I battled depression after one-semester suspension from university — UNILORIN first-class graduate
Busari Ajibola graduated with a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.65 from the Department of Civil Engineering, University of Ilorin, Kwara State, for the 2019/2020 academic session. He tells ALEXANDER OKERE why he didn’t allow the challenges he faced to derail his goal
Many universities have yet to organise convocation ceremonies for the 2019/2020 academic session due to the protracted ASUU strike and the COVID-19 pandemic. How did you confirm that you made first-class honours?
In UNILORIN, your graduating status on the school portal comes first when talking about knowing your graduating class. So, I confirmed my first class firstly on the school portal and secondly from my statement of results.
Did you already know what your grade was before you received the statement of results?
Yes, I got to know on my school portal some weeks before collecting my statement of results.
Can you describe how you felt when you saw your results?
I felt indifferent because I wasn’t expecting anything less. But the expressions of joy and happiness by my family and friends really got to me. So, seeing them happy made me happy too.
Do you know what your Cumulative Grade Point Average is?
Yes. I graduated with a CGPA of 4.65 out of 5.0.
Based on your year of admission, you ought to have graduated in 2019. Can you tell us exactly what happened?
Life happened, and I am so happy the storm is over now.
What really happened?
It all started when we began to hear that our final-year first semester results were being released. Normally, we, as finalists, were not meant to see our results until our graduating status showed up on the school portal. But when I heard people talking about their grades, I asked how they came about such and they told me about using the school portal’s source code to check. I started using the source code until I heard about a link that would display your spreadsheet for you, right from your first year to your current level. With that, you would not only be able to know your grade, but also be able to know your score in each course and your CGPA, as well. As curiosity wouldn’t let me be, I had to plead with a person I knew had the links for the whole of the university; I pleaded with him for weeks before he finally gave me the link. I was happy I could finally see my spreadsheet anytime I so wish, forgetting the fact that we were meant to wait for our graduating status and that getting to see my results before then might actually be illegal.
On August 16, 2019, about two weeks after getting my spreadsheet link, a friend messaged me on WhatsApp that he couldn’t log into his portal again, that I should try logging in so he could confirm whether it was a general problem or not. I logged in and got back to him that I was able to log in. On getting back to my Chrome browser to log out of my portal, I decided to check if any other course had been released, because the last result released in my department was already more than a week before that day. On clicking on the link, I saw a message notifying me that I had been reported to the management for using an unauthorised link to check unpublished results. And that was when the troubles started.
You said you fought depression during the last few months in 2019 up till the end of 2020. Was it connected to this issue?
My final year was one of the hardest for me, so much so that I had to support myself financially. I took up tutoring in a centre and although it was something I love doing, that, along with my project work, affected my study hours a lot. As of that period, I had a prayer point that no matter what grade I would graduate with, I just wanted to graduate with my mates. Exams came and I read very well but I wasn’t sure how my results would be, with the new study method I adopted. That was one of the reasons I was so curious to know how I fared in my exams.
What happened after you were reported for illegally checking your results?
The aftermath was us (including others involved) getting suspended for a semester. That I couldn’t graduate with my mates demoralised me, but then, life goes on. The suspension was meant to end in March, 2020. So, I just decided to take up a teaching position for those five months with the hope that we would be mobilised for the National Youth Service Corps programme in March or April, 2020. The week our suspension ended happened to be the week the Academic Staff Union of Universities began its industrial action, and the processing of our results was no longer possible. Since then, until the end of August, 2020, it was one rumour today and another tomorrow, so much so that almost everyone affected got fed up. Even though I am naturally a very cheerful and upbeat person, I got broken sometimes when that kind of heart-breaking news surfaced. I had to avoid circumstances where people would ask me when I was going to be mobilised for NYSC. It was hard seeing my mates serving (while I was not), it was hard seeing my people worried about me, and it was hard being involved in this whole issue. Not taking part in the convocation in 2019 and completing national service in 2020 were big nightmares for me.
Was there a time you almost gave up?
No, there was nothing like that. I was already prepared for the worst. I have always known that life is not a bed of roses; it is full of ups and downs.
What form of support did you get from your family?
I got every form of support you can think of. I wasn’t even blamed for the whole thing because they know my kind of person. They knew it was a mistake, and were so concerned and supportive throughout the period.
You said you were depressed. Were there times your family and friends were worried that you might be contemplating suicide?
(Laughs) There was no such time. If I hadn’t shared the problem and no one told you, you wouldn’t have noticed I was passing through such hard times. I had to man up.
How did you manage to snap out of the challenges?
I didn’t snap out until I saw my graduating status. It was only after then that I ceased being worried about the whole thing. But throughout the challenge, I got engaged in teaching and some other activities and I had many cheerful people around me.
What did these challenges teach you about life?
Basically, these experiences taught me to be more careful and patient, and that is why we should always hope for the best, we should also be prepared for the unknown.
Securing admission into a highly-rated university to study one of the most sought-after engineering courses in Nigeria is a tough challenge for many Nigerians. What’s your story here?
I passed all my entry exams well, especially the post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination, and as it is obtainable with a large percentage of aspirants, I was not so certain I would be admitted. But then, it was easy at the end of the day.
At what point did you decide you would study Civil Engineering?
Aside all those childhood ambitions, I have always wanted to be a civil engineer. I chose it myself and that was with all certainty. It aligned perfectly with my vision.
What did you set out to achieve in your first year as an undergraduate?
Nothing much; at that time, I just wouldn’t accept failure. And God so good, I surpassed my expectations.
Was making a first class one of such targets?
It wasn’t at all.
What were the challenges you had to contend with as a Civil Engineering student in your first year?
Living outside my home, getting accommodation very close to campus, school stress, congestion in lecture rooms, and some other things were the challenges I faced in those days.
Was there anything risky or unusual you had to do to meet your academic target?
There was nothing beyond the normal. It was necessary to avoid distractions and discover myself. That was all I did and it did pay off.
Did you find it difficult balancing social and religious activities with academic work?
No. My normal social and religious life wasn’t affected. But generally, I’m not that social.
Now that you have an excellent first degree, do you intend to pursue a career in Civil Engineering?
Sure. That has always been my passion. Right from time, the beauty of knowledge has always been in its application.
Is lecturing an option for you?
Yes, it is, because it’s a good way to impact many lives. For me, the joy of living is impacting positively on the lives of many, and lecturing is sure to give one an avenue to do just that.