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I had a favourite spot in the School library — Babcock University first-class graduate


Umah Muhammed
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Ifemebenotu Okafor, 20, made first class from Babcock University after scoring 4.88 CGPA from the Department of Economics. She tells TUNDE AJAJA about her academic journey and plans for the future
You were the second best student in your set; did you know about it all along?

I didn’t know until convocation but it was a pleasant surprise. Our convocation was a virtual event, so it was when they announced the best student from each faculty that someone on a platform I belonged to pointed out that my CGPA was the second highest. I actually planned to make a first-class result because I like to aim high. I reminded myself that if I didn’t make first class eventually, I would have second class upper division. So, I worked hard and it paid off. After every lecture, I would go through my lecture notes for revision. That way, I didn’t need a crash programme when exam was close. Most of the time, I was in the library, reading through different textbooks to have a broader knowledge of what we were taught.

You once said your broad understanding of the course helped; could you expatiate on that?

Our vice-chancellor used to say that your first lecture determines a lot. During that class, our lecturer told us about the course and what was expected of us. So, I worked hard to have a solid foundation and have a broad understanding of the course, which helped me throughout. I observed that sometimes, some students’ grades start to drop as they move up the ladder because the course tends to get tougher but my case was different. I started strong and I remained so because I had adequate knowledge of the course from my first year.

Were there times you had fears your CGPA could drop?

There was a lot of anxiety (laughs). My first GPA was 4.82 and two other persons in my class had the same GPA. Naturally, I didn’t want my CGPA to drop and it wasn’t a competition with others, but I just wanted the best for myself. Thankfully, in my second year, I had 5.0GPA in both semesters and that really helped me. There were fluctuations along the way; I had 4.71 at some point because of some distractions, but I kept working hard.

Would you say your commitment to your academic works has always been self-driven?

I can’t remember my parents driving or coercing me to study, but my dad always encouraged me to have a workable study plan and that helped me. He was the one who told me the difference between reading and studying. He said it’s good to set questions for yourself after reading because that would tell you how well you understood the course. That was my junior secondary school days, and from the moment I adopted that approach, my performance improved. Also, I read people’s stories. In the first semester of my second year, one of our lecturers congratulated a lady for having a 5.00 GPA. At that moment, I felt it was impossible to have A in all your courses, in the university? But when I came to terms with the fact that it was possible, I decided to have it too, and that session, I had 5.00 GPA in the two semesters. So, our motivation matters and commitment to making things happen is even more important.

What were the awards you won?

I won the Dean’s award, Best Graduating Student in Veronica Adeleke School of Social Sciences; Best Graduating Student in the Department of Economics and the Award of Academic Excellence, Economics Department in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Would you have felt bad if you didn’t make first class?

I would not have felt bad, because for me, it’s the knowledge that matters. All along, I studied hard to have a deep understanding of the course and all it entails, not just to pass exams. So, there would have been no need to feel bad because the knowledge I acquired is intact.

Some people believe that one must have had very good results in previous schools to excel in the university; what was your performance like in your previous schools?

I received an award upon graduation from Babcock University High School for being the second best graduating student. I scored 231 in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and I had four distinctions in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination.

What attracted you to Economics?

Economics wasn’t my dream course while growing up. My interest was in Banking and Finance but as I grew older I began loving economics, and what I like most about economics is its quantitative and problem-solving nature.

Was there any challenge you faced as an undergraduate?

Yes, juggling my academic activity with my extracurricular activities.

What were the activities?

I was a member of Babcock University Trendz Club; founding member and executive member of Babcock Finance Society (2019/2020); member of Lighthouse Chapel Babcock University ushering team; Head of Department of Sanctuary Keeping, Lighthouse Chapel, Babcock University (2019/2020); Financial Secretary of Economics Students Association of Babcock University (2018/2019). Most times, I wrote a ‘To-do list’ in my diary for each day and that allowed me to manage my time judiciously.

Given the many things you were involved in, what reading pattern worked for you?

I usually got up by 3am on week days to revise my lecture notes from the previous day. In addition, before and after my classes, I went through all my lecture notes and that prepared me for any impromptu test. On the average, I dedicate about five hours to reading and seven hours to sleeping. Apart from these, the library was my second home. I even had a favourite spot in the library. To avoid distraction, I used to leave my phone in the hall or keep my phone with a friend in another part of the library, just for me to stay focused. I also conducted tutorials for students and it helped me to understand the courses better because a certain level of understanding is required to tutor someone.

How did you use your leisure?

I had other ways of relaxing. I did not watch movies on weekdays; so I relaxed by watching movies and catching up with series on weekends.

What would you consider as the most extreme thing you did for your academics; some go to the bush to read?

(Laughs) I cannot recall any extreme sacrifice I made for my academics but I used to look for serene and secluded places to read outside the library. My sleeping pattern is weird; I wake up from 1am to 3am every day except on weekends. So sometimes, I could sit outside my room to read and everywhere would be quiet. We had 24 hours of power supply, so that helped.

What were your most memorable moments?

My most memorable moment was having a 5.00 GPA for the first time in the first semester of my second year.

You are a licensed member of the Association of Accounting Technicians West Africa. Can you tell us about that and why you took that step?

My dad would always say that having only a first degree with no certifications or professional affiliations is almost equivalent to a secondary school leaving certificate in Nigeria of today. I started writing the first stage of the Accounting Technicians Scheme West Africa exams in my first year and I got certified in my third year. It was quite taxing because I had to attend both ATSWA classes and my lectures. Both were not related and there were times the classes clashed, so it wasn’t so easy, but anytime I missed ATSWA lectures I would go to my friends in the Accounting Department to put me through.

Can you recall how your parents felt when you told them you made first class?

They were excited and extremely proud. They knew from my first semester that I was on first-class grade and they encouraged me to keep it up and not to carry any course over, but they didn’t put me under any pressure that I must be the overall best.

What is your advice to students who wish to have your kind of result?

Students can create a time for reading and stick to what works for them. It doesn’t mean reading all the time, but that the time that works for you is fully maximised. Students should also submit their assignments and projects on time and they should pay attention to those assignments. It’s part of learning.

What are your aspirations?

I want to become a chartered accountant, a chartered financial analyst and a management consultant. I also want to obtain a master’s degree in economic development. I aspire to work in the World Bank someday.

Source: Punch Newspaper

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