Twenty-year-old Rita Aladi leads nine other females in sweeping academic laurels at the fourth convocation of the Caleb University, Imota, Lagos.
Two major things occupied the mind of the 20-year-old best graduating student of the Caleb University, Imota, Lagos State, Miss Rita Aladi, as she mounted the podium to deliver her valedictorian speech.
The first had to do with the burden of how she eventually graduated from the university. The second bordered on how she eventually topped the list of the 2014 graduating class. For her, the sum total of all that took place on the convocation day was a nice surprise.
She said, “I almost dropped out of school in my final year due to financial difficulties. That I eventually graduated from this school is a miracle. It came to a point that my father had to come to appeal to the authorities to give him some grace period to enable him to pay my fees.
“Beyond this, I never knew that I could become the best graduating student. Throughout my primary and secondary education, I never came first. But I had never gone below the third position in any class.”
Aladi’s display on the podium aptly captured this element of surprise. Intermittently, she screamed ewoooo, muttered God oooo, while she yet punctuated her speech with sobbing.
The youngster, who bagged a first class in Biochemistry, posted a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.80 out of 5.0 points to emerge the overall best in the 2014 convocation of the university. For her excellence, she received several awards, including ‘The Most Outstanding Student of the Year’ and the ‘Best Graduating Student in the College of Pure and Applied Sciences’.
Others are the ‘Best Graduating Student in the Department of Biochemistry’ ; the Prof. Nimbe Adedipe Prize for the Best Graduating Student in the College of Pure and Applied Sciences’; the ‘Late Princess Esther Adefolawe Olukoju Prize for the Overall Best Graduating Female Student’ and the ‘Joshua Olorunfemi Prize for the Best Graduating Student in the COPAS’.
The Ideato, Imo State-born graduate, according to the Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof. Ayodeji Olukoju, is also the first to obtain a first class from the department of Biochemistry.
Giving an insight into the secret of her success, Aladi, who had her primary and secondary education at the Grandmates Schools, Ago-Okota, Lagos, admitted that the accomplishment did not come on a platter of gold.
Though Aladi is not typically a bookworm, she noted that she encountered challenges that further propelled her to work harder.
“I did not plan to be the best graduating student but I told myself that I needed to compensate my parents for their commitment to my education. They were always there for me in spite of the difficult times that they faced.”
She noted that as at the time she got admission to the school, her father was a buoyant entrepreneur, though her mother was a trader. However, things became tough for the father, who was running a bakery and a filling station.
She further said, “Also, the advice from our Dean, Prof. Sunday Ajayi, any time he had the opportunity of talking to us, helped me a lot. He always challenged us to aim higher in life. Again, because I made a first class grade in my first year, I was under this immense pressure of maintaining that height. Though I obtained that grade all through the subsequent years, I never looked forward to becoming the best graduating student. In all frankness, I never thought of it.”
She explained that the challenge posed by other bright pupils in her primary and secondary schools inspired her to study harder then.
“ I think that greatly influenced a particular hobby in me, which was to try always to stay informed. So, in the university, I made the Internet a friend,” she said.
On what she intends to do after her National Youth Service, the valedictorian said she did not have an idea yet. “I shall return to the university to study either in Nigeria or overseas but I do not know yet what course I will pursue at the postgraduate level,” she explained, brimming with a touch of innocence.
The valedictorian, who practically believes in the Socrates philosophy of knowing oneself, urged other younger ones to try to identify who they are.
“Do not try to be another person. Know thyself. Learn to discover who you are. My stay in the university has taught me to realise that many people live in the shadows of others and I do not know why. We should stop doing that,” the youngster, who says her father, Aloy, is her role model, declared.
Did she engage in sorting her lecturers (seeking favours to obtain high academic scores) or face any sexual harassment on campus? The lass dismissed both questions with a wave of hand, saying she never even had a boyfriend.
“I did not plan to have a boyfriend. I am still on the path of self-discovery with regard to that. On sorting, it never crossed my mind and I do not even think it obtains here.”
Interestingly, of the 13 first class degree holders in the university this year, 10 of them are females, while the remaining three are males. Females also emerged the best graduating students from the institution’s three colleges – the College of Environmental Science and Management (Miss Oiza Osho); College of Pure and Applied Sciences (Miss Rita Aladi); and the College of Social and Management Sciences (Miss Faith Uwojeyah). While Osho studied Architecture, Uwojeyah studied Accounting.
The VC, Olukoju, who hailed Aladi and other first class recipients for their hard work and exemplifying worthiness in character and learning, urged all the graduands to be good ambassadors of the university.
He said, “I charge our graduands to soar high after a successful take-off, which the completion of their studies in this university signifies. They should realise that life is full of challenges and that a stormy weather is a pilot’s occupational hazard. Hence, they need to be equipped with faith, focus, fervour, finesse and fidelity in all their endeavours. I admonish our alumni to be good ambassadors of this university and to Love Caleb and Live it wherever they go.”
Also, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman, Governing Council of the university, Prof. Fola Tayo, urged the graduands to endeavour to excel in their chosen professions. He advised them to shun practices that would bring their names and that of the university to disrepute.
He said, “As you are going into a mountainous Nigeria, do not fear. You should be ready to conquer. Do not join in the iniquities confronting the nation. You should be bold enough to confront the wrongs in the society and overcome them.”
Challenging the graduands to join in building a better humanity, the pro-chancellor implored them to endeavour to return not just to the university but also to the academic community in order to contribute to teaching and learning.
Earlier, a former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof. Adigun Agbaje, in the convocation lecture, tasked African leaders to be committed to the tenets of democratic principles in leading their countries.
He also urged the governed on the continent to be ready to question their leaders, saying such an approach would help to check imperial tendencies and dictatorship.
Agbaje, a professor of Political Science, who spoke on “Lying in state: Leadership and the travails of democratic governance in Africa,” noted particularly that there was a relationship between good leadership and education.
He added, “Investment in knowledge systems in an all-round manner thus appears to correlate not only with responsible and responsive leadership but also with democratic governance and economic development. Without going into the finer details of the directions of this correlation, let me add that what is required at this level is not a debate couched around the zero-sum imagery of how much should be invested in the sciences and how much in the humanities/social sciences.
“The sciences require investment to secure the material bases for democratic governance. The humanities/social sciences require investment to enable society to comprehend fully its past and present in order to properly envision and secure its future. In other words, all knowledge matters. Defaulting in this regard may produce a crop of leaders committed to all means necessary, including lying to itself and its people, about the objective conditions in which they live and, therefore, end up being unable to comprehend, not to talk of mastering, the present or effectively projecting the future.”
ADAPTED FROM: THE PUNCH TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2014
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