‘I feel that I can teach the whole world’: Nigerian teacher hails online classes

‘I feel that I can teach the whole world’: Nigerian teacher hails online classes
Basirat Olamide Ajayi teaches online via her mobile phone from her house in Lagos, Nigeria (Sunday Alamba/AP)

A teacher from a public school in Nigeria is helping students across the country, and internationally, learn maths virtually during coronavirus restrictions that have prevented many children from returning to class.

Basirat Olamide Ajayi, 36, from Lagos, Nigeria’s biggest city, said the lockdown has shown just how much technology can be used as a tool for teaching.

Her free online classes via Twitter, WhatsApp and Instagram have become a lifeline for many students at home under lockdown due to Covid-19 restrictions at a time when they must prepare for exams.

After almost six months, more than 1,800 students at various levels are taking her classes – across Nigeria and even internationally.

Basirat Olamide Ajayi teaches online via her mobile phone from her house in Lagos (Sunday Alamba/AP)

Students watch her short maths videos, no more than five minutes long, and respond to her questions.

She will send them homework, and occasional assignments, and she marks them.

“Sometimes, I stay awake until 2am going through their assignments!” she said.

“Covid is here with both negative and positive impacts. The positive impact is that we can use technology to teach our students, which I am very, very happy about,” she said.

When Ms Ajayi started her online classes, she solved maths problems on camera on white sheets of paper.

Then a parent saw how she was conducting the class and donated a whiteboard.

Her free classes are attracting students from all over Nigeria, and now students abroad are joining.

A recent request came from Canada.

Ms Ajayi teaches probability theory with the aid of playing cards (Sunday Alamba/AP)

Ms Ajayi said she is beginning to see herself as a global teacher.

“The online teaching has made me feel that I can actually teach the whole world mathematics,” she said.

“On Twitter, people see me all over the world, not only in Lagos, not only in Nigeria. They see me all over the world and that is enough to give me innermost joy.”

But not all students in Nigeria have easy access to her lessons.

“Some of them don’t even have data to access the class, and that is not giving me joy at all, as a teacher that wants students to be online,” she said.

Ms Ajayi said she pays for data for some of the students from her own pocket to allow them to be online.

Some students do not even have phones; Ms Ajayi encourages parents to share their phones.

Fortune Declan, 17, said Ms Ajayi has made it easier for him to grasp mathematics.

Student Fortune Declan watches an online class taught by Basirat Olamide Ajayi (Lekan Oyekanmi/AP)

“Originally when I started learning differentiation on my own, it was kind of twitchy,” he said.

“But when I joined the online maths platform, I started slow at first, but with the way my maths teacher was teaching, holding the sessions, I started learning differentiation rapidly.”

Her dedication is noteworthy, said Adedoyin Adesina, chairman of the Lagos arm of the Nigerian Union of Teachers.

“Teaching students virtually was a new experience to everybody,” he said.

“There is the problem of slow internet, the cost of data and the unco-operative attitude of parents who were not familiar with what teachers are doing.”

Faced with the new challenges, Ms Ajayi has shown real dedication, he said, especially as “she was not provided with money, data or any teaching material”.

Although she misses being in the classroom, Ms Ajayi said she is gratified to be helping so many students, saying: “The more I give, the more society will benefit from me and people can say, ‘Mrs Ajayi has done this to the whole world’.”

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