Mrs. Orefuwa Elizabeth emerged as the best graduate of Lagos State University in the 2015/2016 academic session. She made 4.74 CGPA from the Department of Accounting Education. It became a moment of joy for her as she was delivered of her baby a day after the convocation. In this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, she talks about how she combined her academics with being married.
We learnt you took UTME seven times, what would you attribute that delay to?
‘All things work together for good to them that trust in the Lord’. Actually, it wasn’t what I wanted for myself but it just happened like that. Taking same exam seven times consecutively was killing, de-motivating and annoying, coupled with the fact that I met the required cut off mark each time I took the exam. It might have been destiny but I later found out that my West African Examination Council certificate was carrying my initials instead of my full name. This was brought to light after the last Post-UTME I took at Ekiti State University. Although I scored a very good grade, I was denied the admission because of the initial on my WAEC certificate instead of my full name, so I just felt this might have been the cause of the delay or maybe God’s plan.
Was there ever a time you almost gave up while taking same exam year in year out?
Yes, after the sixth attempt, I told myself that I wasn’t going to purchase any of UTME or Direct Entry forms again, but I thank God for my elder sister, Esther, who took it upon herself to purchase both forms for me and even bought the Post-UTME form that actually turned my life around for good. I learnt never to give up again.
What kept you going at that time?
Well, I would say my father’s passion for education (old soldier never die), self-belief, determination, moral support from my family and above all God because He gave me the strength to carry on.
Between 2005 and 2012 when you were home taking UTME, did you venture into other things?
No one advised me to look for alternatives but I sourced for an alternative myself by starting my professional career of becoming a chartered accountant. It was my dream to be a chartered accountant, so I took up the challenge in 2007 to register with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) instead of just sitting at home waiting for admission. All thanks to my elder brother, Dr. Samuel Orefuwa. I became a qualified chartered accountant, an associate member, in 2010 before gaining admission in 2012.
So the delay you encountered prompted you to make a decision to work towards leading your set?
Initially, it wasn’t. Mine was just to do the very best I could and come out with a good grade but my first semester result in my first year made me realise the real me and what I’m capable of. That was when I started having first class. It gave me the self motivation needed to forge ahead with the strong determination of coming out as the best in my faculty. It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t make first class.
Was Accounting Education the same course you had always wanted or you changed your mind along the way?
I have always wanted to study Accounting major but during that time, there wasn’t accounting major in my school so I applied for Accounting Education. And I have no regret because I have always had passion for accounting and I love teaching.
Some people still look down on students in education faculty, how did that make you feel, or you never experienced such?
Exactly, even the so-called learned persons think studying education is a waste of time. Without teachers, what will the society look like? If the teacher that would teach their children to become doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers and other prestigious disciplines are not well equipped, then what would the future of the country be? I have experienced it several times, even from a pastor who said ‘why education?’ The truth is that I’m proud to be an educationist, no regret. Faculty of Education is the mother of all faculties and a nation without education is doomed.
How easy was it to have first class, especially as a married woman?
I didn’t get married before or immediately after gaining admission, I got married while in the first semester of my fourth year. Even at that, it wasn’t easy because I needed to adjust to a new life which almost affected my reading schedule but for the understanding husband God gave me. He understood and also wanted the best for me, so he gave me the support I needed and my CGPA improved from 4.72 to 4.73. After all, marriage didn’t make my CGPA to drop (laughs). Of course, being a student and performing my duties as a wife wasn’t very easy but I thank God for the grace He bestowed on me.
Did you ever know you could lead your class?
Well, I would say I didn’t see it coming at first but my course mates used to tell me that I had the highest CGPA, even though I wasn’t sure. So I didn’t raise my hope. I was just studying hard and maintaining my CGPA each semester. I believe students should avoid side distractions, they should be focused, be determined, self motivated, prepare well for their exam and above all, put God first. That formula worked for me.
Some people would think you must have spent all your free time reading for you to emerge as the best graduate in your set. How many hours did you read in a day?
I didn’t have specific number of hours for reading but I made sure that I always went through my notes every day after school. So I read every evening till late in the night and very early in the morning. I wasn’t the type to wake up to read in the middle of the night because such didn’t work for me.
Were you given to using the library or you always read at home?
I didn’t really like using the library. My dad had strong passion for education, so he made sure that we were always provided with all the textbooks we needed. I also made good use of the internet. I prefer reading in the comfort of my room.
Were there times you had to live on the school campus, maybe during exam period, or you lived at home with your husband throughout?
Before I got married and after I got married, I never lived on campus. My parents, especially my mum, preferred it if I was going to school from home.
Understandably, most of your mates would have graduated before you even got admission, how did you feel about that?
Initially I used to feel bad but I later realised that it is not how far but how well and God’s time is always the best time. My parents, my siblings and my husband were positive about it and that encouraged me. “God’s mills grind slowly but sure.”This quote kept me going.
That could have made you to be one of the oldest in your class, how did it feel?
It didn’t make me feel different from them but rather made me humble, focused and more committed.
How many of you had first class in your set?
About 29 of us had first class in my set but just two of us from my faculty (my best friend, Oluwatimilehin, and myself). I remember that sometimes we read together.
What was your happiest moment?
My happiest moment was the day I gave birth to my little princess.
You once said your dad insisted on your academic excellence. How did he react when he heard you were the best graduating student?
I didn’t show him my results until I took my final exam. So, he didn’t know how well I had been performing in school. When I called and told him that I would be graduating as the best in my set, it was the greatest surprise ever.
Do you recall your most embarrassing moment?
Embarrassing moment! I would say the day I met some students that I was lecturing at an ICAN centre in the school and they were asking me if I was in LASU for my Master’s. Thank God it all turned out to be a huge testimony today.
What was your performance like in your previous schools?
I would say my performance was average in primary school and above average in secondary school. And in my Senior School Certificate Examinations, I had good grades too. Maybe that delay was the way God wanted it.
We learnt you were delivered of your baby a day after the convocation, how would you describe the timing?
It was God’s timing because I was having contraction the night before the convocation and my husband and I kept begging our baby to wait and come after the convocation, and indeed the baby heard us.
Looking at the closeness, were you scared of having your baby that day, coupled with the contraction?
Yes, I was very scared. I told my mum that she should be prepared because it was going to be from convocation to the hospital (laughs). But I thank God.
What name did you give the child?
Mercy, but some people prefer to call her LASU BABY (laughs).
Would you want to go into teaching, as an education graduate, or you have interest in other things?
I would love to teach and practise. That I studied Accounting Education doesn’t mean that I should restrict myself because that is the thought of many people out there. Presently, I’m serving in an accounting firm and at the same time lecturing in different ICAN tuition centres preparing students for ICAN examination and I’m enjoying both. Also, I want to own a school so that I can give back to the system what it has given to me.
Would you say having first class has opened doors of opportunities for you?
I wish education would be given its deserved place in our country. I think we need to acknowledge outstanding students in our schools and in the society. While in LASU, our Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Adigun Fagbohun, appreciated all the first class students with cash awards and this went a long way in motivating and improving our performances and those of others. If our leaders and other concerned Nigerian citizens can just value education and recognise hard work and academic excellence, then things would be different and I think it’s something we need to pay attention to.
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