A college professor in the Ivory Coast went above and beyond to help a student in his class.
Professor Honoré Kahi teaches communications at Université Alassane Ouattara in Bouaké, Ivory Coast. He found online fame this week after assisting a student who brought her baby to an entrepreneurship class. A collection of viral photos show that Professor Kahi offered to wear the baby on his back when she wouldn’t stop crying.
The professor told The Huffington Post that it’s fairly common for female students to bring their babies to class. Those who have “proven social and financial problems” are permitted to do this, he explained.
That day, the young mom left the room three times to try to calm her crying baby, but her efforts were to no avail. So, the teacher offered some assistance.
“She was very embarrassed, and everyone could notice that,” Kahi recalled. “Therefore I decided to give her a hand so that she could follow the lecture. I just asked to carry the baby which she accepted. Then, I put the baby on my back to get my hands free and continue the lecture.”
The little one immediately calmed down, soothed by his pacing back and forth, and eventually fell asleep, he said.
“My student told me she was very touched by this gesture, and that she was very surprised because there is generally some distance between students and teachers,” he recalled, adding that he believes teachers should work to create a sense of solidarity and social ties with their students.
Professor Kahi told BBC that many other students were surprised to see him engaged in babywearing. Some started to laugh and several took photos, which later appeared on a dating-themed Facebook page for African college students. The post with the photos received over 27,000 likes, and the story quickly spread on Twitter and Facebook feeds throughout West Africa and beyond.
Many have hailed Professor Kahi as a “hero” for his kind gesture. But he insists it was no big deal. “I’m the teacher, and teachers are human beings ― we are not robots,” he told BBC.
As for his babywearing abilities, the professor explained that it’s a common skill in Africa, particularly in rural areas, and that he learned to tie the baby wrap by watching women do it.
“In fact, men are able to do certain things, and usually, it’s the social representations ... society that prevents them from doing certain things,” he said, noting that “male chauvinism” is a prevailing attitude.
Professor Kahi told HuffPost he wants people to realize that teachers are human beings and can be sensitive too.
“They do not work with “pieces of wood or iron”, but with other human beings like them, I mean students. Therefore, teachers can promptly assist their students when they are in trouble.”
He also said he wants to young mothers to get an education, even if the odds are stacked against them. In his BBC interview, he encouraged moms to have “perseverance,” “optimism” and “fighting spirit.”
“Fighting is the meaning of life, because life is not easy,” he said.
But with the support of teachers like him, the challenges may be easier to face.