In her own words, “Ejeme Angela Onyemowo is “a teacher, a humanitarian and an educationist.” The founder of Oakbridge foundation, a not for profit organisation that provides quality education to vulnerable children, Miss Onyemowo at the time of this email interview (I had not met her in person yet), has a passion for children and education. She was obviously and most definitely infectious during our interactions. I thought what better way to kick-start this segment by featuring her. Enjoy…
TEYL: Can we meet you?
Onyemowo: I am Ejeme Angela Onyemowo. I’m a teacher, humanitarian and an educational advocate.
TEYL: When you say a humanitarian and educational advocate, what do mean by that?
As a humanitarian, I am involved in providing opportunities for people to better their lives. Do not make the mistake of thinking a humanitarian must be wealthy at the given time (laughs), doing whatever you can for the welfare of another is the key thing. As an educational advocate, I support the right of children to education which is one of the things I do with Oakbridge Foundation. Another way is through the provision of scholarship for children who cannot afford it at the moment.
TEYL: How did you get into teaching?
Onyemowo: I was fortunate to have discovered what I wanted to do early in life, so I picked Pre-Primary/Primary Education as my first degree course.
TEYL: What motivated you?
Onyemowo: I have always loved kids, but my main motivation was the desire to contribute towards building a child’s foundation. I earlier learnt that what we become as adults is tied to what was invested in us as children. I decided I want to see thousands of children down the line who have solid foundation in Godly character, problem solving and people skills etc (smiles because I was part of it). “The foundation of a child determines the future of a child and by extension the future of the nation and the world”, that’s a major push for me.
“The foundation of a child determines the future of a child and by extension the future of the nation and the world”
TEYL: I’ve seen some of your pictures on your social media feed, I’m interested in what you are doing with the children, can you shed more light on it?
Onyemowo: God led me to start a community project that provides free quality education for vulnerable children. It is registered as Oakbridge Foundation. We identify children who we are certain cannot afford to go to school and we teach them in our learning centre. They do not have to be orphans, if we see the need and if we have room for them, we enrol them. For now, it is open to children between the ages of 4 and 6, though we made an exception for two boys (9 and 10) who could not read and write even though they had been to school in their home town.
TEYL: I have noticed that you have a class of mixed age groups, how do you teach them?
Onyemowo: Hmmmm (smiles), this is a class group of 4 years, 5/6 years and then the older boys. We have a common opening activity time. Depending on the topic for the week, we do a general introduction (or review as the case may be), then after that each group gets worksheets or exercises for their specific age. I use more of songs, demonstrations and hands-on activities for my teaching because they are all still learning to communicate fluently in English; so I minimize the talk and do more interactive activities.
Onyemowo: We interact a lot with what we have in our immediate environment, for example last week we saw logs in our text, then I took them out on a street and asked them to find and point out where the logs were…the blessings of teaching in a locality… (laughs)
TEYL: So, what’s a typical day in your classroom like?
Onyemowo: Every other thing comes after our “opening activities”-songs, prayers, declaration and any other light hearted activity that will kick start the day. We sing educational, motivational and worship songs; we pray and speak into our day. We also memorize a Bible chapter among other activities.
We do a review, then I introduce the day’s task or topic if it is a new one. They come to my table for instructions or I go to theirs.
Then we have recess and play time. This is when we go off book work and play outside-soccer, jump rope, race, number hops etc. Sometimes what we do outside is related to the day’s topic. We also have story time where I read stories to them. We would usually watch educational videos towards the close of day (that is if we are not neck deep in trying to finish up tasks.
TEYL: Do you have any personal routine or structure that shapes or impacts your time in school?
Onyemowo: Not in any particular structure though:
- I pray-I prepare by praying for myself and my children, I speak and picture the things I expect to see in them. I study articles about classroom management, how to present lessons and relate to my pupils.
- Sometimes I carry out research on how to work with and meet the need of a particular child in my class.
- On some days I just sit and focus my thoughts on one child, analyse their progress, reactions etc it helps keep my mind on the way forward.
- This may seem totally unrelated to education, but I find entertainment on social media- articles, pictures, funny videos, interviews etc helps me laugh very loud and relax. I’m planning to add cycling and long walks to the list.
TEYL: What’s going to keep you up tonight after school?
Onyemowo: Tonight’s work would be downloading worksheets. I never take grading work home, if that’s part of what you’re hoping to hear (grins)
TEYL: How long have you been teaching and running Oakbridge Foundation?
Onyemowo: I have been a teacher for over five years. This project has been running for a year and four months.
TEYL: What has kept you focused?
Onyemowo: The end I have in view (vision)- children who read fluently, solve problems and can speak confidently in public, wow that is/would be priceless.
TEYL: Have you had points of discouragement and how did you handle them?
Onyemowo: My main point of discouragement is lack of involvement by parents. Most of them are not really educated and can hardly relate with what we do in class, so at this beginning stage, there are few take home projects I can give. For now, I do what I can with the kids to build them to be independent enough to take on projects on their own. So it is work in progress.
TEYL: What is the next phase for you?
Onyemowo: The next phase is expansion, expansion, expansion (laughs) I cannot overemphasise that enough. There are more children who need these services but we do not have enough room yet. So, bigger learning space with more materials and more qualified teachers; We are in the process of making that a reality. Career wise, I am planning to participate in international educational trainings, an online M.Ed and eventually a full time Master degree in school administration.
TEYL: Finally, what do you have to say to a new teacher, a teacher that has been in the system for long and an aspiring teacher?
Onyemowo: A new teacher to plan your day at school, but take every day as it comes also-no pressure. Ask questions, never stop asking.
To an old teacher: fall in love with your job every day, learn new ways to reach your learners. I say this to my self also, watch out for/against the tendency to get used to your pupils in order avoid insensitive comments and actions. They are called “learners for a reason”
To an aspiring teacher, make sure teaching is what you’re called to do. It takes more than just skills to teach, it takes HEART! Take it from me you’ll love it once those areas are covered.
TEYL: Wow, what a wonderful way of raising the foundation of the next generation!
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Contact number: +2348036324550