What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?
The challenges that I faced as a teacher in the course of my teaching career inspired me to look into the many difficulties that educators are facing – lack of adequate professional development programs after initial training, disconnect among teachers and the general negative public perception about teachers as people whose reward cannot come to them on earth led me to the idea that we need to empower teachers, need to connect teachers to information, to each other and to resources, and we need to celebrate teachers who are very passionate about their profession and compassionate toward children. In the year 2000, Nigeria’s former President, Olusegun Obasanjo launched the National Rebirth program and challenged Nigerians to come up with strategies to renew the Nigeria nation. I felt it was the moment I was waiting for, and realizing the potentials and numerical strength and geographical spread of teachers, I took up the idea of mobilizing teachers for the national rebirth of Nigeria and have never given up on this calling unto this day. I believe that with teachers well mobilized, empowered, connected and celebrated, we can bring the change we desire to reality. As I began the search for a platform, I found and joined Teachers Without Borders, which has provided me the vehicle for the realization of my dreams and my calling to serve. As I drive, I am seeking to mobilize and move along with many other teachers in Nigeria, my colleagues in additional African countries, and around the world.
Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.
The innovator behind this idea is Raphael Ogar Oko, who graduated in 1990 from the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria where he obtained a B.Ed degree in Curriculum Studies and Educational Technology/Mathematics. Upon completion of his B.Ed degree, he was awarded the 1990 Best Graduating Student Award from his department. Following his bachelor’s degree, Raphael took graduate courses at the University of Port Harcourt from the Curriculum Studies and Educational Technology Department as well as from the Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science Department. Pursuing his call as a teacher, Raphael taught mathematics at the high school level. He also completed the Nigeria National Youth Service Corps program, where he taught at the Federal College of Education, Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria and was later employed as a graduate assistant with the University of Port Harcourt. Raphael’s passion for “education without borders” led him to receive several post-graduate education training with nonprofits in teacher education, character and peace education, family life education, and educational reform strategies. Raphael is also the recipient of the Ambassador for Peace Award given out by the Universal Peace Federation in Nigeria which honored him for his unrelenting efforts to strengthen the education system in his country. Raphael is personally devoted to the TWB vision of addressing the many challenges facing humanity by building the capacity of teachers and thus nurturing them to make the changes needed in their communities to ensure a better future for the world.
How did you first hear about Changemakers?
Dr. Fred Mednick, founder of Teachers Without Borders suggested I share my programs with Ashoka and the Changemakers community.