I made use of daytime as I couldn’t read at night –Ofure, UI’s first female graduate with 7.00CGPA
With 7.00 Cumulative Grade Point Average, 21-year-old Ofure Ebhomielen of the Department of Computer Science, became the fourth student and the first female to have the perfect CGPA at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State. This was revealed by the vice-chancellor at the recently held convocation of the 71-year-old institution. Ofure tells TUNDE AJAJA how she made this happen and her plans for the future
You were the first female to have a perfect Cumulative Grade Point Average from the University of Ibadan, did you deliberately work towards setting that record or you simply worked hard and it paid off?
I didn’t have any intention to set a record. I only wanted to do the best I could possibly do. In the first semester of our first year, I took my parents’ advice seriously and worked hard. To be very honest and with deep humility, I read a lot in my first semester and it paid off at the end. I got a 7.00 Grade Point Average and the next huge task was how to maintain it, which meant I had to sustain the effort and I must have A’s in all my courses. It seemed daunting at first, but I got used to the fact that I had to love all my courses if I wanted to do very well in them. And that was what I did.
As can be expected, many students must have worked very hard too but yours stood out, were there things you did differently from others?
It definitely wasn’t easy. In terms of difficulty, I’ll rate it a five star (laughs). Actually, I wouldn’t say I did anything outside what other students could have done. As far as I can remember, I lived like an average student. What I think was a bit different was that I started strong.
Could you recall how your parents received the news when you told them about it?
I think my dad was so overjoyed that all he kept saying during our conversation on the phone was, ‘Congratulations, you’ve made us proud!’ He said that for the most part of the call before he finally said ‘bye’. As for my mum, she kept smiling and I could even feel the smile over the phone (laughs). She kept saying, ‘Wow! Ofure, you’ve really made us proud.’
A lot of students would also like to know what your reading schedule was like.
My reading hours varied. Inasmuch as I was a bit consistent in my first year because of fewer responsibilities, the number of hours per week reduced over the years as I took on more responsibilities. I tried as much as possible to read every week in my second and third years so I wouldn’t need to do last-minute reading. I also understood myself well and I was very much aware of what worked for me. For example, two things I was sure of were that I could not do last-minute reading and I could not read in the night. So, I made good use of my day time. I drew a timetable and allotted days/hours to each course based on my strength and confidence in each course. I also used the library due to the serenity.
There are things that seem common to first-class students, like teaching others and sitting in front, what was yours?
My favourite seat in one of the lecture halls in the department was on the second row. My height did not allow me to even go beyond that (laughs). Also, if one has to engage with the lecture, the best way is to sit as close as possible to the lecturer. I also didn’t like missing classes because I found out that if I wasn’t present for a particular lecture, that topic would become so foreign to me that I would have to expend more effort towards understanding what was taught.
There was hardly even enough time to study what was taught in class, let alone something you were trying to learn on your own. Then, targeting a 7.00 CGPA meant that I had to give my best to every test and exam. In addition, I found that teaching others was the most effective way of learning. When you teach someone, you get understand that thing better. For me the reward was in two ways; a course mate being more knowledgeable in a particular topic and the feeling of satisfaction that I was able to help someone.
Maintaining a perfect score must have been tough, were there times you almost gave up?
Definitely, there were courses that were not very easy, especially in my third year, and that was when I had mediocre test scores. In fact, at that point, I felt it (the quest for a perfect score) was over, but I didn’t give up. It wasn’t an option. I also had friends who encouraged me. In fact, my friend would always introduce me as Ofure7.0 and right from our third year, she would say ‘Meet Ofure, she is the Best Graduating Student of our set’ and that was a silent motivation for me. I think one good thing about aiming for the best is that even when you don’t get, you still end up in a position of excellence. The third person to graduate with a perfect CGPA in UI, Nkemelu Daniel, was in computer science; two years ahead of me. I told myself that ‘if he could do it, I can do it too!’
Did you have this kind of result in your previous schools?
I was the best student in my primary school, but secondary school became more competitive and I think I came second overall in JSS1 and 2 but I struggled in JSS3, SS1 and SS2. I finally found my feet in SS3 when I had the best IGSCE result in my set. Then, I worked really hard for my O’level exams and I had six A’s in the West African Senior School Certificate Examination while I passed the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination as well.
What attracted you to Computer Science at the outset?
I believed people who build mobile and desktop games and apps were cool and intelligent people and I wanted to be cool too (laughs).
To have scored A in all your courses meant that you were very good in all your courses, were you familiar with some of the modules previously?
The beginning of every semester presented a new set of courses unknown to me. The first code I wrote was python ‘Hello World’ in CSC101 practical class. So, I came into Computer Science void of most concepts that I later learnt over the years.
What part of studying the course did you enjoy the most?
That part where you tell people that you’re studying Computer Science and they are like ‘Oh! So you can code! Wow! So, there is this idea I have and I’ve been looking for a programmer to help me build an app…’ That part is always nice. Aside from that, I enjoyed digital logic design, data structures, databases and software engineering. It’s hard to pick one out of the four.
For the benefit of students who wish to have your kind of result, what would you ascribe your success to?
With all humility, I would say I worked really hard for it; it didn’t just happen. There were times I felt like going out or sleeping that I had to drop the idea and read. In my final year, I had my project, I took online courses, travelled for conferences and other things, but I made sure I stayed focused. So, consistency and the right attitude to my studies helped.
Were you sociable?
I don’t think it’s possible for one to read all through school. I read a lot and it remained primary but I had my unwinding moments. There was often the need to go out to celebrate a friend’s birthday, or be part of some departmental outing, or when I had just received pocket money and wanted to ‘blow’ (spend) part of it to see movies (laughs). Then, travelling to attend conferences in Lagos, going for picnics, lunches, heading planning committees, being the treasurer of my department, being class representative, being in some societies in church, etc., were all part of being social. So, I balanced everything. I think I’m quite skilled in managing my time and that helped a lot.
Some students shy away from relationships because they see it as a distraction, did you have any or you saw it as a distraction?
I had male friends but I didn’t single anyone out to start a relationship with, not because it was a distraction. I think I just wasn’t ready.
What was your happiest moment as an undergraduate?
That would be moments when I helped to put a smile on someone’s face, either through helping them to understand an aspect of a course or any other help I could render to make them happy. So, the happiest moment was when I heard the words – ‘Thank you, Ofure’.
Is there any sad moment you likely won’t forget?
Yes, when I resumed for my third year and on my way to the hostel around 8pm, someone attacked me at knife point. I had a cut on my hand and the person made away with my bag, comprising my phone and money. It was a sad moment for me.
Given the prospects of Information Technology in today’s world, what aspect would you like to venture into?
The most interesting parts for me are Human Computer Interaction, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, and I’m keeping my eyes on those areas. I’ve started online courses in HCI and that is basically what I want to work on for the next few years.
Where would you like to work?
I have always been interested in doing things that impact people positively, so I would want to focus on research given how the outcome of such benefit the world. Research brought out all the innovations that we hear about, like Google Speech, Siri, etc., so, I plan to work in the research lab of companies like Microsoft, IBM, etc.
One of your friends, Motunrayo Ajia, also made the perfect score at her school months ago, would you say you are conscious of the kind of friends you keep?
It wasn’t a deliberate action. I wasn’t the type to select the people I interacted with, but I found out that at some point all the people I had around me were people of like minds, not that I had any criteria. When I was much younger, my parents counselled me about the need to keep the right friends, but overall, it wasn’t really much of parental influence. I think I’ll put it down to instinct.
What would be your advice to students?
I advise students to set their priorities right and be diligent. Having the right attitude, not undermining the place of hard work and shunning procrastination would help. Yes, we all procrastinate, but at some point we have to understand that there is a need to start working. And I think no one should be shy to ask for help in whatever is not clear to them. You can’t do it alone always and there are people we can always learn from.