Oluwatumininu Adesua graduated from the Department of Biochemistry, Ekiti State University, with a 4.67 CGPA in the 2018/2019 academic session. She tells TUNDE AJAJA about her academic journey and the memorable moments during the programme
What fond memories of your growing up do you cherish till date?
I have good memories of reading books with my dad. He loved books a lot and anytime he was around – he wasn’t around most of the time – he would always come with novels. He would give us the gist in different novels and paint very interesting pictures from them. That would make you want to read such books and so I read a number of them. I believe that was what triggered my love for books.
Will you say that influenced your drive for excellence in your academic work?
From when my siblings and I were much younger, our parents never appreciated average results. If we had any average result, we often paid for it. When I saw my first semester result in my first year, I had 4.39 GPA and that was the best in the department. When I told my dad, excitedly, he didn’t seem so impressed. I felt since he wasn’t proud of the result, it was probably not good enough, so I had to go back and re-strategise. In the second semester, I had 4.44 GPA, but I already knew he wouldn’t be excited since it wasn’t first class. Later in the day, maybe he saw that my morale was really down, he sent me a message that he was proud of me but I would have to do better for me to get that smile I wanted. Meanwhile, I had heard stories that it wasn’t easy to make first class and that there were issues with my department, but I had to remind myself that if I really wanted it, I could get it. There are always discouraging stories but I believe it is left to individuals to either stick to their aspirations and work at it or resign to fate. I chose the former.
When did you eventually start having first-class result?
I didn’t monitor my result in the first semester of my second year, but in the second semester, our level coordinator called me and said we had some issues with a particular result. So, she asked us to come and check our results. When it was my turn, she told me I had been on a first-class grade since first semester.https://d-440526802185580766.ampproject.net/2106072053000/nameframe.html
How did you feel when you heard that?
(Smiles) I said really? I didn’t know I was there already, so it was surprising to me.
What did your dad say when you told him?
He chuckled and asked what the score was. When I told him 4.52, he said okay. At that point, I knew half of the problem was solved; I only needed to do more. I should add that my parents’ affirmation is important to me to a certain degree because I know how much they both sacrificed for us and so I knew I had to do better to make them happy. In my third year, I had to put in more efforts and to God be the glory, I had 5.00 GPA in both semesters. That was what really boosted my CGPA. Sadly, my dad was not alive to see me do better. He died when I had just finished my exam.
How did you handle the loss?
I told myself that even though he was no longer around, I still loved to make him and my mum proud, so I didn’t relax. My target was 4.72 and I was determined to get there. I didn’t eventually, but I’m proud of my efforts and the outcome. However, in other areas, it wasn’t easy at all. Being the first child, I had to be there for my siblings and more importantly for my mum. When he died, our finances took a nosedive; it (the death) really affected us financially because he was the breadwinner, but God has been helping us and He has used some people to be of help to us. It could have been worse but my dad sorted our tuition fees before he died. That was helpful, even though sorting out other things was difficult. To the glory of God, two of us have graduated now, though no job yet, while our youngest sibling is still an undergraduate. I’m trusting God to provide me a job soon so I can be a blessing to my mum and siblings.
Was there a time you considered doing some work by the side to augment whatever you got from home?
Yes, I considered it but my mum felt it would distract me, so she was against it. I had to let go. Meanwhile, I was serving in church, so I didn’t really have the time to manage a business.
Were there things you wouldn’t be found doing as an undergraduate?
Yes, many things. I wouldn’t be found missing classes or getting to class late. I would never toy with my assignment, not only because it was part what was used for assessment, but because there was usually a lot to learn from those assignments. And I wasn’t the type to run after frivolities. However, I do not judge anybody; I only think it’s important for students to know what works for them, like when is the best time for them to read, where is the most conducive place for them, how retentive you are and such things. I needed to discover what my learning metabolism was, maximise my strength and re-strategise to conquer my weaknesses.
I’m not a fan of the library because I like my space; so since my house wasn’t far from school, I preferred to read at home. Also, I wasn’t the type to read what I was taught before the end of the day, because once I was attentive in class, I would grasp it. Then, at the peak of my learning metabolism, I would pick my book and read. That’s why I said people should know what works for them. And no one should feel too big or proud to learn from others.
How would have felt if you didn’t make first class?
At that time, I would have felt really bad. However, as we grow, we get better by the day. So, I probably would handle it better if it happens now. I like to add that a lot should be done to make education attractive. For example, the morale for first-class grade among students could be declining gradually because we don’t seem to reward the right things. That should not be a reason for students to give up, but sadly not everyone has the same mindset towards these things. So, the system needs some overhauling.
Going to school from home for undergraduates has its advantages, but it has its distractions too. What was the experience like for you?
Knowing that I had basic things I had to do at home helped me to set my priorities correctly. My mum was very understanding and I love her so much. Whenever we had exams, we would be off the cooking chore (laughs). That made it more bearable. But that experience made us better persons because we learnt how best to plan our day. When you know that you have limited number of hours, you would manage your time well. I think students tend to entertain distractions, including being in relationships that add no value to them.
Were you in any relationship?
Understanding why you are in a relationship is fundamental, so for me, it was not an option, simply because I didn’t see the need for it as of that time.
Were you sociable?
I wouldn’t say yes and it wasn’t because I didn’t live in the hostel. Even if I didn’t stay at home, I wouldn’t have acted differently. When we were growing up we had some restrictions, but there were times my friends came around and we played.
Were your parents the type who would reward their children for excellent academic performance?
Yes, there were lots of that and there was also a reward when you perform below expectation (laughs). If your result was impressive, my dad could take you out, buy you things or send you money. But if you didn’t do well, it wasn’t a very exciting experience. My younger sister went through it once. It was during Christmas and she didn’t get Christmas clothes and a few other things.
Do you think that was harsh?
Yes, I think many people would find it harsh, but he believed in that approach and because we love him, we also wanted to make him happy. So, it wasn’t so much about working to avoid being ‘sanctioned’ but to let him realise that his efforts were appreciated.
What was your mum’s reaction at such times?
She really would not say anything because they believed in having a common front in raising their children. I don’t know if she felt differently about it, but even if she did, she wouldn’t oppose him in our presence.
What were your most memorable moments in school?
My happiest moment would be when I learnt that I was the best student in my class. I was happy my efforts were not a waste. My saddest moment would be when I lost my dad. Also, there was a time I had missing script in a four-unit course and there was no space even if I wanted to take the course again. That meant if I didn’t get the result I would have had an extra year, but thank God it didn’t happen. That period was draining but I got the result about three months later.
Was there anything you would have loved to do as an undergraduate that you could not do?
Yes, I would have loved to take tutorials but I didn’t have the time. I was serving in church, I lived at home and I had my studies too. However, I like to add that it’s never too late to follow your passion. After school, I started selling books, because I feel we are not reading enough. Ignorance is part of our problem in this clime. Selling books may not be a very lucrative business in this clime, but there are still people who read and we should be able to make it available to such people. It’s more strenuous to market books, but I try to convince people to try and own a copy and not just rely on PDF copies. We have to be intentional about our growth. It’s strenuous but rewarding and fulfilling because I like books too.
Where would you like to work?
I like research, especially given the potential it has to unveil solutions to human problems. So, I would like to work in a research institute. I like to be a researcher. As a student, I had heard a lot about cancer, and during my project, we worked on cancer and it was very real and I saw some things that intrigued me, which was exciting. So, I love research and I’m praying to God to get a job soon.
Was that what informed your choice of Biochemistry as the course to study?
Somehow, I didn’t plan to study Biochemistry. My dad came home one day and said he had registered me and he chose Biochemistry. At that time, I was at a crossroads because many people expected that I would study Medicine but I wasn’t really a fan of the course. Back then, teachers and family members used to expect brilliant students to study Medicine. So, at the time my dad chose Biochemistry, I hadn’t really decided on the course I would study so I felt I could as well leave it to him to decide. He loved his children and had our best interest at heart, so I knew he would make the best decision for me and it turned out well.
Did you find the course interesting from the beginning?
The first thing was the misconception about the course; many people say it’s abstract, but it is not. When it comes to the nitty-gritty, it’s something people relate with daily. It’s simply the chemistry of living organisms and these are things that are part of our lives every day; like how your day-to-day metabolism affects you. So, it’s an interesting course.
What would you tie your success to?
I would tie mine to the quest for excellence that my dad instilled in us. Even though it was hard, we learnt to navigate.
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