By JOSEPHINE IGBINOVIA
She was a two-time commissioner in Abia State- Commissioner for Education 2005-2007, Commissioner for Agriculture 2007-2009, and the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) deputy governorship candidate at the 2011 governorship poll in Abia State. Dr.(Mrs.)Ori Obasi is a renowned educationist and administrator with a first degree in English Education, two Masters Degrees in education and a Ph.D in Early Childhood Education which she is at the verge of completing. She also holds an honorary Doctorate degree in Education. Dr. Obasi speaks on her life as an educationist, politician and philanthropist in a recent chat with Vista Woman. Excerpts:
Could you take us through your childhood days?
I’m the last of six children. My parents were loving parents who encouraged their children to do their best to be successful in life. Whenever I brought home good examinations results, my father would say that I should work harder because I would study abroad. So, that was an incentive to do well at my studies. There was togetherness and love in the home, and we usually had dinner together childhood. It was an enjoyable time.
Your background clearly implies you’re an educationist, how then did you get into politics?
Though I’ve been a two-time commissioner in Abia State and a one-time Deputy Governorship candidate, I would say I really do not know how I got into politics; I believe it was the handiwork of God. The year I served as the Chairman of the International Inner Wheel District 914 was the same year I was appointed a Commissioner! I could not even finish my tenure as a District Chairman. Actually, under my leadership, the district really touched the lives of many less privileged because I went the extra mile to raise quite some money for the downtrodden. I was really amazed when I was eventually appointed a commissioner in the state.
Let us talk about your life as a teacher…
I started my career as a classroom teacher, and I have written and published several books. These include Laughter of the gods which is in use in some of the states, A Pot of Fortune, etc. I loved and enjoyed teaching, and I think it is a most rewarding profession because you’re able to influence lives, and make a good change in people. I was principal of several schools but the last one was Girls High School, Aba. I retired voluntarily in 2005 when I was appointed a commissioner.
I however have in mind the establishment of a school where I could demonstrate my love for education. However, I’m presently preoccupied with non-governmental charitable activities because of their impact on the lives of the less privileged. For instance, I have a programme on reading under which children who can’t read could learn to read in two weeks. I do this especially in the rural areas.
What then do you do to generate income for yourself presently?
Along side running some businesses, I speak at seminars and also generate some income from my books.
From your perspective as an experienced educationist, what’s your assessment of our educational system?
Our educational system is okay, but it could be better. Part of what is lacking is proper supervision because some teachers would need prodding to do the work for which they are paid! These days, you hardly find inspectors in schools like we did in the past, and that is the root of the lack of supervision. Secondly, from time to time, teachers need to have updated re-orientation courses; especially in the area of ICT because the world has turned into a global village and our children have to be able to compete with their counterparts across the globe!
Any teacher who is not ICT compliant is therefore deficient! If teachers have no knowledge of ICT, how will students gain such knowledge? Another problem is that a lot of states do not have enough teachers. When you have one teacher teaching over 600 pupils a subject at the same time, how will that teacher give them assignments and mark those assignments?
The implication of this is that what one does not practice, one cannot master effectively! We really need to bring in more teachers and increase their capacity. Some teachers have used one lesson note for over ten years without realising that times are changing! The environment makes a whole lot of difference also. If the atmosphere in a school is conducive, learning is much easier and enjoyable.
Where should we expect to see you in the next few years?
If I have an option, I would love to keep teaching; not classroom teaching anyway. I would love to be in management of education. I may want to go teach in the university because I had done that earlier in my life. I actually want to see education given priority attention and I want to see teachers’ capacity increased. When you travel abroad to see what education is like in developed countries, you really would want to replicate it here.
From your stint in politics, what’s your advice to women concerning participating in politics?
Women should venture more into politics. I’ve been there and I enjoyed it. Once you know your terrain and you’ve got integrity, you will make a credible politician and you’ll make your people happy.
You’re a past District Chairman of the International Inner Wheel District 914, what inspired your joining the club?
I’ve been in the club for about 20 years now. In those days, you only joined Inner Wheel if your husband was a member of the Rotary Club, and my husband was a member. However, the rules are now relaxed and women whose husbands are not Rotarians could be invited to be members of the Inner Wheel.