Struggle stories of First Class students: The testimonies of University of Ibadan’s trio

By Ogungbile Emmanuel Oludotun

EDITOR’S NOTE: Success does not come unbidden, as the saying goes. But this does not mean success will, at all times, come seamlessly. For Temitope, Bukunmi and Fatimah, who are First Class graduates of LARIS at the University of Ibadan for the 2018/2019  session, their academic pursuit did not come on a silver platter. There were many challenges to overcome, which they did. They trod the rough roads of success and came out victorious. Their stories are an attestation to the maxim of “winners never quit.” Peep into their success worlds as the veteran journalist, Ogungbile Emmanuel, beams light on them.

Obviously, the First Class Degree is the highest level of degree you can obtain at the undergraduate level of any school. This has made the First-Class degree voraciously sought after by the undergraduates and also ardently demanded by the employers of all kinds of industries and disciplines. Interestingly, at the University of Ibadan, the degree can only be attained by students who achieve an average of relatively 70 percent in all of the registered courses. I will agree with other savants that acquiring a First Class distinction is a method of proving your academic prowess, dedication to study, and determination to become the very best.

Howbeit, obtaining it is somewhat a challenging task, most especially at the University of Ibadan, but never impossible, anyway. Obtaining a First Class honours is, on every occasion, an after-effect of self-application. Whether with serious or unserious intentions, it is ostentatious that every student who gets admitted into the university wants to graduate with a First Class Degree. Notwithstanding, the reality is that the total number of students who graduate with a First-Class degree every year is less than the total number of students whose ambition it is to acquire a First Class Degree from the word go. 

Today, testimonies from First-Class students rate that it is not as difficult as some people consider it to be. However, it could get more difficult depending on your course of study, your lecturers, your mental disposition, finances, rigid school policies, study pattern, lackadaisical attitudes and other unforeseen circumstances. Again, It can be incredibly tight, maintaining an average of 70% as the work gets progressively harder, most especially at the penultimate level. The goal here is to set your sail from the onset, remain focused on the target, never give up, and stay hungry for success.

Today, I present to you a front row account and testimonies of Onakoya Temitope Daniel, Okeowo Joke Fatimoh and Oyelola Serah Bukunmi of the Library, Archival and Information Studies (LARIS), University of Ibadan, who passed through the needle’s eye before they could get the highest academic grade in the University. For the trio, things did not go as planned- they settled for lives other than those they intended to have, endured financial challenges, and took up various ways to make ends meet. But all these did not stop them from aspiring for excellence, as they share awe-inspiring their stories with Ogungbile Emmanuel Oludotun.

Life is good? Maybe that will be an ambiguous and an almost statement for Onakoya Temitope Daniel in his childhood days vis-a-vis adulthood. The first child of three children in a family of five didn’t find it easy making ends meet as a leader and also a jinx breaker, howbeit he still survived through the unapologetic effort of his parents.

 “My father was a motorcyclist and my mother was a hotel attendant when I was born. It was same work my parents were doing when they gave birth to my siblings. So, to take care of us with that little amount was hard, not to talk of sending us all to school, but my father told me that he has promised himself to send all his children to school no matter the circumstances.” He said.

He completed his secondary school education in 2009, but couldn’t take it further as he didn’t make all of the required papers in his O’ level exams, which resulted to his 8 attempts writing WAEC before he could finally have his “missing papers.” Even at that, he still struggled at home again for additional 5 years, before he could got admitted to the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic.

“I completed my secondary school in 2009. I did 7 different O’ level exams, but got lucky by the 8th one which I passed successfully, even after that, my father didn’t want me to attend a Polytechnic, it was when he realized that I had spent 5 years at home before he permitted me to leave for Moshood Abiola Polytechnic where I spent two years, till I finally got my admission at the University of Ibadan,” He said.

For Okeowo Joke Fatimoh, who was born in the late 90’s into the family of seven. She  didn’t also have everything beautifully growing up, as she lost one of her parent in her teenage years, which prompted her to depend on family members for support. Therein, after her senior secondary school examination which wasn’t so good, she had to resit for another exam that eventually paved way for her admission into the University of Ibadan.

She said: “I completed my secondary education with a not too good result so I had to resit, in which I passed. Then, one of my relative got jamb form for me, I sat for the exam and had 227 and he was like he knew someone who did LARIS as a course, that I should choose it, since I just feel like going to school I don’t even know what it really means Alhamdulillah I did my post utme and was admitted on merit.”

Also for Oyelola Serah Bukunmi, who is the first child of three children, she rose from a humble background like others. After completing her secondary School education, she wasn’t admitted into her dream school(University Of Ibadan) which compelled her to choosing a College Of Education, albeit against her wish.

“I had my primary and secondary school at my home town(Ogbomoso), then when I wasn’t admitted to my dream school(UI), a brother of mine then got a NCE form for me. I was not happy about it at all, but he did everything for me, I only went to write the entrance exam. Yet, I didn’t read at all for the entrance exam, because I wanted to fail, I don’t want to attend College Of Education. Fortunately or Unfortunately, I had 72 and the cut of mark for the course he picked for me was 40. Boom, I burst into tears. I really wanted to fail.” She said.

Hence, asking her the question of how she eventually traced her way into her dream school. She replied that, “Yeah, I didn’t. I wasn’t really serious in my first year. I attended lectures absentmindedly, did assignments anyhow, wrote tests somehow but I still didn’t fail any of the 22 courses I registered in my first year. Then, in the long run, I met friends, serious ones, and then most of our lecturers used to hammer it to our ears then that coming to that College is a waste of time, money, energy and everything one pulled together to attend if you do not proceed to the University. Then, I had a change of heart, was serious and I came out of college with very good grades, till I came into the University of Ibadan through direct entry.” 

Wherein, having achieved their dream of ending up at the University of Ibadan. They were asked to share some of the most challenging stories en route to getting a First Class degree.

Thus, Onakoya Temitope has this to say, “The first challenge I had in school was feeding. My parents then use to give me a very little amount of money for a month to take care of my self and you know there is this saying that “it is only when you eat that book can sink into your brain”. So I found it difficult sometimes to read and study but I was determined and focused, so I didn’t let that affect my education.

“Secondly, I like reading in the midnight but It is obvious I have an impairment with my left eye which always affect me a lot, as I don’t sleep. So I find it difficult to read in the midnight because if I do not sleep, the eyes brings it problem in the morning. And I can’t also read during the day because I get easily distracted.

“Also, concerning assignments, I did not have a smartphone at a time in 100l and 200l. Getting materials to complete assignments and complementing class note was a problem. Sometimes I make use of my friend’s phone or laptop but I make sure I complete all,” He said.

For Fatimoh, she said: ‘They were really challenging, very challenging”

For Bukunmi, while speaking on her challenges also, She said: “It was really challenging. the financial issue was the first, my parents had two of us that entered University at the same time, so I had to relax my needs most times over the needs of my siblings. I had to deny myself some meals to make things work.

“My second challenge was the meeting the “first and the best” pressure that comes tete a tete with the University. I heard it even before I entered UI, that UI is tough, making good grades is hard and stuffs like that too.

“Also, I had the challenge of meeting the right set of people. I don’t want to fall into wrong hands. Thank God I made the right choice, anyway. I think those are the basic challenges I faced.”

Intriguingly, as most of them obviously came from a humble background, where ends looks hard to meet. They were asked the question of if they have ever had the thought of quitting school as an undergraduate. Tough Onakoya has this to say, 

“I never thought of quitting, however I had myself motivated through three things.

“I knew where I was coming from, most especially my background. And for your information again, no one has ever gone to an higher institution in my family (my father’s side). So my first motivation was that I want to be the first graduate in my family and not just a graduate, a celebrated one”. 

“Second, I said my parent suffered a lot just to send their children to school. So coming to school and not graduating with something good is a waste of their suffering.

“Third, my parent always tell me this whenever I go home to visit them “Temitope when you go back to school, always remember the son of whom you are” that always ring in my head, you know,” He said.

For Fatimah, answering the question of quitting, 

She said: “Yes, due to poor finances, which was in 200l but it only lasted for a week. Yet, one thing that motivate me was that I am a pace setter since I am the first girl child who has a university education in the family, though some has joined later.”

For Bukumi also, she said:

“Yeah, I thought of quitting, especially in 300l. Things were extremely tough, very tough for that matter. Talk about the finances, I feel the workload was also too much, and I wasn’t sleeping and eating well.”

Wherefore, answering the question of what special thing they did, that made them got First Class

Temitope said, ” Well, one of my lecturers always say “add value to whatever you do”. I always make sure I add value to everything I do. Concerning notes, I go online and gather more information about any topic been taught in class. 

Then, about reading, I make sure I read each course 6 times before exams. So I know everything inside my note. I know how I wrote it, the placement and all. There is no way I won’t be able to write anything in the exam. 

Another thing I did that helped me was teaching some of my colleagues what I have read… I read my notes and make use of it to teach them. By that, I can’t forget the things I have read.”

For Fatimah, she said,” I can’t really say, what worked for me might not work for others, all I do is to read and prepare for the next class as well as sourcing for materials, I don’t like reading past question so that it won’t narrow my reading.”

While Bukunmi said, “I can’t say I did anything differently. I think it’s just God’s grace and favour.”

To the question if how their parents received the news, 

Tope had this to say, 

” My CGPA is not a suprise to them anyway, they have been following my progress since 100l. So they know I have been on first class since 100l. So what they do always is to pray for me to finish with first class, which I did”.

For Fatimah, 

“Yes, they were definitely happy which is the joy of parenthood.

And Bukumi,

“I haven’t told them, I wanted it to be a surprise, and I want to show evidence (statement of result).. But I told my uncle already and he was extremely happy. Super proud of me”

In their messages to undergraduates who also want to finish with a First Class

Tope motivated by saying, “If one is determined and focused, I dont think there should be something that will make the person give up on getting a first class. Though it’s not easy.

“God first, then allow one thing to be your motivation. Whenever You see or remember that thing, it triggers you to achieve that goal you have set. Whenever I remember home, I tighten my belt.”

For Fatimah, 

“Perseverance and contentment. Whatever one is going through in this life one should just persevere, it does not last long especially when you know what you are did and be satisfy with whatever little you have.”

And Bukumi,

“Never say never, aim high, do your best, and believe in yourself. Make friends that are on the same path with you. Have fun too(everything is not about book), and most importantly, be a lover of God, tell him what you want often and often.”

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