TEACH BUT DON’T CHEAT PUPILS; MY PHILOSOPHY AS EDUCATION SECRETARY, LEA- Christopher Ekamagule
By Patrick Gbuchanye
Our personality of the week is the amiable Education Secretary (E.S), Local Education Authority in Ika North East Local Government Area of Delta State, Mr. Christopher Orogodo Ekamagule. As the saying goes that the reward of good work is more work, the Owa-Ekei-born educationist and administrator per excellence by his recent reappointment made history to become the only E.S that is serving for the second tenure. In this exclusive interview, he talked about his passion for education, administrative prowess, and his humble achievements.
SIR, CAN YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF?
My name is Mr. Christopher Orogodo Ekamagule. I am in my second tenure in office as the Education Secretary Local Education Authority, Owa-Oyibu, Ika North East Local Government Area. I hail from Owa-Ekei, Ika North East Local Government Area. I am the first male child of my parents, late Mr. and Mrs. Ekamagule Nkata of blessed memory. I began my elementary education at Igumbor Otiku Primary School and thereafter my secondary school education at Ekuku-Agbor Grammar School, Ekuku-Agbor. I attended the College of Education, Agbor where I bagged my Nigerian Certificate in Education and later moved on to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where I graduated with a Bachelor of Education. I am a registered certified teacher.
I started work as a clerical assistant in the defunct Teaching Service Commission, Bendel State before I became a teacher. As a teacher, I taught in Martin College, Issele-Uku, St. Brigids Girls’ Grammar School, Asaba, Asaba Girls’ Grammar School I, Asaba, Osadenis Mixed Secondary School, Asaba, Idumuje Mixed Secondary School, Idumuje-Unor and Niger Mixed Secondary School, Asaba respectively. I left the Post Primary Education Board as a Teacher with the rank of a Principal Merit Grade (PMG) in 2019 with a leave of absence and retired officially from the Post Primary Education Board in the year 2020. I was accordingly appointed as the Education Secretary of Ika North East Education Authority in 2019 with my tenure to run from 2019 to 2023. To the glory of God, at the expiration of my tenure as the Education Secretary, Ika North East Education Authority, I was re-appointed for second tenure in August 2023.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE EDUCATION STANDARD OF IKA NORTHEAST?
When I assumed office, I went around the schools in the various towns and rural areas and I observed that the person at a distant school is there not by accident. The difference between a child schooling in rural area and in the town is just packaging. If the teachers in the rural areas are doing well, the children will do as much as those in the cities. This means that being born in the village is not a reason to be uneducated. It all depends on the capacity of the child and the teacher. The children are the future leaders. Talking about the standards, to the best of my knowledge, we have good teachers, and the children are doing well, and l am proud of them.
WHAT ARE THE EDUCATIONAL POLICIES GUIDING THE SCHOOL?
Talking about policies, we believe in hard work and punctuality. We believe that no child has an empty brain and if you nurture a child, the child will do something. Even, the most uneducated child like those you call imbecile can be trained to do something great. So, no child is empty upstairs. Any child can be trained to acquire a skill and that has been one of our overriding policies. WE TEACH EACH CHILD REGARDLESS OF THE BACKGROUND THE CHILD COMES FROM, AND WHATEVER LEVEL OF ENVIRONMENT THE CHILD COMES FROM. ALL THESE HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE STANDARD OF THE CHILD. THE MAIN THING IS FOR THE TEACHER TO TEACH THE CHILD AND NOT CHEAT THE CHILD.
IN TERMS OF FINANCING AND PLANNING, HOW ARE YOU ABLE, TO COLLECT AND COLLATE DATA FOR THE ABOVE PURPOSES?
The Ministry of Education, at the beginning of every term, send us books; provide us with some amount of money to run the schools, but the finances have not been enough. So, we have collaborators in the communities and people around us who collaborate with us. Some come to donate books and come to do one thing or the other to uplift the schools. Parents are also doing their best. I must say that my teachers also go out of their way to help the children. Many times, when children do not have books to write with, some of these teachers buy books for them. So, it is a collective responsibility and we are not leaving everything for the government. The government is partnering, and teachers are also partnering with the communities to facilitate good education for the students.
AS THE EDUCATION SECRETARY OF IKA NORTH EAST, WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR CONTRIBUTION REGARDING THE RATE OF SUCCESS OF PUPILS IN INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL EXAMS?
Examination is a test given to a child to assess what level the child can accumulate or understand what he or she has been taught. Examination is not a punishment and I go around during examination periods to ensure that these children write their exams. The monitoring does not start during exams, rather it starts with the teaching and the learning processes that go on in the classroom. I send people out to ensure that students are not only being taught, but are learning. When there is harmony between teaching and learning that goes on in the school, things usually better. So, when the examinations come, you find most of these children doing well. We encourage the teachers to teach the children and not allow examination to be something that will cause fear in them. We also encourage parents to give their children the opportunity to read always. I must say that the children are doing well in terms of examinations because of the efforts put in by the teachers. Some parents that know the worth of education are really doing well.
HOW HAS TECHNOLOGY IMPACTED ON EDUCATION IN IKA NORTH EAST?
In the past, teachers used chalkboard to teach, but now, we have gone beyond that, even if we don’t have computers in our schools. The children are being given the rudiments that will enable them to grasp what is being taught in class. Some of my teachers now use their laptops to write lesson notes because of the exposure the Delta State SUBEB gave many of the teachers to embrace such teaching methodologies. Now teachers teach their children using their laptops and we also have new teaching methods such as smart seeing and phonetics. We are grasping technology and also praying that the government would give us more of the laptops and other gadgets to enable us do more in that regard.
From research, we have seen that academic performance is affected by many factors like personality, intelligence quotient, gender, age as well as learning styles. What can you say about this and are there other factors that could affect the academic performance of a pupil?
When you talk of intelligence quotient, a child can be taught to learn irrespective of what environment the child comes from. We have children from rich and poor homes and you don’t expect that the outer personality of a child from a rich background would be the same as the one from a poor background. Experiencing lack can make a child to be less assertive, but in schools with good teachers, children are taught how to assert themselves so that personality or intelligence quotient will not be a problem. A girl can be as intelligent as a boy and when you talk of age, you will be talking about developmental processes. Some people are slow learners while some are fast and for those of them that are slow learners, a time will come when they catch up. That is why we encourage teachers when selecting students not to put all the intelligent pupils in one class but mix them up. Some intelligent ones can help to drag the ones who are not intelligent.
A teacher also should be able to identify this group of persons, and during break you can concentrate on those children that are slow learners. Apart from these things you mentioned, age has nothing to do with education as long as you are ready to learn. A child at the age of 10 can be in primary one and it does not really matter. My people usually say that it is when a person goes to the farm, that is his time. However, the underlying principle is being ready to learn, and you will learn. Another aspect that can affect the performance of a child is teaching. There should be a balance between teaching and learning. These days, we no longer emphasize on chalkboards where the teacher keeps talking and talking but what we emphasize now is interactions between the pupil and teacher. Everybody is involved and it is a participatory teaching of everyone in the class.
SO MANY PEOPLE SHY AWAY FROM TEACHING JOBS THESE DAYS BECAUSE OF LOW REMUNERATION, WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THIS?
If you trace the history of the teaching profession, it started from the Greeks. Those who were allowed to go to school then were slaves and these people later became teachers. The royalty was not ready to send their children to school because they felt that it was not important so instead of sending their children to school, they sent slaves. So, these slaves became teachers, and had the humble beginning of not being regarded in the society. People that shy away from the teaching profession, don’t know what they are doing.
If there is nothing have gained as a teacher, I am proud to say that my children at home have been wonderful. If you are a teacher and your child is not doing well, then it means you the teacher didn’t teach the child well, you only cheated. Those shying away from teaching should know that a time will come when teachers will be highly sought for in this country just like it is happening in some developed societies where I heard teachers are well paid. Very soon it will be like that in this country. One good advantage teaching give is learning management in all areas. A teacher should be proud of being a teacher.
WE HAVE QUALIFIED TEACHERS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS BUT MOST PARENTS PREFER SENDING THEIR CHILDREN/WARDS TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THIS, SIR?
It is the mentality. Sometimes, in most of these private schools, nothing is going on there. As a Waec external invigilator, I have seen cases where these schools call the invigilators to their office so as to give them money to allow the students carry out exam malpractice. Most persons who attend private schools are beginning to return to public schools when they see that they can no longer afford the high fees paid. My children went to public schools and are doing wonderfully well today.
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITION OF THE SCHOOLS IN YOUR JURISDICTION AS IT CONCERNS TEACHING AND LEARNING?
Yes, it has improved tremendously since our brother and father became the governor. Before now you can hardly find a school that is fenced with good buildings. When I came in, I wrote alot of letters and followed up Delta SUBEB and to the glory of God today, I can say new buildings have been erected and everywhere is now shining. I partnered with the man representing Ika North East and he asked me to compile all the schools that don’t have good chairs. Every term now, he sends chairs to the schools. Now, our schools are wearing new looks in a good environment. PTA and other bodies have also made this possible.
MOST YOUNG TEENAGERS ARE NOT SO PASSIONATE ABOUT GOING TO SCHOOL BECAUSE OF THE TREND IN FRAUD AND PROSTITUTION, WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THIS?
They will regret it. Those are people running faster than their shadows and now many of them are dying and running mad. Very soon, 419 and Yahoo will fade out and those in it will come back humbled. Anybody going in that direction is digging his or her own grave. Girls who are involved in prostitution, a lot of them usually end up with STDs and psychological problems. Many of them are victims of womb removal from these boys.
BESIDES STUDYING, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT EXTRACURRICULAR AND MORAL ACTIVITIES CARRIED OUT IN THE EDUCATION SECTOR CURRENTLY?
Many of our children play football; some of them are involved in debates and athletics. There are other things that we do, even up to farming in schools. A child in lka North East that does not know how to farm, did not grow up from here. When a child is busy, his or her mind will be diverted from immoral things.
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT THE SECURITY OF PUPILS AND TEACHERS IN THE SCHOOL?
Most of the schools have been fenced. It is only about two of them that are not fenced. Vigilant groups patrol around from time to time and the Police are also helping out in their way by making sure that the schools are secure.
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF EDUCATION IN LKA NORTH EAST?
Hoodlums are breaking into our schools, jumping the fences, removing all wires, and taking out some valuable materials in the schools. It’s a problem we are seriously tackling now, and I have written to the government. We are also doing so many things internally to solve that problem. For example, the PTA employed night watchmen in a school to watch over every night. Other schools have keyed into that.
WHERE DO YOU SEE THE EDUCATION SECTOR OF IKA NORTH EAST IN 3 YEARS FROM NOW?
Hmmm, it is going to move to the rooftop. I said this because we have never had education so good like we have currently. Right here in lka, we have a university and because of this, many of our children are now in school. We also have a Nursing School. I have signed numerous files of my teachers who want to go for higher studies which will lead to improved teaching and positive impacts on the children. In Ika North East, we are all politically conscious. The issue of asking pupils to go and work on a teacher’s farm has become a thing of the past. Not under my watch will I see such a thing happen again.
WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPLES THAT HAVE GUIDED YOU THROUGH TO YOUR CURRENT POSITION?
Hard work, respect for one another, honesty, and due process. When I came to the LGA, the posting of teachers was lopsided. Now things have changed. Again, behaviour both intrinsically and extrinsically. As a leader, I have learnt how to manage human and material resources. I also ensure discipline in administration wherever I am. I endeavour to put all these variables together, and it has helped me in so many ways.
WHAT LEGACY DO YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED FOR?
Hard work, honesty, sincerity, and good interpersonal relationships with people. I will continue to promote the education industry.
WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO THE YOUTHS WHO NO LONGER SEE THE NEED FOR EDUCATION?
Most importantly, Ika youths should know that education is the basic weapon for self-actualization. Going to school is not necessarily to acquire a certificate to get employed, but rather to learn to be well-informed and if possible, to create a job for oneself. A country with more educated people with ideas is bound to progress more economically, technologically, socially, and otherwise.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AS A TEACHER?
I am a proud teacher anytime and any day because whatever you are in life, a teacher made you to be so. With the knowledge I have acquired as a teacher and if there is another world to come, I will still want to be a teacher. The teaching profession is a noble one and it is the bedrock of the society.
WHAT IS YOUR ADMINISTRATIVE PHILOSOPHY?
Teach and not cheat the pupils by being absent from school and classroom. I hold on to what is right. A teacher who is committed to his or her work is doing the right thing and such a person is worthy to be called my friend.
DO YOU BELONG TO ANY GROUP?
I am a member of the Students’ Representatives Council, College of Education Agbor, President Delta State Students Guidance and Counseling Students Association, University of Nigeria Nsukka, 1st Examiner of Accounts, Nigerian Union of Teachers, Oshimili South Local Government Area, Secretary General in the following organizations: Owa-Ekei Community, Owa-Ekei, Ika Development Association, Asaba, Ika Elites, Asaba and Member Special Marshall of the Federal Road Safety Corp (FRSC).
WHO DO YOU HAVE AS YOUR MENTORS?
The likes of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and other great philosophers
HOW DO YOU RELAX?
Watching television for news and wrestling for entertainment alongside chewing groundnut. This could equally lead me to fall asleep and just ten minutes of it is so refreshing.
WHO ARE YOU MARRIED TO?
I am married to my beautiful beloved wife, Supol Mrs. Fidelia Ekamagule of blessed memory. She was everything to me and our marriage is blessed with three children, two males and a female.
WHAT IS YOUR WORST MOMENT?
My worst moment in life was losing my first son who was a medical student, and wife to the cold hands of death. It was a great loss and heartbreaking. God is seeing me through.
WHAT IS YOUR BEST MOMENT?
My best moment is rendering service to humanity, especially my Owa-Ekei Community, those whom I come across, and the less privileged people.
WHAT IKA DELICACY DO YOU ENJOY MOST?
Ujuju soup prepared with snail and fish, and pounded yam
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ABOUT LIFE?
Irrespective of your influence in society, the position you occupy, the fat money in your bank account, and your acquisition of properties, a life without Christ is a crisis.
IN WHAT WAY HAVE YOU GIVEN BACK TO YOUR PEOPLE?
Rendering the needed service wherever I am called upon to represent the people of my Owa-Ekei Community and all those who I have worked with or come across. They can all attest to it.
HAVE YOU BEEN REWARDED FOR YOUR SERVICE?
I believe in God’s reward to bless me the more. My recent award was the Meritorious Service Award from the Forward News Media in recognition of my numerous contributions towards the Socio-Economic Development of Nigeria and Service to Humanity in the year 2023.
WHAT IS YOUR MESSAGE TO IKA PEOPLE IN GENERAL?
I want to thank our big brother, uncle, and father, the former governor of Delta State, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa for everything and what he is still doing.
My message to Ika people is to continue to rally round Okowa politically. I also want to encourage Ika people to embrace hard work by returning to farming to be able to feed well in this hard time in the country. To our parents, let us stop encouraging the children to engage in Yahoo Yahoo in order not to cry had I known on the long run.