Always be ready to learn… lifelong studentship is the best gift you can give to yourself.
Last week was group presentation day in my 200-Level African women’s writing & feminisms course. Two groups were presenting their research.
I couldn’t believe what 2nd-year undergraduates had dug up in an area of knowledge, African feminisms, in which I wrote an MA thesis and a doctoral dissertation before many of them were born.
I was so excited. I kept scribbling as they spoke. They thought I was taking grading notes. They didn’t know I was double-tasking: taking grading notes but also taking my own notes as their student.
They unearthed material I had missed in my own scholarship: old essays by my sister, Dr. Pinkie Mekgwe that I had somehow missed; stuff by Lola Shoneyin, Chika Unigwe, and Unoma Azuah that I’d somehow missed. You’d think that there’s nothing that these sisters of mine have written that I haven’t read. If you open yourself up to lifelong studentship, you’d be amazed by the things you haven’t read.
They had refreshing new ways of remapping and re-engaging negofeminism, motherism, womanism, stiwanism, feminitude, etc, against the backdrop of contemporary feminist tensions and praxes. New insights into terrains I’ve been mapping since the 1990s.
It is always a thing of pride when your students understand that they are fellow knowledge producers and apply themselves meticulously to that task.
Here on social media, I also have numerous teachers. A younger friend was surprised one day when I told him that I was yet to weigh in on a particular issue because I was yet to hear from my teachers.
Ah, Prof, you have teachers? Of course I do. I am a lifelong student. All my former teachers and new “Egbon-teachers” I have acquired in life, who do you think they are? Haven’t you noticed that there are people I call “my oga, my egbon”, etc, on these streets? They are my teachers.
I also have other teachers in other categories. My interlocutor wanted to know. I said, well, since the matter at hand is legalese, I usually would wait to hear from my teachers like Abdul Mahmud, Peter Oshun, Olori Thanos, Kennedy Emetulu, Inibehe Effiong, and Ayo Turton before I weigh in. Sometimes, I disturb some of them inbox if they are too slow. I may not agree with them but I would at least come to an issue having had the foundational benefit of their superior knowledge.
I said at other times, I may quietly be in the classrooms of Uwuma Precious, Immanuel James Ibe-Anyanwu or Folake Oyetosho. I told him I have too many teachers here and in other spheres and stations. I told him that many of the folks I interact with here on Facebook aren’t even aware of moments when I become their student, quietly learning, deepening my mind and expanding my world. I am like a sponge, ready to soak in, engage, and process knowledge wherever it resides.
I recommend the joys of lifelong studentship. It requires exacting humility that many of us do not have. It requires toning down that common Nigerian foible of wearing one’s ignorance like an Olympic gold medal and chest-beating about it on social media.
Try lifelong studentship.
Thank me later!