By Nkem Iloeje-Agu


Recently, I watched an online video by ROOTS TV, NIGERIA, tagged, “POVERTY ERADICATION – NIGERIA IS THE POVERTY CAPITAL OF THE WORLD”, which depicted, only too vividly, the harsh realities of the economic conditions in which a larger majority of the Nigerian citizens have to live. Sadly, the situation is undeniably, presently on a fast decline.

In this situation, we find that, while many people have limited themselves to merely highlighting the challenges and passing blames, and yet others have resigned themselves to their own respective economic situations, others have resorted to all forms and levels of crime, devices and misconducts, in order, apparently to help lift themselves out of the murk.

I know, however, that, as life builders, we, who are active players in the education sector, can certainly find alternatives, which are not only effective, but, sustainable solutions to the apparently perennial problem.

“So, how do you, as an educator, think we can change the economic narrative of our people, in an effective and sustainable fashion?”

Poverty, although a sad, tangible and real state of being, is also a thing of the mind.

Don’t get me wrong. By this, I am definitely not trying to minimise or trivialise the o-too-real situation, and its resultant effects, with which we, the Nigerian “common man” have to cope.

All I am saying is that, the solution – the cure centres in a change in mindset. This is why a man may suddenly, either by crime or the whims of luck or divine providence, come into a gust of financial windfall, and yet, remain as poor as he had ever been; because, even in his desperate efforts to use his newfound money to erase the signs of penury, the indelible signs of deep-seated poverty remain evident in everything he does, every word he says, and in his mannerism and garish appearance.

Therefore, the cure for economic poverty does not and can never lie in any political gestures of free-cash or free-food handouts, but, rather in curing the mind of its malaise. And, where best to start, than with that little child in your classroom. And that is where the educator comes in.

Here are four things we, as teachers, in our own little corner of the world, can do, irrespective of the place where our school is located, to permanently win the battle against the economic deprivation of hapless wards:

  1. Paradigm Shift Regarding Acceptable Standards

In our schools and classrooms, we must teach our children to begin to question the quality and standards of options presented to them. We let them understand that mediocrity is not acceptable, nor is low quality in goods, services.

In everything we do and say, we should demonstrate to them to never sacrifice quality on the altar of a low-cost.

How do I achieve this in my own school, which is a public school, where pupils come to school, unkempt, and dressed in tattered and dirty uniforms, and so on?

Very simple, begin to firmly, but, kindly and patiently show himself to him; then show him what could be. In time, he will get the message.

And as we talk to him, we must do same with the parents, because, they are our potent partners in the change movement.

When you teach a child that not everything goes, he will go home, and begin to consciously and actively believe that he deserves better than the squalid, unhygienic environment in which he may have found himself.

He will also be careful of the quality of foods and substances he ingests, and also in the quality of friends he keeps.

  • Develop Learners’ Critical & Creative Thinking Skill

Now that your children have learnt from you that nothing but the possible best is acceptable, and have started to desire and demand the best, if you leave it at that, and nothing changes, frustration may set in, along with its usual partner-vices.

A creative and critical mind, on the other hand, is excited to see a challenge, and is motivated to turn it into gold.

It is therefore essential that we, as a school, strive to encourage and build up our children’s innate creative mind.

That way, as the child is growing and questioning his circumstance and environment, he is, by himself, coming up with ways in which he can actually change them for the better.

Therefore, every teacher should be a critical-minded and creative-thinker, armed with the information and skills necessary to build same in the learners.  

  • Virtue Education

Virtue education, as opposed to corporal punishment, builds in the child, the self-motivation for self-discipline.

We should therefore, in our schools, de-emphasise corporal punishment, and work to teach our children to imbibe and live the virtues necessary to be community leaders and builders, who know that the end does not always justify the means.

We mould them into socially-well-adjusted adult who know how to positively manage their economic and other life’s failures and challenges, as well as they can manage the successes.

  • Review of our Curricular Contents and Delivery Approach

In our schools and classrooms, we must, as the captain, be creative to interpret and deliver our contents, such that we end up graduating real thinkers – people who would become contributors to our economy, and not mere consumers… job-creators, instead of mere job-seekers.

Finally, the power lies in the hand of the Nigerian teacher, because, at the end of the day, we find that, in making our own little contributions, drop-after-drop, we make the invaluable changes necessary to convert our economy from what it is today, to what we know it could be in our children’s future.


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