Inoyo rewarding teachers without headlines—-by Nsikak Ekanem

Rewarding hardwork of teachers and giving hope to youths without making noise

In a society such as ours where bad news breezes in everywhere on per second basis, good news that maneuvers its way through is often dimed by gloominess that bad news often emits. It is also natural within the human circle that what is bad news to the general public abounds with newsworthiness. In fact, bad news is good news to newsmen and news media organisations that filters news to the public.

On October 19, 2021, exactly 33 years after Dele Giwa, Newswatch’s first editor-in-chief, was assassinated through a novel parcel bomb, Cletus Ukpong, a journalist with Premium Times was crowned in Ghana the best investigative reporter in 2019 edition of West Africa Media Excellence Awards on account of his published work in Premium Times about decay of public schools in Akwa Ibom. The media report that earned Ukpong the award was bad news to the Akwa Ibom State government and some supporters of the government who believe that no uncomplimentary remark, however truthful, should be made to anything with linkages to the government.

The overshadowing of good news by bad news may have accounted for why over N400 million spent in the course of rewarding, mentoring and training teachers between 2007 and 2020 in Akwa Ibom by a private-non-profit organisation called Inoyo Toro Foundation is not making headlines. At its 2021 edition of awards for teaching excellence which took place in Uyo on November 5, 22 teachers, including a principal, smiled home with plaques for eternal remembrance, and to banks to keep body and soul together.

So, though without headlines, through the first of its kind activities in this part of the world, the Inoyo Toro Foundation has made Akwa Ibom to have a place in global map where rewards for teachers on earth can be spotted. At least 260 excelling teachers, between 2007 till date, have been rewarded by the foundation. So, while waiting for “thy kingdom to come” before getting their rewards in heaven, which is not a guarantee for all humans, the rewarded teachers have every reason to shout hosanna to the Highest while on earth. As at 2020, the foundation has also trained 3,500 teachers, mentored 5,040 students and reached out to 90 secondary schools in 30 out of of the 31 local government areas in Akwa Ibom.

Over the years, a number political office holders in Akwa Ibom have embarked on what they call “empowerment programmes” through which gift items, including cash and vehicles, are doled out to retinue of persons on dole queues. But through the dos and don’ts of the Inoyo Toro Foundation in its various activities to drive human capacity development, the organisation has not only carved out a niche for itself but offers a benchmark for modeling and appraising initiatives apparently done to promote human development.

Though founded by the immediate past Vice Chairman of ExxonMobil companies in Nigeria, Udom Inoyo, and his wife, Ntekpe, the doings of the foundation are not fashioned behind an individual or few persons. It is structured beyond the founders and to last for generations after generations like the Nobel Prizes. It is a personal idea oiled by a private citizen’s broad-based inter-personal relationship, fueled and driven by private individuals, including the Inoyos, and some corporate organizations that shared in the idea of “eradicating poverty through education.”

It is not packaged higgledy-piggledy like most politics-induced social welfare events in Akwa Ibom; it has meticulousness and organizational prowess of ants. It has qualities of mightiness but packaged with overwhelming modicums of modesty. It is not targeted at getting immediate or ephemeral applause from the public. It has no partisan colouration of any kind. Its awards and other incentivizing schemes give salutation to meritocracy and frowns at mediocrity.

When focused on capacity building for any profession, the all-and-all of the foundation at that moment is beamed solely and primarily on its target audience. For instance, students and teachers enjoy first-line attention, if not all the attentions, in its yearly awards for teachers’ excellence. In a conversation with this writer on the sideline of the 14th edition of the award for teachers’ excellence, Tony Okpanachi, the Managing Director of Nigeria Development Bank (DBN) was so thrilled with restoration of nobility to teachers. The last time respectability had identification with teachers in Nigeria was “when there was a country” – a position one can hardly fault Chinua Achebe.

Sponsors of the various awards in the 2021 teachers’ awards for excellence are persons and organizations that so many in Akwa Ibom hardly reckon as “givers” – an appellation that rules the ruse in social and political discussions in the state. The sponsors include, Aniekan Ukpanah, the Managing Partner of Udo Udoma and Osagie law firm, Savanah Energy Plc, Boda Services, Hensek Integrated Services, Anchor Insurance and Bassey Ukpong Udo Foundation.

By making consistency an inviolable creed in its capacity development drive in Akwa Ibom, the Inoyo Toro Foundation has played benefactor’s role to various spheres with beneficiaries cutting across diverse areas such as teachers, journalists, lawyers, techies, medical professional, practitioners in movie industry, among others. But its priority is in the education sector, where the likes of the Chief Human Resource Officer of Dangote Group, Usen Udoh, have taken personal responsibility of bankrolling educational expenses of a number of indigent students even up to tertiary level.

In a clime where both the rich and the poor consider that anything public should be milked for personal growth, where every public-private partnership of any kind is done mainly for accrual of personal interests, the complementary effort carried out by Inoyo Toro Foundation since 2007 for improved capacity of teachers and other professionals is newsworthy but it has remained one good news that has not been told.

Apart from dimness of goodness by badness occasioned by abundance of badness in our society, it is reliably gathered that one of the major factors behind the foundation not making headlines stems from Inoyo’s apparent imbibing of the Christian scriptural instruction that the left hand should not be aware of the generous act of the right hand. But that is naïve because the fantastic act of nudging the frontiers of teachers on earth with intention of obscuring it from the left hand is impossible because half a million naira giving to even one award-winning teacher cannot be handed out without active involvement of the left hand and some other parts of body.

On a very serious note, making news from goodness and badness should, as much as possible, run in pari passu. When bad thing makes news, it is aimed at alerting the public in order to nip the badness in the bud. When good thing makes news, the society has hope that if the budding of the goodness is fully developed it could spring out fruits for unlimited seasons.

Newswatch founded by Giwa, Ray Ekpu, Dan Agbese and Yakubu Mohammed, is widely adjudged to have heralded investigative journalism in Nigeria. Apart from using investigative approach to bring to public glare malaises causing morass of rots in diverse areas of our national life, Newswatch modeled after Newsweek and New York Times, as envisioned by its founders, also has philosophy of promoting certain developmental traits as its perspective of projecting certain positive things in order to check stereotype often filtered out in the Western media that everything African in Africa is black and bad.

Unsettled as the officials and blind supporters of the government were on account of the report on decay of some schools in Akwa Ibom, the good news from what was bad news to the government is that the government has since settled down on the matter by fixing the decayed infrastructure in most of the schools mentioned in the report.

If the good news emanating from Inoyo Toro Foundation is told in commensuration with its worth, it would not only send out message that goodness is growing amidst badness characterizing so many things in our society but could also serve as a model for others to mould quality blocks of human capacity development.



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