A day in the life of Oyewande Taiwo

By the time this biology teacher makes it to school in Lagos, Nigeria, she has often faced a power outage, fetched her water ration and travelled for two hours on a swelteringly hot bus

My day starts when my alarm goes off at 4.30am. Too often there are power outages, so my schedule is thrown by the need to fetch rationed buckets of water for my morning ritual of washing and dressing for work. But I aim to be ready to leave the house by 5.30am, after saying my prayers.

Although the school where I teach is only 14km away, leaving any later would mean getting caught up in the weekday traffic, resulting in an incredibly sweaty two-hour journey to work. The bus service is very irregular: the ragged minibuses are more fit for the scrapyard. It is usually too early for me to eat breakfast, but a coffee is a must since it gives me "oomph". When I am able to, I make a sandwich for later.

I teach biology at Mende Senior High School in Lagos, where I have a small but private office to work from. Arriving early allows me to set up the laboratory for the first double period of biology, which starts at 8am.

Most days begin with revision for Senior Secondary 3 students (aged 17-18). I usually take them through a quiz designed to strengthen recall and reinforce learning from previous classes. These quizzes also help to highlight where pupils' knowledge and understanding is deficient and topics should be revisited.

Teaching the students is a challenge because they seldom come to class prepared, even when they have been given specific instructions or assignments. When their curiosity is piqued and the task is perceived as easy, however, they tend to comply. Deciding on an approach in advance and then planning lessons makes my days much more stress-free. And my involvement in the British Council's Connecting Classrooms programme has expanded my knowledge of teaching and learning, which has had a positive impact on my students - my lessons have become more focused on 21st-century styles of education.

A typical day involves teaching three double periods of biology, supervising students during break times, conferring with other teachers on how to teach difficult topics and attending meetings to discuss behavioural issues.

The most challenging aspect of my work is the unrelenting din of overcrowded classrooms. Teachers struggle to keep adolescents with raging hormones under control for long enough to help them learn something. But the joy of seeing them become adults who are disciplined gives me the motivation to continue trying to make a difference.

The best part of my day is the hour after school closes, when I take the time to reflect, grade classwork and make notes for new lessons. I try to banish thoughts of the struggle through traffic I will face on the journey home and the almost inevitable power outage. I will need to fetch more water and visit my neighbour - who owns a generator - to iron my clothes for the next day.

Your day

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