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Interview with Ms. Ruth Howard, a retired teacher who spent 33 years working in Nigeria before returning to the UK
Culled from page 16 of Saturday Punch - November 26, 2016.
Ms. Ruth Howard, a retired teacher who spent 33 years working in Nigeria before returning to the UK, speaks about her experience.
You spent 33 years in Nigeria as a teacher, what do you miss most about Nigeria?
I miss my friends, the climate, food, and the relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and my time in Nigeria gave me the opportunity to be creative and use lateral thinking in my work.
What year did you get to Nigeria and where did you work first?
I arrived Nigeria in January 1962 and from then until August of that year, I spent my time trying to learn Yoruba. I was on the staff of St. Anne's School, Ibadan from September 1962. I taught Mathematics to A' Level and later I became the Vice Principal. I later moved to the Anglican Girls' Grammar School, Ughelli (Delta State) as Principal in May 1970 (just after the end of the Civil War). I was there for six years. After that, between 1976 and 1982, I was the Principal of Idia College, Benin City. During my time there, I managed to ensure that every girl had a desk and chair and I also created a staff room large enough to accommodate all the teachers and enable them all to have a desk and chair of their own. My last two years there were difficult due to the Bendel State Government's policy of giving all primary school students places in secondary schools. We had five extra arms of class one, so we had to convert some of the dormitories to classrooms. The Government provided text books for the extra students but failed to realize how many of the new intake were unable to read them. But we did our best to teach those who couldn't read. I left for the UK as my mother was 76 and living on her own but she died in 1984. I did a year course in Birmingham working for a Diploma in Computer Education (A very new subject at the time). I taught for nearly four years in England and then Scotland until in 1986, when Chief Emmanuel Adesoye invited me to be the pioneer principal of an International School he was planning to set up in Offa (Adesoye College in Kwara State). I jumped at the offer and with considerable relief, I returned to Nigeria in October 1986 and helped with the preliminary planning of the school, which admitted the first students for January 1987. I finally retired in July 1999 after 13 years at Offa and returned to the UK. I was 65 by then, which was the maximum retiring age in UK and I didn't feel I could continue to cope with the stress of relying on a hospital in Oshogbo when the roads at night could be so dangerous, as well as erratic power and water supply, etc.
Some European expatriates like yourself stayed back in Nigeria after retirement. Did you ever consider doing the same?
Expatriates can only stay in Nigeria if they have a work permit or get citizenship. I applied for citizenship but hat is a long and tedious process which needed a lot of pursuing and my work did not give me the necessary time to do that. Those who volunteered to help me weren't able to give it time and effort required. So, I had to come home and settle down.
Who was paying your salary at the time you spent in the other schools before Adesoye College?
All qualified teachers were paid by the State Education Boards. We had a small addition of an expatriation allowance in lieu of pension.
What was your favourite Nigerian food at the time you were in Nigeria?
I loved fried sweet potato. The sweet potato at Offa was far nicer than any you can buy in the UK. I also fell in love with fried plantain, pounded yam and egusi soup, moimoi and akara.
What was accommodation like working at the public schools?
I was provided with comfortable staff quarters in the compounds of all the schools I worked it.
Do you still get to eat those kinds of food?
I eat dodo whenever any visitor brings plantain for me. They are usually people who have shops that sell it near them. I still eat pounded yam I make by myself from powdered yam. I have had moimoi and akara once or twice when someone visited me and brought the ingredients.
How many of your old students are you still in touch with?
Many of them still contact me. All the four schools have invited me to a reunion and exstudents have visited me in Moffat (Scotland), where I live.
What was it like teaching in Nigeria as a European in those days?
For me, it was much more enjoyable than teaching in the UK where I found the discipline very difficult to cope with and many students were not well motivated. I really enjoyed teaching Maths in Nigeria and so many of my students did really well when they left.
What was your relationship with your students like at the time?
You need to ask them. I think it was good as the fact that so many write to me shows.
Have you ever visited Nigeria since you left?
I have visited twice since 1999. I visited once soon after I left, which I enjoyed and then for the 20th Anniversary Celebrations (of Adesoye College) in 2007, which went off very well and I enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I took ill before I could visit Benin and the North and I was hospitalised. I had to be accompanied home by a nurse. I recovered very quickly after that.
How were Europeans like yourself treated by Nigerians at the time you were in the country?
We were treated very well. I was always shown the utmost respect both by the parents and staff who were always ready to help if they could.Culled from page 16 of Saturday Punch - November 26, 2016.
Interview with The President and chairman of Council, Nigerian Institute of Training and Development, Mrs. Janet Jolaoso,
Culled from page 28 of the Punch Newspaper - Wednesday, January 04, 2017..
You recently called on the Federal Government to establish a national skills commission. Why did you suggest this?
The national objective of every country will determine the skills that will be needed in the short or long-term. If there is a national skills commission, the government will take some internal objectives and identify areas of need in terms of skills. The government should focus more on how to train people in relevant skills and get them qualified. One of the reasons for a large number of graduates without jobs is because we develop skills that the country does not need. We have many people carrying their certificates around and looking for jobs, because there is a skills gap and a mismatch. The skills we develop must be relevant skills that will meet the needs of the nation, corporate bodies and individuals. We need to ask ourselves; are those skills we are presently developing being supported with gainful employment or self-employment. The commission can be under the Ministry of Labour and Employment. When a body is carved out for this purpose, there will be more focus on ways to achieve this.
What is your assessment of the N-Power initiative of the Federal Government?
It is another project that will be useful. Like I said, starting a project in Nigeria is not the problem; coming up with ideas is also not the problem; it is the implementation and seeing it through that is the problem. In some instances, I know graduates are even more frustrated than when they were called for training. When government trains them, they should also be empowered. There must be soft loans because most of them have problems with financing a business. The soft loans will be paid back without interest or with very little interest. If the government can see it to that end, I think the project will be more productive. As it is now, many are afraid because such trainings go on for ages. More importantly, at the end of the training, there must be financial support for them to start off their business. That is why this commission will be useful to monitor the execution of the business ideas of the trained graduates. This is because what gets measured gets done, and this will become a motivation because they will be able to employ other people.
What has been the significant progress that NITAD has made in the past year?
Most of our activities are part of our eight-point agenda when the new management was sworn in. In the agenda, the first is the charter status of the institute. The charter has gone through the second reading at the National Assembly and we are waiting for the public hearing. In that area, we have made substantive progress and we are happy about that. In terms of the feasibility for the institute, through our partnership with media organizations, we have become more visible. We now hear people calling on us to join us as members, even from corporate and international organizations. On the categorization of our members, we have done this. We have categorized our members into subject matter experts and we are going to publish the membership directory. This will help would-be clients of our membership to know who to contact depending on their areas of need. Right now, everyone is a consultant in learning and development, and you don't really know the competence of the persons. With this categorization in the members' directory, it will give direction to clients. For our members, we have engaged them effectively through programmes like the Annual Trainers' Conference. We have planned a learners' forum where people from different circles will be invited to dicuss national issues.
What are your plans for this year?
We are looking at how to establish some sub institutions where we will be able to implement some of the ideas we have. We are looking at introducing a gap school for graduates. This is because graduates need to understand what next after school, what people out there expect from them, and how they can meet the needs of people in the society. We observed that many of them don't know how to interact during interviews. They need to be trained in poise. We are looking at how to help young people to know their areas of competence. In the area of analyzing strengths of people, it is good to talk about skills acquisition but not everyone is good in everything. They have to identify their areas of interest and what they can do.
Culled from page 28 of the Punch Newspaper - Wednesday, January 04, 2017.