He broke the internet when he posted video of himself crying and soliciting help for private school teachers who have been out of jobs since the Corona Virus pandemic forced a shutdown of educational institutions. But he is more than a crying teacher; as Seun Akioye finds out, he has the heart of gold.
For three weeks, good things have continued to happen to Oluwaseun Akindele, a private school teacher in Kurudu, Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC). In that period, he had gone from the celebrated “Crying Teacher” on social media to a symbol of hope to many families in his local community.
Nowadays, Akindele goes around with a big smile on his face, a jovial spirit and a generous heart. In three weeks, Nigerians all over the world have entrusted into his hands a little over N1,000,000 ($2,000) to support him as a private school teacher badly affected by the
Corona Virus Pandemic induced shutdown.
“Nigerians are good people,” Akindele said, clasping his hands together and bringing it to his face, like one trying to wipe his face from tears. He was sitting inside the hall belonging to the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Kurudu- a rural community where many low earning workers who travelled 40 kilometres to Abuja’s city centre live.
It was a Sunday afternoon and Akindele was expecting at least 90 private school teachers who were to benefit from the second round of distribution of palliatives to the teachers. The chairs have been arranged in the social distancing manner and water have been provided
at the entrance of the hall.
“Nigerians have been good to me,” he repeated with a big smile.“People that I didn’t know, all the way from India, United Kingdom, the US, Germany and everywhere have been sending money to me. I have been overwhelmed with kindness from strangers,” he said.
Akindele’s mood was a sharp contrast to the one he portrayed in his video which went viral on social media just a week earlier. In the video, a weeping Akindele had called on Nigerians to help private school teachers who have “not collected a dime in the last three
“ I want to say this without mincing words that private school teacher are suffering. There are a lot of teachers on the street right now that have nothing to feed their families. Please whosoever is watching this and you have any private school teacher in your area, please
kindly help them, it is high time we stood for each other.
“There are many teachers in the past three months that have not collected a dime, please let us help. I want to beg all the proprietors to please help your teachers, the best time to help them
is now,” Akindele said in his one minute, eight seconds long video which has been viewed for over 100,000 times across social media platforms.
So was that a show, was it entertainment? Akindele said far from it. He had not set out to make a ‘crying video’ when he stood up for private school teachers. It had been a genuine call for help, ironically not for himself but his colleagues.
Lost Hope For Private School Teacher
Since Covid pandemic forced the shutdown of schools across the country in March 2020, Akindele like other private school teachers have seen their income shutdown too. So when the rumours of a re-opening began to filter, Akindele dusted his lessons notes and
headed for the center where he runs a private tutorial class for graduating classes in secondary school.
“I was shocked to see many teachers coming to beg me to allow them teach even two periods so they can earn something. One elderly man came to beg me for just one period and my heart was broken,” he said. His own family has not fared as badly as his colleagues even though his wife, Aderemi who runs a day care center has also seen her income
stopped, the family survived through the goodwill of friends and family.
“Even during the lockdown, my wife would pack foodstuff from my house and give to people in the church who are in dire need. So I prayed that if God would give me the power, I will help as many people as I can.”
When the hope of an early re-opening was dashed, Akindele was broken! “I looked at all the people who will have nothing to eat; I decided to make the video primarily targeting proprietors of private schools. I didn’t plan to cry, I just found myself crying,” he said.
It took some courage to post. “My wife didn’t feel good about posting it but since I didn’t say anything bad about anyone I posted. Some of my students said they wanted to post on some platforms and I agreed. I didn’t even know how it got to Twitter.”
Eedris Olawoyin, a journalist with Tribune newspaper was the first to flag the video on twitter and the video immediately took a life of its own. “I came across the video on my friend’s wall, I was touched by the way the man was crying considering the fact that truly private school
teachers were badly affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic lockdown,” Olawoyin told INFACTNG.
Although Olawoyin’s intention was to draw the “attention of good people of Nigeria to the plight of private school teachers during this pandemic period,” many Nigerians were ready to help.
“My phone became like a Dangote phone, I was receiving alert almost every minute, ”Akindele told the teachers who had gathered at the hall for the second round of the palliative distribution.
Days earlier, he had provided a rich palliatives to 120 private school teachers who have
been verified and confirmed to be genuine. “When the alerts began to come in, I told my wife that this money is not for us but God has heard the cry of my heart to help as many people as possible. This is a test of our faith, I cannot sit on this money because if I do, I am sitting on the destiny of my children,”Akindele revealed.
The teachers clapped. Many were emotional. Mrs Delight Chidike, the Pastor of the church and host called Akindele a “great man who has a large heart and the type of man Nigeria needs today.” She told the teachers Akindele had made a good use of his phone and when “fortune smiled on him, he decided not to eat alone, that is why you are here
today to receive palliatives.”
Fortune smiled on Akindele early, in 24 hours, Nigerians had donated over N500,000 ($1,000) to him. But his goal was not to enrich himself, and “the money has not made me rich, I have giving everything out. Teachers outside Abuja are sending me their account
numbers too, I am fully grateful to be able to help others,” he said.
Immediately the money came in, he went round private schools in Kurudu requesting
that contacts of the teachers who are badly affected. “In all we had numbers of
120 teachers and we called them to come and collect the palliatives. But many
others heard and we asked them to come back, so as soon as we received other
donations we went back to the market to buy all these foodstuff and that is why
we are here to do the second round.”
“We must find other stream of income,”
One of those who heard about the palliatives and came nonetheless was Carolyn Ndudim, a nursery school teacher who had only N400 when the schools shut down. In three months, a series of misfortune had befallen her. She had high blood pressure, became a petty trader and watched her home almost disintegrated.
“My pastor told me about this palliative, I was very hopeful so I told my children I was going to the market, tonight we will eat well in a long time. I don’t even know those who provided this, do you know them?” she asked.
Jane Samuel just finished her afternoon prayer asking God for favour when Ndudim called and told her about the palliatives. Even though they never registered, they came because they were teachers too. “I came here by faith and see what I got. This will go a long way in
helping us,” she said.
Bamidele Josephine was thinking about quitting the teaching job when Ndudim called her about the palliatives shared by Akindele. Her school is still owing her part salary for March and with an empty store and rent dues, she was ready to do any other job. “ I have only two tin cups of rice left. There is nothing to even prepare it with, many times I have stayed without food, not even garri,” she admitted.
Other teachers said they had taken a bitter lesson from COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers need to learn other ways of earning residual income. Ogwuchi Ene Esther thought the lockdown would last for a month and not prepared for the long haul. “It is a very ugly
experience,” she said, clutching her bag of essential food items .
“ A lot of teachers went on the streets, some to the farm; many became labourers on construction sites. I do odd jobs; our teachers sell groundnuts on the streets and roast corn. I have started learning tailoring so I can have at least a meal per day, but teaching is the
only thing I can do perfectly “she said. “
Amadi Blessing, a head teacher at Unique Wisdom schools said COVID specifically targeted private school teachers. With a Degree in education and 15 years’ experience, diversifying has been difficult. “During this lockdown, I go around to do home lessons, I do online teaching, but parents are not paying. Teaching is the only skill I have; I have tried online marketing but failed. “This is an eye opener for us, we need to get a second stream of income, we cannot continue to rely on just the salary,” Amadi admits.
Akindele’s good fortune has continued. “As I am talking to you now, I have many international connections, people calling me from all over the world trying to help. Many people took the matter very seriously and have asked me to think of a business that they can fund.”
His reputation in his local community has also soared. Many people viewed him and his wife as a saviour of sorts. But Akindele would have none of that adoration, to him it is only fair that he extend the hand to people less privileged than him. “I can at least feed in my house, but many of these people cannot feed, that is why I told God to give me the means to help them and He has done it. That is why I cannot sit on that money,” he quips.
A new respect for Nigerians is also building in his heart. “I never thought Nigerians could be this good. An Igbo man told me I am part of his family now, another man in the UK placed me on a monthly salary for the rest of 2020.”
Now a social media celebrity, big media interviews and new found hire-wire connections, will his new fame affect him, his wife Aderemi does not think so. “I don’t think so,” she answered with a smile. “I know him well, we have been giving before now, we have been concerned about other people especially teachers who have relocated to the farm, so
this is just who we are,” she concluded.
Olawoyin, the journalist who started it all said he expected nothing less from him: “When he told me two days after the advocacy that he received over N600,000 from Nigerians and he planned to reach out to teachers, it was as if he read my mind. Exactly what I expected from
him. Last week, he said he realised over one million and has used almost 80 percent to put smile on the faces of school teachers I said that was commendable, I love his giving spirit.”