My Student, My Teacher (I) / Ohaja

Over the years, I've had this policy of not allowing students to visit my residence but as is the case with most policies, I've had exceptions to the rule and the fellow I'm writing about today was one of those exceptions. His name is Emmanuel Udo Okwara of the 2005 Mass Communication class at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).

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Perhaps, you've guessed why I don't let students come to the house but I'll tell you anyway in case you guessed wrong. Whoever coined the saying, "Familiarity breeds contempt," didn't do so for nothing. So, many lecturers are careful how they fraternise with students and try to keep their interactions within the official setting. But then you come across kids from good homes who know the meaning of respect and you let your guard down. Emma was one of such.

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The first time we had a conversation was by the second UNN gate adjacent to Zik's Flats. He must have been in his first year but recognised me as a lecturer in his department and came to say, "Hello!"

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"Do you live around here?" he asked. I answered in the affirmative and he said he stayed in one of the Franco hostels. We chatted for a bit and I moved on. I was impressed with his composure and confidence. I like that in young people, not acting obsequious around anyone.

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Sometime later, I met him under different circumstances. A little background is needed here. When I was a student, typing skills were not taught except to those in Business Studies. And in offices, some people did the writing while others did the typing. Then about a decade after I started work, computers began to cross the seas to our shores. In the backwoods where I stay, we ignored the new-fangled devices and clung to our clanging Olympia typewriters.

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But several years down the line, we realised we were fighting a losing battle. The world was going digital and we were running the risk of being left behind. Most importantly, the new and dreaded technology was more than a typewriter and EVERYONE was expected to use it routinely.

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What to do? Reinvent ourselves. How? The commonest option was to register for computer training in some of the make-shift academies springing up in town. They offered various computer courses to roomfuls, mostly of teenagers, who then took turns practising what they had learnt on the various computers available. I didn't think that was the right way for me. I wanted an option with a little more dignity. I was going to buy my own computer for a start.

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I mentioned my desire to a student friend, Dare Adodo, and he said Emma Okwara was the guy I needed to talk to. I told him I was wary of doing anything monetary with any student as I didn't have the stamina to chase anyone around the campus to recover my money. He assured me Emma was "101 per cent trustworthy."

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Cut to our meeting to discuss the purchase. Emma told me of various specifications and their costs. I couldn't afford the system with accessories and peripherals on my budget. He offered to buy the parts and couple a system for me to save costs. I wanted to back out because it wasn't the first time someone had tried to test his "skills" in an area on my money. He, however, assured me he had received certification in computer engineering (hardware assembly) before coming to UNN. That got my full attention and consent. He also said he could teach me how to use the system when it was bought because he had certification in Microsoft Office Suite. Beautiful!

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I provided the funds, he went to Lagos, delivered as promised and my computer lessons began - in the comfort of my home, not with a bunch of sweaty teenagers. Praise God!

-To be continued-

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Edith Ohaja is a Senior Lecturer at the Mass Communication Department, University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She blogs at edithohaja.com.


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