I wasn’t always first in school —Africa’s youngest Ph.D holder

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By Tare Youdeowei

AT a time when the nation is plagued with all sorts of challenges, some youths seek to make the nation proud. One of such Nigerians is Olaoluwa Hallowed Oluwadara who at 24, is Doctor of Mathematics, with a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 5, thus making him the youngest African with a doctorate degree.

*Olaoluwa Hallowed Oluwadara

*Olaoluwa Hallowed Oluwadara

To achieve this, he surpassed Opeyemi Shodipe of Babcock University who at 25 had a doctorate with a CGPA of 4.98.

The Ekiti State indigene born in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR), who recently convoked from the University of Lagos, Akoka, as the Best Graduating PhD holder, has two first degrees in mathematics and physics which were run simultaneously and master’s degree in the same courses, also run simultaneously.

From missionary parents and the last of five children, Olaoluwa, in an interview with Vanguard Learning, shared how he achieved this feat amidst challenges and distractions.

Having been born and bred in a French- speaking country, how did you cope with academics in English language?
When I was in CAR, I was studying French in school but speaking English at home, so it was a smooth transition from French to English.

However, French-speaking countries have a more traditional and rigorous system of education, while the English system welcomes change and is more into modern mathematics which I like. The capacity to adapt matters a lot and if one works hard, adapting is not a problem.

Experience in PhD
It was challenging but very instructive. I learnt a lot about collaboration, mentoring, and the importance of God in one’s endeavours. There were times when I was discouraged and needed my supervisor, parents and colleagues to encourage me.

One of such instances was at the beginning of the programme. It seemed that all the topics had been researched and there is nothing left to do except the complicated ones beyond one’s ability. Also sometimes when you send your paper to international journals, they return it for one reason or the other. Though it does not mean you are not good enough, but they have their reasons. That can be very discouraging. Persistence kept me.

Distractions
There were distractions but not restricted to Nigeria. They are universal. Friends, male and female, can be distracting. Mainly females but I am a born again Christian and I believe that when it comes to relationships, it is best to wait for God’s time for a proper relationship which is marriage. They might not mean anything bad, but it can be distracting.

Good job offers also come that would make you slow down your work. Fortunately, I was sponsored by Deeper Life Bible Church under the approval of the overseer, Pastor William F. Kumuyi so there was no need to work.

Past performance
I used to read the textbooks of my elder ones, so that made me generally smarter than my peers, albeit, I was not always first in school but my performance improved greatly when I entered university at age 15 to study mathematics. I have two bachelors and master’s degrees and it took me three years to get my PhD.

The Future
I believe it would not take me long to attain professorship. I might add another doctorate degree, maybe in mathematical physics. I would also serve the house of God while working.

Guiding principle
According to the Bible, whatever your hand finds to do; do it with all thy might. That’s my motto. It keeps me going.

Advice: Never give up. Be focused, diligent, disciplined and have God at the center of all your endeavours. Olaoluwa Hallowed Oluwadara won University of Bangui’s All Time Best Student Award from the Department of Mathematics (B.Sc), Best B.Sc Student Award in Physics, 2007 and Best M.Sc Awards in Physics and Mathematics respectively in 2008. He currently is a Research Fellow of the Mathematical Analysis and Optimisation Research Group.

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