The above words were said by a very remarkable lady called Dr Maya Angelou. Dr Angelou is an American author and poet whose works have won her numerous awards and made her world famous.
The phrase above has always caught my attention because I simply cannot think of another way to capture the need of mentoring or exchange of ideas between different people. According to the elderly lady, one of the best habits that we can acquire is the habit of teaching.
Note that she is referring to the habit of teaching as opposed to the skill of teaching. In other words, it is one thing to be able to teach and another to enjoy doing it so much that you eventually do it as often as possible. Teaching is at the very basic a process of sharing knowledge, skills and ideas with those who are yearning to receive.
I must admit that teaching is a habit I possess immensely. I am not sure whether it is just a genetic disposition since my father and grandfather were both teachers or whether it is a professional inclination considering that I studied it at the university.
Anyway what matters to me is that life has offered me the privilege to teach. I know the teaching profession does not draw a lot of envy thanks to the usual low and irregular wages and the heavy workload that can push you to suicidal edges when you have a pile of students’ scripts to mark.
Putting the challenges aside, teaching remains a very fulfilling and rewarding profession. It is not every day that you get help mould younger people and help them become what they dream to be.
To me this honour of influencing young impressionable minds is simply a calling that we need to respond to diligently. Anyone who has learnt something ought to teach another who needs to learn about it as well. Hence the words, ‘when you learn you teach, when you get you give.’
The wise words from Dr. Angelou came to my mind when I was approached by Gilbert Rwabigwi, the founder of the Youth Literacy Organisation in Rwanda. He asked me to attend a workshop that he had organised to train aspiring writers from different schools around the country.
The workshop took place at the Goethe Institut and was attended by students from Lycee de Kigali, Wellspring Academy, Lycee Notre Dame de Citaux, Agahozo Shalom Youth Village (Rwamagana), Nu-Vision High School and SOS technical school. They were representatives or leaders of their respective schools’ writers’ clubs.
I immediately responded to his request in the affirmative since I have never had a problem with sharing my experiences and knowledge with anyone willing to learn. As one who has been blessed to be a teacher and a writer at the same time I knew it would be unfair for me to throw in the common “Sorry I can’t make it, I am so busy” line.
The whole event went quite well and reaffirmed my conviction that students in Rwanda need more mentoring and inspiring talks from people already in the work field. They need to hear what writers, lawyers, doctors and engineers among others, have to say to demystify their careers.
In western societies like the US, commencement speeches at colleges and universities are quite common and offer young learners a chance to hear from industry leaders and famous people .
We ought to develop the same culture here by urging various notable people in society to occasionally visit schools and interact with the students. The Ministry of Education can support these efforts by encouraging schools to organise career days where parents show up and talk about what they do in front of the whole class in which their son/daughter is. Let those of us who have learnt, share what we have learnt.