Obisanya Folakemi, 27, graduated from the Department of Food Science and Technology, Rufus Giwa Polytechnic, Owo, Ondo State with a distinction in the 2013/2014 academic session. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, she shares her experience as a student
What could make it easy for students to have distinction?
In my view, it is very easy to have distinction only if you are determined. Determination plays a very important role and that was why it was rare for me to have B or BC in any of my courses. Rather, it was easy for me to have A and AB simply because I was determined to be excellent. Other important things students should pay attention to are the need to be focused, manage their time very well and study hard as well as do extra reading. Those things worked for me.
Do you think you would have done better or made a first class if you were to be in the university?
Yes, in capital letters. This is because everything works on determination. It is a principle that works for anyone, regardless of the institution or level you are in. I could remember during my Higher National Diploma days when one of my course mates called me and asked if I thought I would have Distinction in HND the way I had it during my National Diploma. Ordinarily, HND is tougher than ND. But in response to that challenge, I smiled because I knew he was only jealous and I replied that God was in charge. At the end of the session, I called him and it was clear that God was at work. That success was a product of determination, hard work and God’s help. I believe if I attended university, I would have done better.
What makes you think you would have done better?
With the work load that I had and I could still make distinction, I believe that my work load would not have been that much if I was in the university. So, it would have been easier.
Given the age long discrimination against polytechnic graduates, was it by choice that you opted for it?
I will say it was by choice, because what I opted for initially didn’t seem to be working. So, in order not to waste time, more so as a lady, I decided to opt for a polytechnic. I never applied to a university and I think I also wanted it because of the comparative advantage when it comes to practicals and even the theory aspect.
How do you feel when people try to look down on graduates of polytechnics?
Personally, I always feel I’m superior. That is confidence, not pride, so nobody could talk down on my choices. In fact, I could make a university graduate feel inferiors. So, I don’t feel bad or inferior. We are both graduates, we both went to higher institution, we both received lectures; so what else? I believe polytechnic graduates have no reason to feel inferior. They shouldn’t let anyone make jest of them; I never gave room for that. When my friends or colleagues in the university share their experiences, I share mine. When they talk about academics, I say mine, which is always superior to theirs. Even, most times, when I tell them about my responsibilities in other activities and my academic status, they always give kudos. So, people shouldn’t look down on themselves.
When did you start having distinction?
My first semester in school. I remember the head of my department would always tell me not to lose focus. I actually planned towards having distinction from the first day I gained admission. And to God be the glory, with the help of my bunkmate when I was in ND 1, it happened. When I was in ND 1, my bunkmate would always tell me to read because ND 1 students do not have any record with the school yet and that the school could send us home at any time if we didn’t perform to standard. I didn’t take that as a threat, rather, I took it as an encouragement and that helped me a lot. At graduation, only two of us, out of 74, had distinction. It didn’t come easy and it wasn’t as if I did anything unusual to have it. I ensured I put God first, I read for extra hours and I made sure I started reading right from the first day we started having lecture. To complement that, I used to surf the internet to read more on each topic so as to know more and have different perspectives. Most times, I made use of e-library, I would set exam for myself to know how much I had learnt and all these worked for me. Overall, I would ascribe my success to God because he has been the one who made it easy for me.
What would you like people to know about FST?
Food Science and Technology is about processing, producing and preservation of food. From the name, FST is designed to know the science behind food and to reduce the rate of wastage of farm produce during surplus season. Using the fruits in our environment as an example, most fruits have their season of surplus and also season of scarcity. So, during the season of surplus, all what we do is to preserve the fruits through technology for the season of scarcity so as to have the fruits available round the year. Let me hold on here because I can write a textbook about my lovely course. I would say I was attracted to the course because I love agricultural related courses.
Were you into farming before?
Yes, I was. During my secondary school days, I was into farming, personally. I stayed with my grandmother and she had plots of land, so my sister and I planted maize, cassava and cocoyam. I believe that made me like farming and things related to it.
Looking at your age, did you have any delay securing admission?
Yes, it took me up to four years before securing an admission. After my O’level, I worked for two years. I wanted to study nursing, but for the two years that I tried seeking admission, I didn’t get it, so after the second attempt, I opted for polytechnic.
Given your dedication to your academics, were you involved in other activities?
Yes, but I made my academics my primary target. I was into so many activities, like being a part of the Nigerian Red Cross and I was the General Secretary. I was the vice president of my departmental association. In my faculty association, I was the general secretary of the electoral commission. I was a Vice President of the All Nigeria Conference of Evangelical Drama Ministries and later I became the acting president. Also, in my fellowship in school, Foursquare Students Fellowship, I was the Publicity Coordinator and Drama Coordinator. Those were a lot of activities that I had to pay attention to, some of which required my time. So, by the grace of God, I was able to balance everything. Usually, I didn’t have much time in the day time to read, so I utilised any free time I had for reading. But most of my reading was in the midnight and on the average, I knew I had to read for five to six hours daily.
Did you win any award or scholarship as an undergraduate?
Yes, I did. I won a scholarship courtesy of the Ondo State Scholarship Board, and that was during my HND.
You graduated about three years ago, what have you been doing since then?
I’m still looking unto God for good job. I’m believing God would do it.
Do you think that could have been because you attended a polytechnic?
No and it can’t be. I can defend myself even as a polytechnic graduate, I worked to earn my certificate, so the type of institution I went to cannot be a barrier, at least it won’t be from my end. It is not that it has opened doors for me either.
Have there been times you felt discouraged with the rate of unemployment in Nigeria?
Yes, the rate of unemployment in Nigeria is not encouraging at all. These days, when you advise some teenagers to face their studies, they would tell you to tell the government or they remind you how many graduates are roaming the streets. That is not a good signal.
Where would you like to work?
If I’m lucky, I would love to work with a brewery company or any food processing company. I have acquired so much knowledge in that regard and I’m willing to put it into good use.
What were your happiest and most embarrassing moments?
My happiest moment was when I was informed that I made distinction in my final result. I was in the midst of some visitors when I got the information through a phone call, but I didn’t mind, unconsciously, I shouted and screamed for joy. It was indeed a happy moment for me.
Were you in a relationship while in school or you saw it as a distraction?
I saw it as a distraction, especially with the load of activities I was into. I couldn’t cope with it, so I didn’t bother.
But did some of them make attempts?
Yes, some did. Also, I was always disturbed to the extent that whenever we were in the same group for an assignment or seminar, especially our practicals, they would always leave the work for me to do everything. They even gave me a nickname; Hongoga A Plus, meaning brilliant person that can do everything.
In your view and from your observation, why do students fail?
I will say most students lose focus when they get to school; they forget their primary objectives because they want to feel among. Some are not determined while some don’t know how to manage their time.
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