Once upon a time, somewhere in Europe, towards the end of 2016, some ladies had a high school reunion. They got discussing their different pathways in life and what life had thrown at them. Among these women were Lawyers, Engineers, Teachers, Make-up artists, Homemakers, Politicians, Medical Doctors from varied specialities, Bankers, Entrepreneurs, CEOs of leading companies ……..the list was endless. Each was in her own right, a success.
These women were only congregated in Europe for the reunion event. They were from different geographical locations across the world. All the seven continents were represented. However, these women had two things in common – they were all girl children once and the same teacher taught them all in their formative years.
The saying that when you educate the girl child you educate nations could not have been better exemplified than what the gathering described above presented. These women explicitly showed the ripple effect of girl child education. Here they all were, making significant contributions to economic growth and leadership development of many across global communities, having being moulded and mentored by the same woman who herself, was once a girl child. Someone with undisputed foresight, worked to formally educate this Nigerian girl who hails from Ekpoma, Edo state, who also worked hard to empower herself. She “took her candle and has lighted many more candles for our world”. She is in the success stories of many a girl child turned woman of substance today. You cannot breed success if you are a failure. It is after recurrent requests by her many mentees that we on LR have decided to let the world know about this unique woman of excellence. This woman who is a stimulant of the success pathway for many other women today.
I am Mrs Juliana E Ikenebomeh, Nee Ozua. I retired from the Nigerian Federal Civil Service in 2012, after 35 years of meritorious service. When I was first invited to tell my story on this platform due to popular demand, it came as a pleasant surprise and also a task I felt initially reluctant to do. My reluctance did not stem from not appreciating the noble work of this team, but rather it came from the very private way I have lived my life. When not doing what I love to do best, I am one of those persons people would readily describe as ‘too humble to blow their own trumpet’. However, after giving the entire concept careful thought, I decided to oblige the request because it is not every day my kind is remembered for all our hard work. We are often forgotten, even though we form the bedrock of learning. You see, I am proud to hold my head high and say I am a teacher. Even though now retired, teaching lives in me; for where is a world without the people who help forge every other profession?
From an early age, I was made to understand that I could become anything I choose to be. Even at a time when many from my side of the pond did not invest very much in the education of a girl child. Born the only girl in a family of eight children, my early education was at Holy Child Convent School Calabar, Mary mount, Agbor and St. Maria Goretti College, Benin City.
I went ahead to get my B.Sc (Hons) Botany, from the University of Benin, Benin City and a postgraduate Diploma in Institutional Administration, from Concordia University, Montreal Canada.
M.Ed Edu. Administration and M. Ed. Science Education were from the University of Benin in 1990 and 1991 respectively.
I started out teaching in Government College Ketu Lagos State during my NYSC in 1976. I taught Integrated Science Biology and English. Following this, I was employed by the Federal Government and seconded to the then Bendel State Ministry of Education where I was posted to Imaguero Teachers College Benin City. I taught Biology and supervised student teachers during teaching practice while there.
I was redeployed by the Federal Government to Federal Government Girls’ College, Benin city in 1981.
It was at the Federal Govt. Girls’ College (FGGC) Benin City from 1981 – 2001, that I spent the main block of my teaching career. I functioned in a multiplicity of roles: these included teaching Biology, Integrated Science, being a Class Teacher, Year Head and Subject Head of Integrated Science for the school.
I was also School Coordinator of the Conservation Club, which won several laurels for the school at State, National and International levels.
I functioned as a member of disciplinary committees and academic board of studies. Furthermore, I worked as Monitoring Officer for the National Common Entrance Examinations and Supervisor of School Examinations for conduction of continuous assessment tests and WAEC (West African Examination Council ) Examinations.
In 2001, I moved on to the Federal Inspectorate Service Benin City where I was involved in inspection of schools (Primary, Secondary, Technical) in Edo State. In 2008 I moved on to Federal Government College (FGC) Warri in the capacity of Vice-principal Administration. Following which I came back to the Federal Inspectorate Service Benin City, in 2010.
In all of these times, despite the challenges of me being a working mother, I never for once thought that not excelling at the work I do was an option. I always sought out ways to help my students bring out the best in them. I always believed that there was something unique in every child that would flourish once given the enabling environment. People learn at different rates, a phenomenon teachers should always be mindful of.
Every student is a holistic human being who deserves to be treated with love and mentored in learning in a student-centered manner. It became a lifestyle for me to always remember I had many watchful eyes on me who were going to become the leaders of tomorrow. Many of my old students may find this hard to believe but the truth is I learned from them too as much as they learned from me for they were all talented, each in their own way. Today, I look back and I am humbled to see many of them in key places and positions across the world.
There has never been a substitute for consistent hard work, dedication and focus. I cannot thank my husband and children enough for their understanding and encouragement all those years it looked like all I did was concentrate on other people.
On a final note, I will remind us all that the world needs more teachers and all teachers worldwide must always remember: “good teachers are the reason why ordinary students dream to do extraordinary things and become extraordinary achievers”.
Team LR members could not help noticing how Mrs Juliana Ikenebomeh’s humility radiates through. It is clear to see how humble this teacher of teachers is as we followed her on her life-long journey of making a true and positive difference in the destiny of many. We all could not help thinking about our teachers and reminiscing how many have affected our lives for good and a few have left a dent in some cases. Like those women gathered at their reunion, we remind us all to give a thought to our teachers in our midst and celebrate them. Their reward cannot be in heaven….. We must start rewarding them from here on earth.
Our dear readers, we enjoin you to reflect and leave us comments about your teachers that affected you positively or otherwise. Let us all remember that good teachers change our world one child at a time.
To the Juliana Ikenebomehs of this world, we say: you may think you are just a teacher but to your students, you remain a hero. You inspire us to take our own candles and light our world happily, forever after.