Peace Sule, an ICT teacher at Akoka Junior High School in Lagos, and Stephanie Akinwoya, a physics teacher at Iju Senior Grammar School in Lagos, have been included in the top 50 shortlist for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2023 organised in collaboration with UNESCO and in strategic partnership with Dubai Cares, a UAE-based global philanthropic organisation.
They were selected from over 7,000 nominations and applications from 130 countries around the world.
Now in its eighth year, the USD 1 million Global Teacher Prize is the largest prize of its kind.
It was set up to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society. By unearthing thousands of stories of heroes that have transformed young people’s lives, the prize hopes to bring to life the exceptional work of millions of teachers all over the world.
Peace Sule became a teacher due to her conviction that ignorance is the greatest obstacle to progress. In the classroom, she has contributed significantly to the attainment of educational goals through innovation, unique instructional methodologies, creativity, sacrifice, and selfless service.
Outside the classroom, she has conducted adult and literacy education programmes to address the needs of individuals who have not received formal schooling. Since 2013, she has also consistently been recognised as the ‘Best Teacher’ or ‘Most Resourceful Teacher’ under the guidance of 10 different principals across various schools.
With the Global Teacher Prize funds, Peace plans to establish a pioneering Robotics and Artificial Intelligence Institute in Africa, create a floating school to ensure uninterrupted access to education in flood-prone areas, and establish a vocational institute that nurtures students’ talents in acting, music, dance, and fashion design.
Stephanie Akinwoya’s journey towards teaching began by observing her mother’s total dedication to being a chemistry teacher. Teaching in rural schools as an undergraduate showed Stephanie how many students (especially female students) had a phobia for STEM subjects, and in response to this need, she started her Girls-Pro-STEM initiative to generate interest in STEM amongst girls in public secondary schools.
As a result, Stephanie has since partnered with international organisations to provide training, support and mentorship to over 200 girls – many of whom have gone on to represent their school in national and international competitions.
His Excellency, Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of Dubai Cares, said: “Congratulations to the teachers who have secured a place in the Top 50 list of the prestigious Global Teacher Prize. Teachers are the driving force behind progress, inspiring and shaping the leaders and innovators of tomorrow. In addition to imparting knowledge, the role of teachers needs to be redefined as coaches, mentors, and facilitators who can empower their students to achieve their full potential by instilling in their students the values, skills, knowledge, and experiences they need to contribute solutions to the global challenges facing humanity and thrive in our ever-changing world. We value our long-standing partnership with the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, which celebrates the tireless efforts and incredible accomplishments of teachers around the world and their role in driving human development.”
Dubai Cares’ long-standing support for the Global Teacher Prize stems from its belief that an investment in teachers is an investment in human development. Through its Framework for Global Education Transformation, Dubai Cares is committed to elevating the role of educators as coaches, mentors and facilitators as well as positioning them as “Human Experience Teachers” who can nurture students and empower them with the values, skills, knowledge and experiences they need to face the complexities and challenges of the future.
Stefania Giannini, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education, said: “I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to Peace Sule and Stephanie Akinwoya. UNESCO is a proud partner of the Global Teacher Prize, because teachers deserve our great recognition. They inspire and prepare children and youth to navigate a rapidly evolving world. Their efforts play a leading role in transforming education for the future.”
Applications and nominations for this year’s Global Teacher Prize opened on 6 May 2023 and closed on 25 June 2023.
Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said: “Congratulations to Peace Sule and Stephanie Akinwoya. The Global Teacher Prize was launched to highlight the importance of education in tackling the great challenges ahead – from climate change to growing inequality to sweeping changes in technology.”
The prize is open to working teachers who teach children that are in compulsory schooling or are between the ages of five and eighteen. Teachers who teach children age 4+ in an Early Years government-recognised curriculum are also eligible, as are teachers who teach on a part-time basis, and teachers of online courses. Teachers must spend at least 10 hours per week teaching and plan to remain in the profession for the next 5 years. It is open to teachers in every kind of school and, subject to local laws, in every country in the world.
Teachers applying for the Global Teacher Prize are assessed on teaching practices, how they innovate to address local challenges, achieve demonstrable learning outcomes, impact the community beyond the classroom, help children become global citizens, improve the teaching profession and gain recognition from external bodies.
Interested teachers were able to apply for the Global Teacher Prize at www.globalteacherprize.org before the closing date for applications of 25 June 2023.
The prize will now be narrowed down to top 10 finalists, to be announced later in the year, helping to raise the bar of respect for the teaching profession. The winner will be chosen from the top 10 finalists by the Global Teacher Prize Academy made up of prominent individuals, and will be announced later this year.