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I paid the price and won the prize – Esther, FUNAAB First Class graduate

By The Citizen
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Olowofoyeku Esther, 23, graduated with a first class from the Department of Environmental Management and Toxicology, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State in the 2014/2015 academic session having finished with a 4.73 CGPA. In this interview, she tells about her success.

Excerpts:
What attracted you to Environmental Management and Toxicology which is considered not so popular course in Nigeria?

I had a motivation from two perspectives. When I completed my HND at about 19 years of age, I didn't even consider the option of job hunting because I had a strong desire to further my education. I had the option of studying Public Health Technology at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri or Environmental Management and Toxicology in FUNAAB, so I opted for the latter, more so because I was certain my parents wouldn't let me go very far away from home and I was inspired by the stories of some of my friends who studied the course at FUNAAB, so I settled for it.

So, what was it about?
Environmental management is a field that provides in-depth understanding on how the environment operates, the impact of natural and human activities and how negative effects can be mitigated. The toxicology attached to it examines how toxic chemicals affect living and non-living organisms. It includes how chemicals move through the ecosystem, mode of absorption and metabolism by plant and animals, mechanism through which they cause poison or defect and how such may be treated, minimised or reversed. I enjoyed every part of the course, though everyone who studied the course can testify to the fact that the analytical chemistry and toxicological aspect can be very tasking.

What are the job opportunities open to people who studied the course?

There is a growing concern for the environment in today's world. Consequently, there are career opportunities in many organisations, including the oil and gas industry, the manufacturing sector, government regulatory bodies, multinational non-governmental organisations, academia, consultancy firms, in addition to being self-employed.

Looking at the growing debate on climate change, in your view, what human activity in Nigeria is most responsible for this?

Greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, are the culprits as far as climate change is concerned in Nigeria. Activities that centre on burning of fossil fuels-coal, oil and natural gas account for the highest release of these gases. Fossil fuels are used for transportation, manufacturing and electricity generation, to mention a few. All of these contribute to climate change being experienced locally and globally.

How easy was it to have first class?
It would be deception to think it was easy because we all know that nothing good comes easy. However, everything in life operates on principles and once these principles are followed religiously, then the result will surely come forth. Price and prize are like two sides of a coin; if you can pay the price, you'll get the prize. All I did was to trust God to help me pay the price for success in form of focus, hard work, dedication and resilience. Eventually, the prize of an excellent result followed. I started with 4.64 GPA.

Would you ascribe your success to hard work or it was just providence?

It is God who works in me both to will and to do of his good pleasure. So I would ascribe my success to Him. Even though there are principles guiding success, so many students attend lectures, sleep in class and treat all the past questions but some still encounter challenges. Only God can resolve that inequality. The will to want to achieve came from God and the strength to pay the price came from Him as well. He blessed my effort and without any reservation, I ascribe my success to God.

Have you always had such a performance in your previous schools?

In primary school, I was one of the best in my class. But in secondary school, I experienced a drastic drop in my performance. It got so bad that I was publicly beaten by my class teacher because I had less than 40 per cent in my overall grade in a particular term. I rarely understood what I was taught in class and I couldn't even speak English Language fluently before my peers. It was a difficult time for me, but I thank God for one of my cousins who taught me a number of things. I became better and when I finally got to the college of health, I started on a clean slate.

Were there challenges you faced in school?

Apart from the stress that comes with being a student, especially one who was new in the university environment, I had financial issues too. I come from a very humble background, like we put it, such that all I had was just to survive and there was no extra for luxury. Beyond these, I was very committed to my studies, fellowship, a writing club and my various relationships. So, managing my time effectively was a serious issue to deal with throughout my stay in school.

What worked for you in your academics?

If there was anything at all, it was the fact that I understood myself, particularly my strengths and weaknesses and I operated based on that knowledge. I could read anywhere, provided it was quiet. I assimilate slowly so I used to start reading as soon as lectures commenced so I could read my books several times. I'm an early riser so I used to wake up at 4am for devotion, and then read for some time in the morning. These were fairly constant in my daily activities, and then I attended fellowship many times a week. I didn't have a specific number of hours for reading. I read for as long as I could and once I began to feel sleepy or experience signs of fatigue, I would go to sleep. I could persevere only when preparing for test or examination.

How often did you use the library?
It was very rare for me to borrow books, I preferred to surf the internet because the number of hours required to locate the book of choice would drastically cut down on the number of hours available to do the actual reading. I read in the library during the first two years before I resorted to using the reading room in the school hostel.

What was your reading pattern during exams?

I lived in the school hostel throughout and it was difficult to have a quiet atmosphere in a place where about six to eight people live. I used to sleep in the reading room since it was just across my room. I would then go back to the room to take my meals, freshen up and chat with my roommates when I needed to relax.

What's your view about someone being a genius?

Everyone is a genius. However, not everybody would manifest this in the area of academics but I believe there is something that each person is excellent at doing.

Were there times when you felt discouraged by the unemployment challenge in Nigeria?

Certainly, there were times when I felt discouraged by the country's economic situation. But I also believe that the problem of unemployment in Nigeria can only be solved by Nigerian youths through value and wealth creation.

How would you describe your social life in school?

My definition of socialising is 'to create avenues for excellent human interactions.' Going by that, I can say that I was really social. I am a 'people-person' and I connected with my friends individually and on very deep levels.

Were you disturbed by male students or even lecturers?

Well, I don't see advances from males as disturbance because it's all part of the human body chemistry. For lecturers, I was pressured by only one person during my HND days but I was able to ward him off.

What were your memorable moments in school?

There was an incident that I'm not likely to forget anytime soon, because it was highly embarrassing. I joined a group of friends to organise an award. The first stage which was the pre-awards was supposed to showcase the talent and skills of various nominees and it was a night-long event. It appeared interesting and we were really gaining grounds but we had several challenges particularly in the area of finance. The night before the programme, I had a dream that we had challenge with power supply during the programme, so I told my friend and we did all we could to ensure steady power supply from the school authority. After lots of unexpected delays, we managed to start the programme and the hall was filled up. Everything proceeded as planned until my greatest fear surfaced. The power went off and we couldn't resolve it. So many people left while others waited and it took about two hours to get a generator to power the stage. Eventually, it turned out well but in the middle of that situation, it was very embarrassing, that we wanted to hide our faces.

What are your aspirations in life?
I believe strongly in the power of words, both oral and written and I intend to influence my world positively through that tool. Let's visualise it this way: when students go to school, what do they really do? They constantly hear words, put them into practice and eventually emerge professionals in various fields. The words practically formed them. With this understanding, I would love to be a published writer and I'm currently on my third book. I coordinate a group on the social media and I intend to metamorphose into a blog. I would also love to run/support charity organisations that focus on breast health.

Any place where you dream to work?
I would be willing to apply my writing, research, public speaking, leadership and marketing skills as demand arises. I would fit into the academia, media and oil and gas industry. I'm not particularly name-driven, I am impact driven; I want a place where I can fully utilise my potential and get proper remuneration.

What would be your advice to students?

Excellence is not restricted to academic performances alone. Therefore, my advice can and should be applied to all areas. It is very important that they have a good relationship with God and the people around them. Through that, they can truly discover the purpose of their existence. As they discover it, they should pursue it tirelessly, regardless of the challenges that would surely arise. - Punch.