We all need mentors. Many have advised that we try to learn out of the confinement of the classroom. There are always new things to be discovered. When I was taken under the tutelage of my supervisor at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), I told myself I was blessed. Of all the things I have taught others and myself, I had come face to face with reality-To practice what was learnt. I presume the old wise saying, ‘be humble, talk less and be submissive’, was the grace that helped me stay long at the institute. This may not be true. Many times, I had failed my supervisor and myself in what I was supposed to do. Even in this, she was always calm in her approach of corrections.
One of my weaknesses, which I must learn to overcome, is timidity towards the meek and the soft-spoken. There she was. A woman of great accomplishment and of profound meekness. Most times, I have to struggle to compose myself in her presence because of my fear of failing to meet the standards.
Day by day, even as I strove to meet the standards, I realized how far I still had to go. I should be grateful. Which is why, in thinking about this, and at a time when we all need experience, guidance and mentors to help us advance, what which I have learnt from her should be told. In many institutions, green from the classroom are young graduates in thirst for direction and guidance. Many do not know which line to tow.
The way and manner in which these people conduct themselves may position their mentors at an angle where it is excruciating to guide them. Though we might have learnt some fantastic things in the classroom, we do not have to appear as if we already have a full cup. A full cup needs no water. In this regard, one should empty their cups in order for them to be filled.
At an institution with people of different religious backgrounds, I was at the first encounter given a book by my supervisor or should I say, mentor. Titled “The Carpenter”, the book spoke of modesty and the things to be accrued if one were modest. Joseph, of whom the book spoke, was a carpenter. And here as if by divine design, was a book I Joseph was handed -A book about religious carpenters.
The book has since changed hands. Talking about guiding young ones and serving as mentors could be challenging and tiring. It could as well be heartbreaking. All the same, I think it is worth it, especially looking at what I have gained as a communication intern. So sad but the truth is those who stretch us beyond our limits are good mentors. At a point, one might be tempted to say they are not liked by their mentors, but truth is, every soldier is well grilled on the training ground to make the battlefield look like child’s play.
If at any time you are given a letter to start work, you should well know another will come asking you to leave. All must be taken in good faith. Mentors will always be mentors, even though some may argue there are bad ones. But even in a situation that suggests a mentor is bad, you still have to accord such a mentor respect and dignity. It has happened a couple of times that the people we regard as bad to us were actually good. It may take us years to realize this. In the thinking of this, as we depart any institution that engaged us, it will be prudent to close the doors behind us gently. You may never know when you go back knocking. Treat all with respect and above all ensure that the one beautiful family you met as an institution remains the same if not better.
It is impossible to thank enough, my supervisor, the researchers and staff of IWMI. They in their daily work, continue to rack their brains to ensure that the agricultural challenges bedevilling Africa and the world are mitigated. I can only say a word of gratitude for the priceless guidance and opportunity given me to be a part of this august institution.
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