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‘It’s who I am’: Meet educator, storyteller and doctoral student Osholene Oshobugie

February 3, 2021

Perry King


Osholene Oshobugie, an African Indigenous scholar, is also founder of the Meritah Wisdom Education Centre for Children and Families. The centre provides families with Meritah Indigenous knowledges and resources for raising children. "Meritah" is the Indigenous name that African ancestors call the land referred to as Africa today (photo by Lola Black).


On a cold, late autumn morning, Osholene Oshobugie brought the brightest of lights to an unexpected place.

With a golden mural behind her and her debut children’s book My Sleeping Dream: How I Learned my Numbers in hand, the OISE doctoral student did a live reading on Twitter for OISE’s Stay at Home Club. She opened with a statement that encapsulates her purpose for the reading that day.

“In helping our children, we are helping ourselves and our future,” said Oshobugie, who is based in OISE’s department of social justice education. “And the best way to do it is to give them the most potent power that they can have: the knowledge of who they are—of themselves.”

Education is the means to counteract the hate, the abject and systemic racism, she says. “It’s like, ‘That’s not me! I know who I am, I know my family and I know where I’m from,” she added.

This statement encapsulates Oshobugie quite well. Growing up in a small village in Nigeria, she got the spark for education early. But that upbringing also taught her to stay true to her heritage and to seek a better future for those in her care.

Her book, My Sleeping Dream, truly focuses on children. Her book explores the power of children learning their numbers from the support of their family, history and legacy.

“In the colonial so-called Nigeria is the yearning for Western education,” said Oshobugie, an African Indigenous scholar who is also the founder of the Toronto-based Meritah Wisdom Education Centre for Children and Families. “So, I was educated that way and everything I wanted or needed to be was Western. But by default, my village upbringing influenced everything that I did.”

That upbringing fuelled a great deal of creativity. She produced scripts as a theatre director, for example. It also sparked a spirit for education that led her to explore creative ways to guide others. She even worked as a tutor and graduate assistant.

But, she put aside a career in education, opting to train in clinical psychology. She worked in a federal psychiatric hospital, and then community mental health and social services for seven years.

That changed when she arrived in Toronto where she was looking to enhance her finance skills as a student at the Canadian Business College. There, she was invited to facilitate part of a class session and share her experiences in clinical mental health, community, and social services. While she was facilitating this class, an epiphany happened for which she is very thankful for today.

“As I was doing that, all the memories of being an educator came back to me. It was at that moment, I said, ‘I am going back to school to become an educator,’” said Oshobugie, who earned her masters in educational leadership and policy at OISE.

That experience reawakened her passion for education—and one that placed great priority in guiding young Meritah people (people of African-descent) in ways that persevere beyond Western ways of knowing.

Meritah, Oshobugie explains, is the Indigenous name that African ancestors call the land referred to as Africa today.


Watch Osholene Oshobugie read from her children's book,
My Sleeping Dream: How I Learned My Numbers.


Her path to OISE and her establishment of the Meritah Wisdom Education Centre are closely linked. The centre is dedicated to using ancestral Indigenous knowledges to provide families with resources for raising of disciplined, intelligent, and resilient children.

The centre and its teachings, Oshobugie says, are directly informed by her journey as an initiate of The Dogon temples of Western Meritah which have preserved the Meritah Ancestral Kemetic cultural legacy since the time Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt ordered migrations out of the Nile Valley.

As an initiate of the Dogon temples, Oshobugie is undergoing rigorous Meritah Indigenous education herself, and she prides her Indigenous learnings and teachings as coming from ancient sources.

In addition to book publishing, the centre is working on a new comic book and Meritah educators do regular book readings and teach-ins.

Under the tutelage of Professor Njoki Wane, Oshobugie was able to better tap into her roots and better understand the needs of her community. Wane, who has also explored her African roots via her writings, specifically through her recent memoir From My Mother’s Back, speaks highly of Oshobugie.

“She is a hardworking student who is committed to centering African Indigenous ways of knowing in her scholarship,” said Wane, whose research and advocacy include Black feminism and African spirituality.

Oshobugie, who is now preparing for her comprehension and dissertation, is thankful that OISE has given her the space to better understand who she is at her core.

“I am very fortunate to be able to research and work with wonderful supervisors,” she says of her experience so far. “This experience has allowed me to stay learning about myself and stay learning about who I was.”

With the utmost humility, Oshobugie acknowledges the Divine world, the world of her ancestors, parents, family and elders; her Agenebode village and Iseh’s temple, and the Dogon temples – not to mention the Indigenous land she currently occupies, and OISE and its community of teachers, supervisors and community elders and members that enabled her on this journey and still do.

In her native language, she says “Wah Obekha (thank you),” for everything.

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