Esther Adio, 22, was the best graduating student at Joseph Ayo Babalola University, Ikeji Arakeji, Osun State. She graduated with a 4.90 Cumulative Grade Point Average from the Department of Computer Science. In this interview with PETER DADA, she explains how she scaled the hurdles of distractions as an undergraduate.
What was your academic history before this feat?
I was a good student when I was in primary school. I had my secondary education at Christ the King Secondary School in Ibadan, Oyo State. I sat the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination twice because I was not offered admission when I did it for the first time and I was not offered the course I wanted to do.
What was the course you wanted to do?
I wanted to study medicine and I chose the University of Lagos but I did not meet the cut-off point; that was why I was not admitted. So I took the form the second time and opted for computer science and JABU offered me admission. Along the line, I realized that there were certain things I didn’t put into consideration before I opted for medicine. I also found out that there were certain things I would not be able to do if I read medicine, and when I look at Computer Science and the world today, I found that without computer science, I don’t know what the world would look like. That was how I forgot the idea of medicine and went for computer science.
What are the things that scared you about studying medicine?
After my first UTME in 2012, I realized that I would not be able to stand the sight of blood. I realized I had a phobia for blood and there are some feelings I have when I see blood, which was why I decided to go for Computer Science. When I was not offered medicine and I had to prepare for another UTME, I read some books related to medicine as a course and I got to know that there was no way I could avoid blood as a medical doctor. So, I felt I needed to consider something else.
Not every student graduates with first-class, in your own case, how did you do it?
I was so determined, focused and I disciplined myself. Though it is not easy to make a first-class, I believe that with God on one’s side coupled with hard work, nothing is impossible. But in my own case, I actually employed three things when I got admission; determination, discipline and hard work, and above all, the fear of my creator, which is the beginning of wisdom. I never put my God aside and He has always been helping me. There were times when one would be distracted and not feeling like reading but I tried to discipline myself. There were times that I had to remove my mattress from the bed and slept on the iron bed in order not to be comfortable when sleeping, so I would be forced to wake up in the middle of the night to read. More importantly, I always prayed before reading.
What were the distractions?
They were mainly from friends and social activities on campus. People say I always look serious and I thought that scared guys from me. That made some of my friends to always refer to me as an iron lady because I love to do my things without any distractions and I love doing things to perfection. But it paid off at the end of the day and I thank God I have something to show for it.
Does it mean you weren’t in any relationship?
I didn’t have the time and that was one of the distractions I tried to avoid.
Does it mean guys didn’t approach you or they did and you simply ignored them?
They did, but since I was not ready for it, I turned them down.
Given how much you tried to avoid distractions, were you sociable at all?
Yes, I was. I was involved in some social activities. For instance, I was a member of the Google developer group, JABU chapter, and I represented the school in a competition in 2015. I participated in other social activities on campus. At my leisure, I attended church because I love being in church. Usually, after lectures or leaving the library, the next place was the chapel. I was a worker in the chapel and I served in three different units, including the prayer unit, evangelism unit, and choir and I was a member of the executive of the chapel from my first year to the third year.
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How tough was it for you to make first class?
Nothing good comes easily; I faced many challenges, reading and going the extra mile while others were sleeping or giving priority to things outside their academic studies. I burnt the midnight candle and it is the result of all those efforts that I am celebrating to date. Though there were courses that really gave me issues in my second and fourth years, thank God I was able to read and pass these courses excellently.
To what extent did your parents influence your achievement?
My father always advised that whatever you’re doing, make sure you devote your time to it and make sure you become a genius in that field. He would always say one should have a good command of the courses to become the best and that counsel kept me going because each time I remembered those words, I was geared up, even when I felt like relaxing. It was a propeller for me. My mum has also been there for me; she’s my prayer warrior. At times, when I had issues in any of my courses, she would pray for me and advise me on how to go about it. She has always been helping me and she has remained supportive like a true mother.
You chose UNILAG which is a public university in your first attempt at the UTME application form, why did you dump the idea of going to a public school?
While I was in secondary school, I always told my mates and friends that if I didn’t end up in a federal university, I would attend a private university. I chose Joseph Ayo Babalola University because the first time I saw the name of the university on a bus, and I also saw the students in the bus, I admired them greatly and I fell in love with the school. Since then, I had been nursing that dream in my mind that one day I would be one of the students of the school.
JABU is one of the private universities offering various entrepreneurial programs, which of the entrepreneurial programs did you engage in?
Fashion designing; I can tell you that I am doing perfectly well in that program. I did some work when I was in school and when I got back home, I continued. Thank God, one of my sisters is in that line, so I joined her and we have been doing great in that area.
Now as a graduate, would you want to continue?
Not really, at least for now. But I’m glad I have acquired some skills in that line. If in the future I feel like going into that area, it won’t be difficult for me. Again, if I don’t use the skills for commercial purposes in the future, I can be sewing for myself and members of my family.
What are your future plans?
Presently, I’m undergoing the mandatory one-year youth service program in Lagos. After that, I would go for my master’s degree. I plan to be an academic because I love lecturing. I want to be a lecturer and I want to impact the knowledge that some people have impacted in me into others. My passion for imparting knowledge has inspired my plan to establish a foundation when I was in school and I am praying to God to make it a successful project where I will be able to empower females.
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What were the memorable moments you won’t forget in a hurry?
My happiest moment on campus was when I saw my first semester result and I realized that I had the best result in my department and in the college. It was a great day for me and I was very happy with myself. One other memorable moment was when I lost one of my colleagues. I was so sad that I had to pray to God to see us through the program and we thank God that He answered our prayers.
How easy was it for you to adapt to the rules and regulations in a private university?
The school is a faith-based institution, so coming from a faith-based home, the rules were not really difficult for me to adapt to. I’m already used to rules from home. For instance, in my house, there is no room for indiscipline and indecency, and that was how we were brought up, so getting to the university and meeting such rules against indecency and indiscipline was easy to live with.
Many aspects of Computer Science are now being offered as short term courses offline and online. In the long run, do you see the likelihood that it might reduce the prestige surrounding the course?
No, I don’t think so. Most short-term courses are just one or two aspects of computer science (a bit of what computer science entails). Computer science in its entirety cannot be learned on a short-term basis. There will always be a difference between those who took short-term courses in computer science and those who studied computer science as a degree course in the university.
What major aspect of the Nigerian system do you think the use of information technology has not been well deployed in?
It is our voting system. In Nigeria, information technology has not been fully deployed in our voting system, I mean electronic voting, which is being used effectively in some other developing countries for elections. It saves citizens the stress of going to polling booth to vote and it reduces incidences of violence during elections. The government and other stakeholders need to work on this; Nigeria has resources and every other thing to do it.