AT 16, SHE HAS WON MORE ACADEMIC AWARDS THAN HER YEARS
If you are ever looking for the closest example of a whizkid in any Nigerian school today, Gloria Chioma Ezeizu fits the bill perfectly. At 16, she has received dozens of awards for academic excellence that her peers can only envy but not quite match her.
As JSS I student of St. Francis Secondary School, Idimu, Lagos, she made the best results, coming off with eleven awards. A year later in JSS 2, Chioma increased her tally of awards by one. By the time she got to JSS 3, she had established an unbeatable record among her peers and in the entire school such that nobody has ever come any close. She had all Alphas in the 13 subjects she sat for in junior NECO, and they include core science subjects like Mathematics and liberal courses like History. Chioma also topped the class in languages like English, French and Yoruba.
A university hopeful today, Chioma is one of those rare students whose devotion to academic work is comparable to a boffin's commitment to a major scientific research, and there seem to be no stopping her from realizing her ambition of becoming a high-profile neurosurgeon.
'I want to become a neurosurgeon,' Chioma told Saturday Sun recently. 'If that is not possible then I will read any other related course in medicine.'
Considering her academic performance so far, Chioma might just be on the cusp of realizing her professional ambition. She not only graduated as the best student in her school, the lanky teenager also had the best result in her JAMB exam at St Francis. She had to look beyond her school for other laurels as well. Last year, the American Embassy organised an essay competition for gifted Nigerian students. Chioma was one of the contestants. Though the first position eluded her this time, she made it to the top three - with a cash prize of N20,000.
Decorated with academic garlands, Chioma does not come across as student suffering from award dependency syndrome in any way. In her words, her success is as a result of hard work. It is obvious at once she is a voracious reader, complemented with a wide-awake intelligence clearly visible on her visage. Where her peers might spend time experimenting mom's pencil liners or shades of mascara, you suspect Chioma would prefer staying curled up in bed, nose buried in books - a motivational read or serious literature - journeying with the characters.
'I read a lot, especially at night,' Chioma confessed to the reporter on the day we met and spoke with her at The Sun's corporate headquarters. As Chioma insists, she has devoted more time to her books at the expense of extra curricula activities in school. 'It was very hard to combine academics with extra curricular activities and teachers were disturbing me to get involved in extra curricular activities. I participate in them but I am not that outstanding as I am in academics. I play football, basketball. I relax with my friends and like reading novels.'
Her best reads are Ben Carson's Take the Risk and Think Big, Arrow of God by Chinua Achebe and Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Chioma has also written essays and edited her school magazine. Despite all that however, she insists she isn't keen on writing. On her academic performance, she says she was inspired by her parents.
'My parents - father and mother - are business people, they didn't go to school. So I got my inspiration from them, I mean that I will excel where they didn't even have the chance to go to school,' a casual reference to making up for her parent's lost opportunity. Even though mom and dad never made it to school, both ensured all their six children are properly educated. Chioma is the last child. Her first brother is a banker, the second an engineer. The third studying Business Administration while the fourth and fifth are studying Economics and Accounting respectively at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
With 271 aggregate in the last JAMB, Chioma reckons her chances of admission are quite slim, considering her course of choice but aims to score above 350 next year. Is she already preparing for the forthcoming JAMB? Yes, of course. Not taking anything for granted, Chioma acknowledges that: 'It is not easy to understand all what you read but when you are determined, you would understand.'
Another thing she wants to do is apply for scholarship, preferably in a university outside the country. Given her devotion to studies so far, at a time when girls like her are either into nasty social life or have become teenage mothers, it is fair to say Chioma is as good as studying neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University, Harvard Medical School or any Ivy-league institution in Germany or England.