In spite of her inability to secure admission twice, after failing the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, Juliet Ezekiel emerged as the best graduate of Benson Idahosa University, Benin, in the 2017/2018 academic session. In this interview with ALEXANDER OKERE, the 23-year-old who graduated with a first class from the Department of Computer Science, with a CGPA of 3.95/4.00, shares her experience
Can you tell us about your academic background?
I had my primary education at the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus Model School in Kubwa, Abuja. I later attended the Word of Faith School, owned by the Church of God Mission International, in Benin, before I secured admission to the Benson Idahosa University. I did a diploma programme in Software Engineering in the university from 2013 to 2015 before proceeding into the degree programme to study Computer Science.
Was Computer Science your original choice?
Yes. Earlier, I wanted to study Computer Engineering at the University of Benin but I did not pass my Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination. I applied for the same course at the Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma the following year, but I could not secure an admission. When I got to BIU, there was no Computer Engineering, so, I settled for Computer Science.
Why Computer Science?
I just like computers. I have always liked computers since I was in secondary school. I was introduced to computers at that time and I developed interest in them; I just knew that a computer-related course was what I wanted to study. And the growing usefulness of computer knowledge makes it all the more interesting.
Did you face any challenge while studying the course?
Yes. First, most of the courses had to do with programming and I did not have much interest in programming. That was a major challenge. There were no alternatives, so I had to do it. However, there were some of my friends that were good at it, so I had them take me in extra classes and I studied some more on my own. So, I got better at it. From my second year, my performance in programming really improved and when I went for the compulsory industrial training in the second semester of my third year, I was exposed to more practicals and I went back to school as a better programmer.
Did the diploma programme you went through help you in your degree programme?
Yes, it helped me to understand the course better, because most of the courses I took then were the basics and when I began the degree programme, I only did more of them. So, it was easier for me.
Did you at any time imagine that you could emerge as the overall best graduating student?
No, I only planned to be the overall best during my diploma programme and when I could not achieve that, I set a target to be the best in my class during the degree programme and I worked hard towards that. I never imagined that I was going to be the best in the university, so, I just focused on being the best in my class, because we all knew who the best would be. From the beginning of our programme, people knew that there was someone who would be the overall best in our set, based on the person’s CGPA, but I learnt that the person’s CGPA dropped in the second semester of our final year and then mine became higher than the person’s CGPA.
How many of you had first class in your class?
Out of the over 50 of us in the class, nine of us had first class.
So, how did you receive the news that you were the best in your set?
I was in tears. I did not expect it. During the period when the results were announced, I heard that the best would come from the Faculty of Social and Management Sciences. So, I did not bother myself about it because I had been told that I was the best in my class. However, when I knew I was the overall best, I was very happy, because it was like getting more than you expected, and something akin to getting double reward for your efforts.
How easy was it to make first class?
It was not easy. I’m the kind of person who enjoys people’s company and hanging out with friends. As it can be imagined, it would not be easy combining that with my studies, but I tried to strike a balance.
Out of the hundreds of the several students that graduated, you emerged the best. What did you do differently?
I usually read once it was night and I increased it when I had tests to write. That way, when I had examinations, I did not have to put pressure on myself. I feel it’s easy to prepare ahead of time than put yourself under needless pressure hours to the exam.
Did you deprive yourself of anything to achieve your goal?
At a point, I suspended my presence on the social media. If I had devoted my time to the social media, I would not have achieved what I did today. Though, I didn’t have to delete any of my accounts, I had to reduce my presence on the different platforms. I changed my priority and focused some more on my books.
How easy was it doing away with social media?
Actually, it was easy because most of my friends that I was relating with on the social media were people I could see in school. So, it wasn’t difficult to stay off for some time.
Who or what were the things that inspired you?
I would say that my experiences in the past inspired me. The thought that I failed the UTME twice in 2012 and 2013 didn’t leave my mind. That failure was my greatest push. I told myself that I could not afford to experience that (failure) again, so I pushed myself to go beyond the ordinary.
Did your parents influence you in any way?
My parents encouraged me, though at some point, they complained about my inability to pass the UTME. They even compared me with my younger ones and that made me feel very bad. However, they encouraged me to continue trying to be the best in what I do. I would say that those complaints and comparison encouraged me to work harder, even though it wasn’t a cheery moment for me. They spoke to me on different occasions and that helped.
Did religion play any role in your studies?
God was my greatest support. I read a verse of the Bible every day. Psalm 23 was a favourite chapter. The message reminded me that God was already there with me.
Were you into any relationship while on campus?
Yes, I was and I’m still in a relationship.
Did it in any way affect your studies?
It did not affect me because he was my study partner. Hence, there was no way it would have distracted me. He was a motivation. We were classmates and he also graduated with a first class.
What were the things you did at your leisure?
I used to hang out with my friends. I attended birthday parties and dinners. I would say I’m a sociable person.
What was your most difficult challenge during your stay in school?
Coping with the many tasks in my final year was very challenging. We had several tough courses and time was short. One of them was Artificial Intelligence; it was a bulky course and the questions we had to answer during the examination were lengthy, with only one hour and 30 minutes to provide answers. The time was too short and it seemed really difficult, I’m glad I made it.
What was your best moment?
My best moment was the day I rounded off my final examination. My classmates and I went out to spend some time together. It was the first time we had that opportunity because it had always been everyone to themselves. But that day, we were excited and we all went out to have fun.
Do you intend to become a professional or you have other things in mind?
Yes, I do. I’m actually going into network security. During my National Youth Service Corps programme, which is running currently, I plan to go for certification courses, and then enrol for my Master’s degree after that.
Where would you like to work?
I’m still weighing my options. For now, I’m focusing on improving myself and when I’m done with that, I would have decided, and by then I would have more options.
What do you want the Federal Government to do to make Nigeria better?
There are many issues that need urgent intervention. For instance, there is the issue of insecurity, which is very critical. The government has a lot to do to make life better for the people. Government needs to look for means to resolve the herdsmen/farmers clashes.
What is your advice to students who would like to be successful in their academic pursuit?
First, God is the author of all good things. So, they should put all their trust in God. God has a plan for everyone. They should be hard-working and diligent. Students should set a target for themselves and focus on that target. They should also aim high and at the end, they will be successful.
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