The Covid-19 pandemic has led to widespread school closures across 191 countries, impacting 1.57 billion learners – 91% of the world’s student population. This will exacerbate the already fragile state of the education system in the poorest parts of the world, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, it is not all doom and gloom, in the face of daunting challenges, several schools and teachers in the region are inspiring others through their leadership. One of these schools is Inspire Academy, Abuja, Nigeria.

Inspire Academy and its teachers embody the 1MT ideal of being Reflective, Resilient and Compassionate Risk Takers and Community Builders.  Like many 1MT Blackbelts from Inspire Academy, Anita Monye embodies such values. 

Annie is passionate about impacting knowledge and molding positive values. She sees “…education as her own platform for impacting the world.”

In this abridged interview with Ishmael Ogbechie, Annie shares how she continues to teach her students despite the pandemic. 

How do you view Covid-19?

First, I never thought it would get to the extent of closing schools. But when the reality dawned on us, I knew it was time to step up my game.

I am determined to keep my students engaged, so I started thinking of alternative ways to keep the learning going. Fortunately, pupils were on holiday, so I had ample time to explore additional courses online, specifically about how to conduct engaging online video lessons.

What was your initial reaction to this pandemic?

I was saddled with mixed emotions as to what will happen to children at home. Then I asked myself, is this what the futurists have been saying all along, that robots will take our jobs? Hell no! I had always told my friends that ‘no robot can give the kind of affection and love I give to my students.’

The best a Robot can do is to impact their knowledge and may be draw up an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and deliver differentiated lessons. However, something is missing. I share a bond with my pupils, no robot can do that. I had to think of ways to stay connected, and virtual learning was the answer. Thank God for technology. 

How are you taking advantage of the lockdown so that it does not hinder your goal as an educator?

Oh, that’s easy! The lockdown is giving me ample time to research, learn new skills, and take online courses. As well as, prepare, plan, and record my lessons, source for worksheets or create them if need be. The computer and the internet have become a great tool for me.

Interestingly, under the initiative of an upcoming NGO, my friend and I volunteered to teach a group of learners in a remote area of Abuja. We anticipated that there would be a lockdown and we were worried about not having access to technology or gadgets. In this remote area, the parents of the students can’t operate computers, so, we made differentiated worksheets that would last a whole term, and delivered it manually to them with writing materials and all the classroom supplies needed – the rest of our learners can be reached virtually. 

You are a 1MT black belt holder, how has 1MT been beneficial for you?

 1MT was the first detailed online course I have done. So, it exposed me to virtual Learning, and myriad of impactful courses. The first course “The heart of a teacher” reassured me that I was on the right path, and then lots of other amazing courses followed suit. Through their critical thinking module, 1MT has made me a better critical thinker.

 Do you think 1MT has a role to play in changing the dynamics of education in Africa?

Absolutely! I weep for children in rural and disadvantaged areas of Africa. The teachers are as helpless as the students. If they had access to 1MT, they would do a lot better. First, they would need to be paired with a mentor and then trained on the use of technology and the modern education strategies to help them understand the psychology of their learners. I assure you, in less than a few years from now Nigeria will have a new testimony in the areas of education.

What is your philosophy about teaching and learning?

I believe that the teacher’s role is to act as a guide. Also, that students must be part of their own learning, and be creatively engaged through hands-on and group activities.

Students should have choices and we should allow their curiosity to direct their learning. I also believe learners should be given the opportunity to practice skills taught or acquired in a safe environment. Lastly, I must add that it is imperative to leverage technology and incorporate it into the learning journey of today.