Men in Early Childhood Education: My Interview With Teacher Olanrewaju Yusuf From Nigeria by Mike Prochaska

Men in Early Childhood  Education: My Interview With Teacher Olanrewaju Yusuf From Nigeria

Olanrewaju Yusuf lives in Lagos, Nigeria. “Nigeria is an amazing country with a diverse pool of tribes, languages, religions and worldviews,” says Olanrewaju. “It is often regarded as the giant of Africa for its size, influence and large population … However, it is a third world nation with problems of poverty, governmental corruption and mismanagement and ethnic/religious conflicts.” Yusuf works with all classes and age groups at a primary school level, and teaches literacy and humanities to 8-year-olds. Read on to learn more about Olanrewaju…

Q. How did you get into Early Childhood Education?

“I had always wanted to be a teacher. Right from my days in the university, I had set my sights firmly on the teaching profession, although at the upper secondary or university level. My forte into the field of Early Childhood Education was brought about by a former colleague, a swimming instructor, who worked at a top international primary school in my city. He contacted me that they needed the services of a literacy specialist and I responded. At first I was reluctant to take the job as I was skeptical about the patience and unique skill sets needed to thrive in that environment, but my passion for teaching won me over. It has been a refreshing, enlightening and amazing experience so far.” 

Q. What is it like teaching in your country?

“Well, teaching is a thankless task in my country as teachers, and the teaching profession, is not seen as a lucrative field. This perception of the teaching profession has affected it negatively so much so that the profession now attracts all and sundry and has lost its lofty standards. Government and private funding for education, training and renumeration of teachers is negligible leading to a lot of underqualified and unmotivated teachers in the system. Overall, it is not a pretty picture. However, there is a recent resurgence of professionalism in the education sector and this is gaining widespread support and approval from all corners. Hopefully, it will lead to better times for teaching and teachers.”

Q. What are the advantages of being a man in the education field?

“While there is a general misconception that Early Childhood Education is the exclusive preserve of females, there are a number of advantages to having men in it. The most prominent one that I have experienced is the fact that males and females have different caring styles and play styles. The exposure to a masculine style of correction, caring and play is beneficial to kids as it gives them a balanced gender perception. It also allows kids to experience a male role model in a positive learning environment complementing the role of the father at home.” 

Q. Why is play important for kids?

“When children play, they enter a natural and ever-evolving state of learning and growth. Kids enjoy playing and while doing so, they learn how to interact and develop their social skills by making friends, solve situational and analytical problems and grow further.” 

Q. What about outside play. Is it important?

“Outside play, or active play, is all about movement and energy. It can include competitive sports, nature exploration and playground fun. Its benefits include: fights childhood obesity; stimulates brain development; develops large motor skills and coordination; relieves stress; and nurtures healthy habits that can lead to lifelong health.”

Q. What are your favorite books to read to your class?

“'Handa's Surprise' and 'Tyranosaurus Drip.'"

Q. What are your favorite classroom activities? 

“Role plays and make believe, book reviews and creative writing sessions.”

Q. Anything else you’d like to say about being in Early Childhood Education?

“Teach from the heart and support with the head. Be a lifelong learner. Enjoy your job!!”

Be sure to check out Olanrewaju Yusuf's Facebook page, Proteach Nigeria!

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