In commemoration of the World Teachers’ Day on Wednesday, popular singer, Teniola Apata, fondly called Teni, gifted her former mathematics teacher, Mr Kelvin Ofudje, a car. In this interview with TEMITOPE ADETUNJI, Ofudje shares his feelings about the gesture and his career as a teacher
Please tell us a bit more about yourself.
My name is Mr Kelvin Ofudje. I am an Urhobo man from Delta State. I am a mathematics teacher at the Apata Memorial High School, Ikeja, Lagos State, which was owned by Teni’s late father.
For how long have you been a teacher?
I started teaching in 1999; it’s been 23 years now.
You were in the news on Teachers’ Day for being presented with a car gift by popular singer, Teni, who is a former student of yours. What was the experience like for you?
Let me tell you about my relationship with Teni. I was her lesson teacher. When she was in primary school crossing over to secondary school, her mum needed a home lesson teacher that would take care of her academic work, on a one-on-one learning arrangement. There was a particular girl in their house named Lola, who was my first student in the house. It was Lola who recommended and introduced me to Teni’s mother. And that was how I started teaching Teni and her younger sister, named Teju, who is now a medical doctor in the US. I tutored both of them from JSS1 to SS3 as a home lesson teacher. I went to their house two times in a week.
Did the car gift come to you as a surprise?
No, the car gift didn’t come as a surprise. When I was teaching her back then, she felt I was wicked because I am a disciplinarian. There were times I flogged her for not coming for home lesson. Her mum didn’t take sides with her; she would even ask me to flog her much more whenever she skipped her home lesson. When she went abroad for further studies, she then realised how important the things I had taught her were. She appreciated what I did back then. At a point, she told her mother that she would want me to be her children’s lesson teacher when she grew up. Whenever her mum went to visit her abroad, she usually sent gifts to me through her mum.
When Teni came back to Nigeria and became a celebrity, there was a youth empowerment programme that she anchored. On the programme, she shared her experience about me being her lesson teacher. She disclosed that she thought I was wicked back then but she would later realise I was only helping her to be better in her schoolwork. At the time, she even gave me some money and during her mother’s burial she sent me N100,000. She has given me money on several occasions and she was always telling me that more would come.
Can you describe how exactly you felt the moment Teni presented the car to you?
During the (Teachers’ Day) programme when she started talking about me and appreciating me for being part of her academic journey, I began to have the feeling that a tangible gift was going to come from her; but I didn’t know what it could be or when it would come. But the moment she started shouting, “Where is Mr Ofudje?” I knew something was coming. Receiving that gift, I was really excited.
I am glad she understands now that I wasn’t being wicked to her back then as her home tutor. I have been able to tell her that being a disciplinarian was informed by the way I was brought up. Teachers are not wicked; we just want our students to learn.
What qualities do you think stand you out as an effective teacher?
First of all, let me say this: I do tell some parents that when a child is ready to learn, that child will go to places. Effective teaching is very important as well. Having the talent of teaching is necessary; if you don’t have that, you can’t teach. Without the help of God, one cannot be a teacher.
My students know me so well; they know that I dislike it when they fail to do their assignments. Some of my ex-students made a post about me on Instagram and captioned it: The fear of Mr Ofudje is the Beginning of Wisdom.
What are some of the most remarkable challenges you’ve encountered in the course of your work as a teacher?
The challenges are numerous but I will mention a few of them. One is the reaction from the students; it wasn’t easy for me because some students don’t understand that a teacher would go the extra mile to make their lives better. They misunderstand the discipline as wickedness. Sometimes as a teacher if you aren’t strong, you may want to give up. The negative reactions from some students are not encouraging. But I am glad that people like Teni understand where we are coming from as teachers, that we mean well and which is why she is coming back to say, ‘Thank you’.