By Mercy Hill
The future of every nation, they say, lies with the youths. A nation that invests in her youths invests in her future and a man who builds the youths builds the nation. Such is the role of teachers who impact knowledge and good natured character in youths for a better tomorrow.
In this edition we present to you a profound teacher and retired lecturer, accomplished author and mathematician of repute. In an Inspirational interview with Fides reporter, Mercy Hill, he speaks on his early childhood, educational pursuits and his love for the youths, the leaders of tomorrow.
May we know you sir?
My name is Mr. Raymond Nwokike, born about 69 years ago to the family of Late Mr. Raymond and Victoria Nwokikie. My mum is still alive and will be 93 this year. I came from a very humble upbringing, a family of nine. I was the second child and first son. My parents lived at Nsukka, so we all were brought up in Nsukka. Because of that I had my primary and secondary school Education in Nsukka.
I was sixteen years old when I finished from secondary school and it was on record in the whole eastern region then, that I was the youngest to finish from both secondary and primary schools with distinction. And this was as a result of the tutelage I got from my Dad, because he was a teacher.
Tell US About Your Family Life?
Ok, I got married on July 2nd, 1991 and my marriage is blessed with two children, a boy and girl.
What was your University Experience Like, considering that you got admitted at a very young age?
After my secondary education, I proceeded to the University of Lagos, where I met dogged scholars. As a young boy who knew what he wanted I saw going to Lagos as an adventure.
I would say there in the University Of Lagos, I was mentored. I had very rugged and dogged academicians as lecturers who groomed me, such as W. F Kumuyi of Deeper Life Bible Church. He taught me Algebra. Late Prof. Awojobi, taught me Calculus while Late Prof Chike Obi of Onitsha taught me Differential Equations and Late Edwin Mmadunagu of Nnobi, who made a first class at UNILAG then, taught me Geometry. These were the people I looked up to and I made up my mind to be like them, so that I could transfer zeal and knowledge to others. By the time I left the University of Lagos, I had this zeal to learn more and deepen my knowledge of Mathematics. I went to the University of Benin to study Industrial Mathematics and Computer Science after which I took up a job and I started teaching.
First, I had six months teaching experience in Umudioka Girls Secondary School before I got a job in Institute of Management Technology, Enugu and taught Computer Science, Statistics and Mathematics for like six years before I left for Federal Polytechnic, Oko, later moved to Anambra State Polytechnic in 1992. I continued teaching Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, till I retired in 2014. It was a whole wealth of experience and one of the things I found most pleasing is the fact that I was able to groom young people. I saw the tertiary institute as an industry, where you get young people and groom them into finished products sent back to the society. So, we bake the society.
By the time I was in Federal Polytechnic Oko, I had the challenges of managing and developing the school’s computer centres, combined with my lecturing job. It was not easy at all. But I had the opportunity to interact with great minds including senior lecturers who I groomed in computer studies.
Also, I was involved in religious activities, Vice Chaplaincy Counsel of St. Augustine, Oko, a one time Chairman of Catholic Men Organization, CMO. While doing all that, I was building myself, especially in the spiritual aspect.
On community service, I was the secretary general of the Enugwu-Ukwu Development Union. I am the treasurer of my village union. I give free lectures to youths in my village and even to groups in the church. Two or three years after my retirement from Civil service, I was appointed the Catechist of my Church, Sacred Heart Parish, Ngozika Estate, Awka.
What do you consider as your greatest achievement?
My biggest achievement is the number of students I have trained both in Community Secondary School, Umudioka and IMT, Enugu and the students I trained during my sabbaticals at FCET Umunze, in different Departments in Federal Polytechnic, Oko. From time to time I get in touch with them and they recognise and appreciate me for the little impacts I have made in their lives. This makes me I get excited.
From the point you entered the University did you know you will become a teacher?
Now it’s a mixed idea. My Dad was a teacher and as providence would have it he ended up a Catechist. I never personally wanted to be a teacher like my Dad. Like I said earlier, by the time I left the University of Lagos, those of my Lecturers then became my idols and I started having a change of mind.
I discovered that teaching had to do with the Elites in the society. Christ himself was a teacher, so I conceived the idea of becoming a teacher and then impact to my society. I used to advise my students then that teaching was the best job, because as a teacher, you must deal with the best of brains. As a teacher, you are in a position to clean up the society. It is the teacher who teaches the doctors and the accountants etc. And you most times deal with people with the greatest of brains. So it is a very noble thing to teach, irrespective of financial remunerations which will come as time goes by.
Have you ever failed in any Project?
I would say that one of the projects I started somehow failed. I thought I was going to be a football star and I really hoped to. I played for the University of Lagos and Benin respectively. But because my father failed at sports so to say, he discouraged my going that path.
Another aspect of my life I consider not so successful is my inability to get to Ph.D level. Due to my involvement with administration and teaching, I was not really able to pursue my personal development where I thought I should. It took me more years to climb the ladder of promotion. So, if I have any regrets, it’s that I didn’t pursue my personal development as I should.
For the Computer centre, was it your initiative or the School’s Initiative?
What happened then at was that we discovered so many discrepancies in issuing of results to the students at Federal Polytechnic, Oko. Everyone became worried. So, the then Rector interacted with me to investigate ways to salvage the problem. A committee was set and then I became the chairman. We worked on it and the computer centre was born.
Was there any educational scholarship you enjoyed during the course of your studies?
No, but I almost received one when I was a boy. But then, it wasn’t given to me, because of the politics of the day. However after I finished from the university, there was a fellowship award sponsored by the British Corporation which I enjoyed.
Like you said, the financial remuneration for a teacher is usually not much, were you at any time, discouraged?
Initially I would say I was discouraged. There is usually not much financial rewards that go with teaching. The main reward comes from internal joy and satisfaction.
Last two weeks I was called by pension facilitators and when I checked my first appointment letter I received in 1987, the meagre figure written on it left me in shock. I remember in 1980, when I bought my first car the price was 2140 naira.
By the time I retired from Federal Polytechnic, Oko, my salaries were really sizeable. But the responsibilities that were coming were too much that it outweighed that money.
So, I advise young people not to place so much emphasis on material things in their journey to greatness. Always manage and be contented with the little you have. A lot of our young people cannot manage what they have. The best way to make money is to spend the one you have very wisely.
Have you written any Book thus far?
Yes, I have written up to five books. My first book is titled Electronic Data Process And Management Information System. It’s a co-authored book which I wrote with Prof. Mbanefo and Dr. Peter Okoye.
Another is Introduction to Computer Studies; The Glossary of Computer Words and many others.
Your advice to the Youths?
I am not only advising the youths but all Nigerian. I feel bad that till now Nigerians cannot take seriously what they are suppose to. People no longer make sacrifices to see this country move forward. Public power supply has failed. We make one step forward and then, ten steps backward. It’s heartbreaking. I tell everyone that the nation we abuse today will fight us in the future.
In the present-Day Educational system, people don’t have much love for Mathematics, what do you think should be done about that?
There are so many solutions to it. One is to make mathematics realistic. You must concretise it. When I was teaching in IMT, Enugu, I started with vital statistics which means useful statistics. A good number of us don’t know much about ourselves. We are most times interested in knowing others without knowing ourselves first. You should be able to know your height, weight, circumference of your waist etc
So, to drive statistics home, the student must know vital things about himself. He/she then understands that they use statistics to live their daily lives. Through that, you drive the lesson home and the result is that students pick more interest in Statistics and Mathematics.