Olusegun Adeniyi, who teaches art at Caleb British International School, Lagos, Nigeria, and Adeola Adefemi, who teaches the English language at Oke-Odo Senior High School, Lagos, Nigeria, has been included in the top 50 shortlists for the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2021 in partnership with UNESCO.

Meanwhile, Oluwadamilola Akintewe, a 22-year-old student at Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo, Nigeria; Blessing Akpan, a 23-year-old student at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom, Nigeria; and Esther Ajari, a 22-year-old student at the University of Ibadan (UI), Oyo, Nigeria, have been included in the top 50 shortlists for its new sister award, the Chegg.org Global Student Prize 2021.

Olusegun and Adeola, shortlisted for the Global Teacher Prize 2021, were selected from over 8,000 nominations and applications from 121 countries around the world. Blessing and Esther, shortlisted for the Global Student Prize 2021, was selected from over 3,500 nominations and applications from 94 countries around the world.

Now in its seventh year, the US$1 million Global Teacher Prize is the largest prize of its kind, while the Global Student Prize, which is in its inaugural year, will see the winning student receive $100,000.

The Global Teacher Prize 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.

The Varkey Foundation launched the Chegg.org Global Student Prize earlier this year to create a powerful new platform to highlight the efforts of extraordinary students throughout the world that are making a real impact on learning, the lives of their peers and on society beyond. The prize is open to all students who are at least 16 years old and enrolled in an academic institution or training and skills programme. Part-time students, as well as students enrolled in online courses, are also eligible for the prize.

Together, the Global Teacher Prize and the Global Student Prize will tell inspirational stories from both sides of education. The prizes will shine a spotlight on the great work teachers do in preparing young people for the future and the amazing promise the brightest students are showing in their learning and far beyond.

Sunny Varkey, founder of the Varkey Foundation, said: “Congratulations to Olusegun, Adeola, Oluwadamilola, Blessing and Esther for reaching the final 50. Their stories clearly highlight the importance of education in tackling the great challenges ahead – from climate change to growing inequality to global pandemics. It is only by prioritising education that we can safeguard all our tomorrows. Education is the key to facing the future with confidence.”

Chegg.org is a supporter of the Global Teacher Prize and has partnered with the Varkey Foundation to create the new Global Student Prize. Lila Thomas, Head of Chegg.org, said: “In this age of COVID, students like Oluwadamilola, Blessing and Esther have shown great courage to keep studying and keep fighting for a better future despite huge obstacles. The Global Student Prize has been launched to shine a light on their stories and listen to their voices. After all, it is their dreams, their insights and their creativity that will help solve some of the greatest questions humanity has ever faced.

“Our finalists this year have made a huge impact in areas from the environment to equality and justice, from health and wellbeing to education and skills, from youth empowerment to ending poverty.

“We were so inspired by the achievements of these extraordinary students throughout the world that applied for the inaugural Global Student Prize that Chegg chose to double the value of the prize to $100,000.”

Art teacher Olusegun Adeniyi, from Caleb British International School, Lagos, is renowned for bringing out the creative side of his fortunate students with two decades of nurturing new talent and creating stimulating art projects in his blended classroom that improves their self-confidence and encourages them to be lifelong learners, critical thinkers, and global citizens. To help with this global outlook, he has brought experts from around the world to his class to share their art and concepts and his students have won a host of national and international awards, putting the school on the map for artistic excellence, which he further displays via TV and newspaper work, along with helping fellow teachers with remote training during the lockdown and furthering the cause of art education in Africa through his Art Educators’ Hangout platform.

In her first teaching assignment, Adeola Adefemi, who teaches the English language at Oke-Odo Senior High School, Lagos, was sent to a school that had been labeled “low-performing”. Soon, she revolutionised the curriculum and her students’ performance by launching the EVERY CHILD COUNTS campaign, creating subject-associated clubs and encouraging students to enter competitions. Within two years, her school won the African Top School Award for its academic performance. Her students have since won 103 different international, national and state competitions, including the Commonwealth Day Inter-Schools Competition, United Nations Poetry Competition, and the World Water Day Competition. Meanwhile, pass rates in the English Language have risen from 24% to 88%. In 2019, Adeola won both the CreditDirect Outstanding Teacher of the Year and the Junior Chamber International Outstanding Young Person in Nigeria Award. If she wins the Global Teacher Prize, she will use the funds to build a performing arts studio for the many students in her community who need an outlet for their interest in the arts.

Oluwadamilola Akintewe

Oluwadamilola Akintewe, studying law at Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo, Nigeria, grew up in poverty in an area of Nigeria plagued by social problems, poor education provision and high rates of violence and kidnapping. Vowing to do all she could to change the narrative for women, a scholarship finally enabled her to study law at Adekunle Ajasin University, where she has dedicated the past four years of her life to social impact. She is the founder of Forbidden Topics, a campaign to break the silence about subjects like a sexual assault that often do not make it in the Nigerian mainstream media due to the potential for victim-blaming. In 2020, she was the youngest person to make the list of Top 100 Women creating a better Africa; in 2021, she was recognised as one of 30 under 30 global changemakers by the Opportunity Desk. If Oluwadamilola is successful in winning the Global Student Prize, she would use the money to fund her postgraduate law school training. She will also be able to register Forbidden Topics as an NGO and use a percentage of the proceeds to better the lives of women and girls in rural communities of Nigeria and beyond.

Blessing Akpan

Blessing Akpan, studying for her Bachelor of Education in English Education at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom, grew up in a low-income background which brought her face-to-face with economic inequality that negatively impacted her own education and those around her, inspiring her decision to be a teacher, to be professionally involved in every child’s growth. She started a campaign called 1Child 1Book aimed to provide educational resources to students in public schools primary and secondary schools, launched a non-profit educational initiative www.theinnovativechidnetwork.org to help children and teenagers aged 5 to 17 in low-income communities gain and build technological skills through mentorship and training at no cost and also founded a company called Bees Learning Hub with the mission of fostering a credible transition of kids from early childhood to adolescence using learning through play programs, skills development, home tutoring and remote learning, outdoor/nature learning. She has also been involved in training teachers in her state community to adapt to 21st-century pedagogies and technology tools to aid classroom management and ultimately bring positive change to education, using tools such as Google G-suite, Microsoft and Adobe creative tools to promote and inspire innovative teaching among teachers.

Esther Ajari

Esther Ajari, studying medicine and surgery at the University of Ibadan (UI), Oyo, is a high achiever in the top 1% of students at her university, she achieved the highest Pharmacology score in her medical school’s 73-year history, has had journal research published on Covid-19 and won various national and international scholarships and conference grants. These achievements have seen her included on UI’s 2020 Primus Honor list and she has also earned distinction in computing, ranked among the top 5% in skills assessment in Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Her passion for equity has seen her work tirelessly to share the knowledge she has gained from multiple studies with thousands of other students in Nigeria and worldwide, enhancing their studies and job prospects. She even started her own NGO at the age of 19 to promote health in Nigeria among high-school girls and mothers with young children.

Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO, said: “UNESCO is a proud partner of the Global Teacher Prize, which has done so much to highlight teachers’ transformational role in young people’s lives. Inspirational teachers and extraordinary students alike deserve recognition for their commitment to education amid the learning crisis we see today.

“If we are to rebuild a better world in the wake of COVID we must prioritise giving every child their birthright of quality education. It is the next generation, with teachers as their guide, who will safeguard the future for us all.”

Applications and nominations for this year’s teacher and student prizes opened on Tuesday 2 February and closed on Sunday 16 May. Teachers who applied for the Global Teacher Prize are being 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. The US$1m awards was won last year by Indian village teacher Ranjitsinh Disale.

Students who applied for the Global Student Prize are being assessed on their academic achievement, impact on their peers, how they make a difference in their community and beyond, how they overcome the odds to achieve, how they demonstrate creativity and innovation, and how they operate as global citizens.

Following today’s announcement, the top 10 finalists of both the Global Teacher Prize and the Global Student Prize will be announced in October this year. The winners of both prizes will be chosen from the respective top 10 finalists by the Global Teacher Prize Academy and the Global Student Prize Academy, made up of prominent individuals. The winners are due to be announced at an awards ceremony in Paris in November.

If teachers or students were nominated, the person nominating them was asked to write a brief description online explaining why.  The teacher or student being nominated was then sent an email letting them know they had been nominated and inviting them to apply for the prize.   Applicants were able to apply in English, Mandarin, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Russian.


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