibom State indigent students. They chose to light a candle in the dark for all of the fifty (50) students.
And the worth leaves a very sweet taste in the mouth! About Forty Million Naira would be spent each session for the 50 students. Dis no be moi-moi! The least bench mark is Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand naira only (N750,000) per student per student per session, whilst the maximum is One Million, Five Hundred Thousand naira (N1,500,000) per student per session. On the announcement of this sum, a guest whispered dis one paz my salary for one year. See correct scholarship…’
But this is not all there is to this noble partnership between Savannah Energy and Inoyo Toro Foundation. According to the Managing Director of Savannah Energy, Mr Olapade Durotoye, the beneficiaries would be given opportunities to undergo internships both within and beyond the shores of Nigeria. This gesture can be likened to an exciting icing on a classic cake.
One more thing! Why is the Foundation able to sustain its mission and even attract more partners? Very clearly surmised; it is obvious that it is because the Foundation is run with integrity. The screening committee chaired by Prof. Enobong Joshua, the staff, volunteers and everyone upholds the right values. No short cuts. This is probably one of the reasons the Foundation is often shocked when some people think that the awards should be an amalgam of community or local government representatives. To put it mildly, no magogo for di exam. If you pass am, Inoyo Toro Foundation don butter you bread bi dat.”
Let me pause and set forth to Inoyo Toro Foundation and its unwavering dedication to encouraging teachers teaching subjects such as the sciences, mathematics, english language and other endangered subjects in our public secondary schools. Why would the organisation spend its resources to inspire, support and mentor teachers in public schools when it could have turned a blind eye?
I got a shocking and perhaps an insightful perspective into how the advisor, Mr. Udom Inoyo is wired, let me be frank with you, education is a key tool to alleviating poverty. I am a product of public schools but I feel uneasy when I see what is happening in our schools. Let me add that government cannot on its own do everything. All hands must be on the deck. So Inoyo Toro Foundation chose to rather invest in education. I tell my friends that the best investment we can offer our people is to liberate and illuminate their minds through strong values and viable education. This is my lifelong passion, Inoyo stated. These are the thoughts that have driven these gargantuan leaps in education and human capacity development. I imagine how someday the beneficiaries would look back as how they made it to the top through the magnanimous vision of a man who dreams beyond his time.
I did a mental calculation of the monetary rewards Inoyo Toro Foundation (ITF) and its partners has expended in sixteen (16) years to encourage teachers in Public Secondary Schools and came to the conclusion that passion can be irreversibly and positively addictive. In 16 years, Inoyo Toro Foundation and its partners have so far expended Six Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N650, 000,000.00) to support the growth of education in public secondary schools in Akwa Ibom State. Here is the summary of the beneficiaries: Teachers awardees (299). Teachers trained (3,520). Schools mentored (138). Students mentored (6003). Undergraduate Scholarship Scheme: SEE-IT (50). With such a sum, most could have chosen the big boys path, take a cruise round the world and savour the wonder of the good life! But not Inoyo, a man whose humanity outsizes his personal wants.
Therefore these sixteen (16) years of walking the trenches for the regeneration of impactful scholarship in public secondary schools in AIbom State is a testament of the Foundations vision of serving a sector that has enjoyed more lip syncing than visible and viable change. And the partnership that inspired SEE-IT with ITF (Inoyo Toro Foundation) is not a flash in-a-pan kind of jamboree for some transient interests. It is about empowering and strengthening education in public schools and expanding opportunities for Akwa Ibom State students to be part of the global economy.
Vintage Udom Inoyo, he sat quietly through the ceremony without drawing any attention to himself. Someday, most would come to the realisation that the quiet waves of Inoyo Toro Foundations service to humanity is beyond the endless and fleeting tiresome rattle of empty pans.