Juliet Pulu-Zifawei is the Director-General, Girl-Child Protection Bureau, Bayelsa State. In this interview with our Managing Editor, VICTOR OROYI, she speaks on various issues from the Nigerian educational State to issues affecting Women in society. Excerpts;
How did you get motivation to teach?
When I was growing up, I saw my father teaching; when I was in Primary 3, each day I closed from school, my father would give me a primary three class to teach. So, I tried to be ahead of the children. I was teaching, from there, I started developing interest and enjoying teaching. When I grew up, I started having my private lessons, where children would convey and I taught them.
As a young girl in the secondary school, I did sciences to become a biochemist or a pharmacist but I don’t have the passion for it. After my secondary school education, I worked in a medical firm where I supplied drugs in Lagos but it was not my passion. I discovered that one thing I like doing without getting tired is teaching, I went back to apply for admission to read education course at Rivers State College of Education. I did my first NCE in English/Social Studies and got a job at Agbura where I taught English and Social Studies from where I started my own school. Gradually, I built it up and the house stand for about seven years. I later got into government, while there, I still love teaching. It was a passion, I took out time to visit schools and talked to young people. I did adult literacy programme for young people out of school and drop outs to help train them, it is just one thing I do all through my day, I will never get tired.
What is rewarding about teaching?
When you teach people, you bring them out of darkness, ignorance and you make them see a better way to do so many things; that is the beauty of teaching. Again, as a teacher, you are also learning because as you teach, you learn new things except you are not the innovative type. Once you get yourself teaching, you learn new things every day. People you teach will be better persons and not give you problems. The problems we have today are as a result of people being illiterates in several areas. If they are literates; there are some social menace that will not be occurring like occultism, prostitution, etc. People involved in such acts are drop outs or stark illiterates. They lack the enlightenment to know that they can survive, if they are educated. Education does not entail working in an office or within the four walls of a classroom. It simply means, knowing your environment. You can be literate in skills; therefore, if a person is literate in any area outside academics such a person will earn a living and survive with whatever skills he/she has. My reward is to let people know that you can be literate in academics, skills or whatever the skills you have.
What is the reward in teaching?
Let me say, I find joy in seeing most children I have taught become managers in different companies. In different fields of life, I see them lead firms and each time they see me, there is that respect they accord me. They show me benevolence. When you enter a place to buy something, they walk up to you and settle the bills; there is that satisfaction because you taught this person, now he/she is independent. You are being treated as a queen. You are loved by them and when they see you, they accord you that respect. It makes you feel like a hero. The best form of investment is in human beings. When you build humans, you build the future because such human beings will build any kind of thing. The human beings is the most important resource to build or invest in. When you do that you will enjoy it.
You can imagine, a student you have taught becoming a doctor, that person will give you medical attention free of charge; because you were there for the person before now. You have a former student in the bank, and the queue is long, that person will just tell you, let me have your particulars and in five to ten minutes, you are out of the bank.
For the last seven years you have been in the teaching profession, don’t you feel bad that your pocket is not adequately rewarded?
I have been in teaching for about twenty years. I only mentioned when I started my school as an educational entrepreneur. I started teaching from Rivers to Bayelsa States. I headed private schools and consulted for several private schools in Yenagoa before I got employed in the Bayelsa State Ministry of Education posted to Community Secondary School, Agbura.
To answer your question, it depends on one’s philosophy in life. My philosophy is not to get so much cash and I am just there for people. I believe in people more than cash. My priority is to believe and develop human beings. I don’t feel that I’m there right now, I am not there because I am still very young and in the process.
Do you say you are still young?
Yes, I am. I am only forty plus. I am still young, you will not classify me as an old woman.
You gave me an impression that you are too old?
No, I am only 40+. I am young, talented, intelligent, apt, hardworking and I go for excellence. I don’t feel bad because I don’t have the kind of money you are talking about; money is not everything in life. If you have all the money you need and people around you are suffering of what essence is it? At the end of your life, how many houses can you live in or how many cars can you drive at a time. So, I am contended with whatever I have now, I am not that kind of person, who is crazy for wealth. Wealth is good, and if I get wealthy it is to reach out to people; that is my philosophy and plan.
Is our educational system in Nigeria, giving room to students to explore their creativity?
Education in our country is on paper not in reality. With the national policy that we have that talks about raising an egalitarian society, raising children that are strong, resilient and robust economy. With all these goals, we don’t have its practical form. There are no evidences. I have a problem with policy implementation in this country; from government to government, it is always new policies. You know we have a very short governance tenure of four years which is not enough for anybody to do something tangible. To achieve policies on ground, you need a long period of time to test and to make it work. For now, we have a good policy on education but not realistic. Let’s look at the 6-3-3-4, which became the 9-3-4 system. The former was that 6 years of primary, three years of junior secondary for vocational studies where students will be taught different kinds of crafts such as tailoring, hair-dressing, carpentry and other skills while the upper three secondary school is for those that want to further academically and go to the university, originally, it was planned that those who don’t want to further will end at Junior Secondary Three and become self-dependent. It is the same policy running in America and is still working. It is not working here because of poor implementation and funding. While the last 4 of the 6-3-3-4 stands for university education. Today, we have universities that are not functional; they concentrate on books and theories, they are not practical-oriented. It is theory without practical. Engineers are trained but cannot manufacture a pin, it is embarrassing that we import toothpicks from China, yet, we have people trained as carpenters. What kind of technology are we developing in our country?
The truth is that our educational standard is still behind. Good policies, yes but lack of implementation and funding are the basic problems. Frequent change of government, and politicizing of policies are also a problem. Where people come in and they want to favour their region while others suffer. Lack of manpower in the educational sector is a critical issue. A lot of people go to the university to study courses that are not relevant, and some areas are suffering. Also, inadequate learning facilities are major issues to be looked into.
As a woman, what is your greatest setback?
I don’t think as a woman, I feel bad. I am happy to be a woman because as a woman, you have several advantages. You can stand in the capacity of a man as well as women. You have avenues to break any protocol. Where men can’t enter, you can enter, if you know how to use your feminine qualities. It is possible. As a woman that fears God, it is very fine for me. If I have to come again, I want to come as a woman. This is the best time of life; I have never had any setback in my life as a woman.
However, I can remember when I was growing up, the sexual harassment. Some people wanted to take advantage of me sexually; it sets a woman backward, makes her lose something in life. This is affecting a lot of girls in life. It has affected a lot of us before now. Where we would have been today, we are not because of that. Those of us who refused to comply to it, are deprived, either sacked the next day or lost juicy jobs as a result of sexual harassment. It is a big setback but I intend to forget it because as a woman that is married, I have thrived over that.
Why is society using sex against women?
This is a global problem. I used to think it is a Nigerian or African thing but from studies and wide travel experience, I discover it is a global problem where men take advantage of women. In most cases, it is caused by women. A lot of girls expose their sensitive parts. They say ‘a man is controlled by what he sees, while a woman is controlled by touch’ which is the truth. When men lack the temperament to control themselves, they crave for women who don’t have anything to do with them. They make sexual advancement and when women say ‘NO, if men are in position to help the women, they do not. You find out that in most corporate office, Managing Directors take advantage of their secretaries and young ladies in the firm. Especially in the banks today, a lot of bankers are asked to do whatever they can to meet their targets and in an attempt to meet the targets they sleep with men because they want to survive.
Ma, why is that so?
Well, that is how men have seen women. I still try to fathom it out but I don’t understand why a man will want to sleep with women. Again, what of women, who always want to sleep with men to give them jobs or opportunities? So, if men do such things, they are small-minded men. They don’t know what they want; sex is not a priority in life. Even with one, you are tired after a while; you cannot sleep with her every second and minute. Why then do you want to take advantage of someone, who doesn’t have any intimacy with you. To me, it is as a result of the myopic minds of the men to take undue advantage of girls, who are striving for survive.
Every year on the 8th March, women across the globe celebrate the International Women’s Day, this year’s theme is “Gender 50-50; set it up for gender parity’. Do you think women are being cheated?
Well, culture has reduced the place of women in society. In the advanced world, you find women measuring up with men in all spheres of life, there are still some limitations due to their cultural backgrounds. Culture plays a major role between the part a man and women, especially in the under-developed world; women don’t have a place where the men are. In Africa, the culture has said the women are a second fiddle, the man is the head of the family and she doesn’t have a right except the man offers her the right. Whereas, the constitution doesn’t say so, everyone has the right to life, right to education, right to association etc as provided by the constitution, yet there are limitations. There are cultural limitations in Nigeria, we have not come to the reality that a woman can become the President? If during discussion , they will shout “God forbid”, it can’t happen in this country”. Is it because we don’t have women who can measure up with these men? For example, Dr. Ngozi Okonju-Iweala was the Finance Minister that managed the economy of the nation, effectively that means women can be Presidents. If President Ellen Sirleaf of Liberia who had same pedigree as Vice Presidents at the World Bank. It is to tell you that Nigeria has not seen that women have a place. The men always want to take it all. The women are struggling to survive and telling the menfolk that what they can, the women can do too. It is not true that they say ‘what a man can do, a woman can do better”, and it is not the absolute truth that what the men can do, women can do too”. Outside, the shores of Nigeria, I have seen women do the same kind of work with men. Women are in the armed forces, they go to war too.