20180521

I Made First Class Despite Distractions - UNILAG’s valedictorian

They were the cynosure of all eyes as they stepped out to receive their awards for academic excellence. The four University of Lagos (UNILAG) valedictorians – Ginika Okoroafor, Oludare Babawale, Bosun Roy-Layinde and Jeffery Matthew – got the highest Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.97. They were honoured at the institution’s 2018 convocation. 

Behind their success stories are compelling tales of strength, hardwork and perseverance.

The Nation's JANE Chijioke and Daniel Chukwu report.

You can play and still work hard, as shown by Ginika Okoroafor’s academic feat. She was one of the best-graduating students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) at its 2018 convocation.

Ginika was the cynosure of all eyes as she stepped out to receive top academic honours and awards. She was among the four who finished with a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 4.97 – the highest score in the graduating set.

Others were Oludare Babawale of Chemistry Department, Bosun Roy-Layinde, Chemical Engineering Department and Jeffery Matthew, Biochemistry Department.

Ginika, who finished from the Department of Early Childhood Education, said she partied all through her stay in the school, noting that the feat would not have been worth it if she did not socialise.

She said she was an introvert until she met a group of mentors, who told her that academic experience would not be complete without socialisation.

She said: “I had been an introvert since my secondary days. I had a worldview that life should always be about books until I gained admission into UNILAG. I nurtured the same worldview until I met a group of mentors, who made me believe a life without social value is not complete. I learnt it was important for me to develop socially.

“That is allowing school to pass through you. When I realised the value of being socially informed from my mentors, who are also doing very well in their fields, I told myself I was going to tap into it. I started making more friends; I started attending social functions.”

Ginika, however, warned students on the kind of social groups they should join. According, to her, social groups that cannot help students realise their academic pursuit should not be encouraged.

She said: “I chose the kind of people I moved with. We are like-minds and have the same goal academically. Students must be wary of the company they keep. They must not interact with people who have different ideas about education in the name of socialisation. I believe brilliance can’t be limited by going to parties, but students must move with like-minds.”

The 28-year-old said her academic journey was not smooth, adding that she worked to fend for herself while in school.

“I have always been an independent person. I come from an average family where not too many things are made available. That was the way I was brought up. This made me to combine schooling with work,” she said.

Before their final examination, Oludare was diagnosed of perel anal abscess (infection of rectum), which could have prevented him from sitting for his final examination. Early diagnosis of the ailment helped him to manage the condition through out the exam period.

He said: “I had a lot of setbacks during my final year in school. I spent more in the hospital than I spent in classroom. After I was diagnosed of perel anal abscess, I underwent correction surgeries at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and I was absent from school multiple times. Even while I was on sickbed, I didn’t give up reading. I summoned the strength to study.

“Even when I was writing my final examinations, I was still visiting the hospital. I was astonished when I was told I emerged the best graduating student in my department. It is a victory given to me by God.”

The 24-year-old said he studied hard and smart, noting that he achieved the feat through perseverance and self-discipline.

“If there are a thousand tips for success, one of the top most would be discipline. The fact is that many people know how to achieve success, but majority don’t know how to put the knowledge into action. Failure doesn’t mean everything has ended. If you persevere, you will definitely get to the top,” Oludare said.

Jeffery said his academic feat was inspired by a poem titled: Good better best. The 21-year-old said he knew his ability early and worked towards achieving the best.

He said: “I know my ability and also my weaknesses, which made me to prepare early for the best. I never looked at how others were studying, because what works for somebody else may not work for me. So, I was able to understand my strength and I used it to my advantage. I knew reading for many hours usually resulted in stress for me. So, I devoted little time for reading, but I ensured I read what was important in each course I took.”

Addressing the graduands, the Vice-Chancellor (VC), Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, urged them to be good ambassadors of the institution, advising them not to rest on their oars in achieving more excellence.

The best four received awards of excellence from UNILAG Alumni Association in addition to N50,000 each.