By Dayo Adesulu
Ayodele Deborah Olufunmi, 21,Â did not only emergeÂ the best student among the 2008/2009 graduates at the University of Lagos but also graduated with GPA of 5.96 in geography, the first ever in the history of the institution.
Though the institution produced 87 students with First Class Hons this year, however none of them could match Deborah. . It was gathered that Deborah had As in all her courses from first year of admission to final year except two courses where she hadÂ Bs.
During her valedictory speech, she said her sojourn on the campus has instilled in her the virtues of discipline, hard work and diligence, adding that she can stand before kings and honourable men as worthy ambassadors of the University of Lagos. She showered encomium on the institution for making available N50,000 annual grant on yearly basis for students with CGPA of 4.5 and above, automatic hostel accommodation and other opportunities aimed at encouraging sustained academic performance, adding that on the basis of this performance she was accorded the privilege of representing UNILAG at the World Studentsâ€™ Leaders Summit in East London, 2007.
She noted in her speech that the impact of the institutionâ€™s conducive learning environment was a boost toÂ studentsâ€™ academic performance.
Her words: â€œThe Education Trust Fund projects such as the Centre for Information Technology and Systems and the Creative Arts buildingÂ aid learning and research in the university.â€
She used the medium to call on stakeholders in education sector, corporate bodies and wealthy individuals to assist in hostels building so that more students can reside on campus during the session. According to Deborah, this, to a large extent will help in improving studentsâ€™ academic performance.
She said more laboratory facilities especially for large classes in the Faculties of Science and Engineering are required, adding that the department of Geography requires serious consideration with regard to laboratory development and enhancement in the areas of climatology and geography information system in order to be relevant in the training of experts to meet the contemporary challenges in the world.
Deborah did not hesitate to bring to the notice of the VC the delay in releasing studentsâ€™ results, appealing that the results should be made available to students and parents/guardians at the end of every semester, stressing that many students have helplessly groaned in pain without any respite for years.
She therefore encouraged the presentÂ undergraduates to always give God the glory as He gives the power to succeed, adding that the desire to excel, passion for the course of study, the determination, diligence, discipline and the ability to go the extra mile are the keys to success in human endeavors.
DeborahÂ said â€œI created my own kind of environment where I could engage in study. If my room is noisy, I just had to leave for a better environment. After reading, I spent some time for activities including lectures and family commitment. I have a mother who teaches mathematics at Comprehensive High School.
She is a source of encouragement to me especially during preparation for common entrance and school exams. Before going to the university, she helped me solve difficult mathematic subjects and while on campus, she and my father gave me so many useful advice. I had just one strong academic competitor in my class. He isÂ name Afolayana Olamide, very brilliant but, by Godâ€™s grace I came top in my class. Although I am not the youngest in my class but God just decided to favour me.
In 2007, I was privileged to represent UNILAG at the World Studentsâ€™ Leaders Summit, and I discovered that lecture hours there was not as loaded as ours. They were not having the eight to six lectures period. Besides, some days were given as lecturesÂ free days which made it easy for students to refresh themselves ahead of lectures days. I am thinking of doing a management course in my second degree, most likely in United Kingdom.
IÂ want to be in a position where I can be involve in decision making. If I am placed as Minister of Education, I will like to tackle educational problems from the grass root as every level of education is important because without a sound secondary school foundation, the university will be in shamble. I have nothing to be ashamed of that my father is a police man because he is not like some policemen on the street who collect N20 at check points. I do not remember having any challenge in life that is beyond Godâ€™s control.
What people call challenges are normal things people go through. Though I was on scholarship nevertheless I always believe that when you lack anything, you have to manage what you have.â€
Asked if she has boy friend, she replied in the affirmative, stressing that her relationship with them is not romantic boy friendship. â€œI have boy friends because I believe in having healthy relationship and not romantic boy friendship.â€ Deborah said.
Similarly, other First Class degree holders had these to say regardingÂ their academic successes:Â Faviour Apuruchi, said hard workÂ is the secret of her success. According to Favour, she knows from inception that itâ€™s only hard work and God that can help her excel. â€œ I read night and day. It was not easy combining Mathematics in Science Department and Education course in Education Department. â€œBoys showed advances toward me but I did not yield because I believe, it could lead to immorality,â€ Favour said.
Mr. Abu Clement Ushie, a self sponsored Economic student who bagged First Class with GPA ofÂ 4.66 said it was not easy combining work with studies. According to Clement who cultivated the habit of reading anywhere since time was not his friend said â€œCombination of hard work and Godâ€™s intervention made me succeeded. I recalled that in one of our examinations, students scripts were torn due to failure to submitÂ examination papersÂ when we were asked to stop writing but mine was miraculously preserved.â€
If that had happened to me, I would not have been a First Class holder today, Clement said. â€œThanks to Chevron, Shell and UNILAG who made me a beneficiary of their scholarship scheme.â€ he added.
Similarly, Mr Olarewaju Emupenne, who made First Class in Political Science with GPA ofÂ 4.62 said he identified God as a major factor to his success but nonetheless, reads a lot and spent much money on books because reading makes a man.
According to Olarewaju, he had financial challenges because he came from a poor background who could not take full responsibility of his education, noting that, there are times he battled with ill-health which sometimes occurred during examination period, adding that during his final semester, three students out of four aspiringÂ First Class division dropped, he was the only one who survived it. Asked what he like to be in future, he said because he has flair for writing, he would like to be a journalist.