When Aishat Farooq gained admission into the University of Ilorin at 15, to study Zoology, little did she know that she was not going to be an alumnus of the institution. That was in 2003.
Despite the fact that she was a high flyer in her first two years in UNILORIN, the now 25-year-old indigene of Ilorin West-Local Government Area of Kwara State got distracted along the line. She played the campus love game and got a shocking result: she got pregnant.
It was in 2006 and in her third year. She was pregnant for a fellow student whom she had been dating. She was disappointed in herself and thought the whole world was crashing on her. Yet, she vowed not to terminate the pregnancy.
Although she wanted to continue her studies in the university, she became disillusioned and dropped out at 18. She sought consolation in trading.
But her father, Mr. Shehu Farooq, who believed that his daughter’s academic prowess should not be wasted, was determined to get her back on the academic track.
Today, Aishat has a different story to tell. On Saturday, she stood tall among her peers at the 5th convocation ceremony of Bells University, Ota, Ogun State, where she emerged the overall best graduating student with a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.93.
“The rebel in me won,” she declared while giving the valedictory address on behalf of the 208 graduating students of the university.
“I hope my story will inspire at least one person to change his or her circumstance. I was pregnant at 18 and by 19 I was already a mother. I had disappointed my father who believed so much in me. He had such big dreams for me and feared the dreams would become unfulfilled,” she added.
Breaking the news of the pregnancy to her father, who was at the time based in the northern part of the country, was not easy. Aishat’s mother, Fatima, who stayed in Lagos with the family, did not break the “sad news” to the man until the lady was almost due. The mum feared her husband would be too angry.
Fatima narrated to our correspondent, “Looking back, we knew her to be very brilliant. But all of a sudden she got pregnant. Though her father and I were always discussing on the telephone, I hid it from him. Whenever he said he would be coming to Lagos to visit us, I would quickly chip it in that I would like to be the one to visit. So, I ensured I was the one always visiting him.
“That was how I managed the situation until the pregnancy was eight months. But even when we broke the news to him, he felt really bad. Although there was nothing he could do, he couldn’t go out for three days.”
Aishat studied Business Administration with specialisation in Human Resources Management, and received the Vice-Chancellor’s Prize for the Overall Best Graduating Student with a cash reward of N50,000 and a plaque. She also won the College of Management Sciences Prize and Department of Business Administration Prize for the Best Graduating Student.
Speaking with our correspondent after she received the awards, Aishat, whose face beamed with smiles, expressed gratitude to her dad for not losing hope in her during her trying time.
She noted that the popularly-held notion that the child that goes astray belongs to the mother, while the good ones belong to the father, was not applicable in her situation as her father did not give up on her.
Asked why her dad had so much hoped in her, she stated that her history of academic excellence from childhood right to the university was a major driving force.
Aishat, who attended Nazareth Nursery and Primary School, Lagos; Penny International College, Lagos and Model Secondary School, Maitama, Abuja, said she bagged several academic awards while growing up and noted that she secured admission to UNILORIN the same year she completed her secondary education.
She noted, “I did exceptionally well and bagged awards in the schools I attended. I had the overall best result at the Senior Secondary School Certificate level at Model Secondary School, Maitama, Abuja. In fact in UNILORIN, I was on the first class grade in my first year but in 200 Level, I dropped to second class upper division because I had already started getting distracted by the boys.
“It just happened that things turned out the way it did. But here I am, a product of God’s unending mercies, unconditional love and grace – all coupled with the faith my dad had in me and my fierce determination.
“I’m a goal getter. I push myself hard. Even here (BELLSTECH) in spite of being a mother, I was pushing for the best despite the challenges. I wanted to make my dad proud again. Once you are determined, nothing is impossible. Nothing can stop you.”
She said her decision to study Business Administration as against the sciences, which she was studying in UNILORIN, was informed by her two-year experience in the world of business after she dropped out of university.
She explained that incessant strikes by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, however, informed her decision to attend a private university. “Age was no longer on my side and I wanted to do it fast. And my dad could afford it because he was a businessman,” she added.
Asked if she was involved in any relationship at the Bells, she explained that she was a popular “snob” on campus because the majority of male students were younger than her. Besides, she did not want to get distracted or disappoint her parents and herself again.
Aishat, who has been posted to Lagos State to observe the mandatory National Youth Service Corps scheme, said, “If you ask around you will be told that I was a snob. My favourite spot was my room. I rarely went out of the room for social events. I went to mosque. However, when I contested for the president of my departmental association, Business Administration Students Association, the Nigerian system worked against me.
“I lost to my male opponent. Although I had plans to take some giant strides if I won, especially in the academic aspect for my fellow students, the fact that I was not the type of person who hangs out worked against me. I didn’t have a social life.”
She said she has no plans for marriage for now. She wants to pursue a master’s degree programme in Human Resources in the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. She added that she also plans to work in a corporate environment to garner experience and afterwards go back to the university to teach “as a way of giving back.”
The second child in a family of eight children, Aishat brought her six-year-old son, Damilola, to the convocation. It was, however, learnt that the Edo State-born father of the boy has since got married to another woman.
She noted that her major challenge on campus was the randomness of classes which denied her the opportunity of spending quality time with her son while her stay in the university lasted.
“We had visiting professors who came into the campus at anytime. Although we had schedules, many of them had a bit of flexible time. Sometimes on Sunday when I took permission to visit my child in Lagos, my classmates would call me up on the phone that there was going to be a class. Because attendance is very important, I had to rush down. This affected me a little,” she added.
Aishat’s father advised parents to give their children and wards the best of tutelage and close monitoring. He noted that he least expected the feat achieved by his daughter as he was at a time disturbed that “she could no longer make it.”
Asked if it was lack of adequate monitoring that made Aishat go astray at UNILORIN, he said, “Let’s just say that is how God wants it. You see, 70 per cent of the fault is on us the parents. Parents should give their children good supervision and tutelage. With this, they cannot derail. I thank God for her because it’s is not easy to have raised her from grass to grace.
“I screamed on the phone the day I learnt she was pregnant. I started asking questions: When, where and how. I burst into tears. But today, she is a new being. And I know the mistake will not repeat itself. My expectations for her are that she should fly higher and higher.”
Some other graduands who distinguished themselves were also recognised at the convocation ceremony.
Kolawole Lawal, who finished from the Department of Economics with a CGPA of 4.73, received the Olusegun Obasanjo’s Prize for being the best graduating student with outstanding academic performance and leadership qualities. Former President Obasanjo who is the Chief Promoter of the university, also attended the event.
Francis Sogunle, from the Department of Computer Science, who had a CGPA of 4.74, received the Chancellor’s Prize for excelling in external competitions of academic nature.
At the ceremony, 208 students were awarded first degrees with Aishat and 13 others being conferred with first class degrees, while 64 of them got second class upper degrees; 83 bagged second class lower; just as 43 were awarded third class degrees. Meanwhile four of the graduands finished with pass degrees.
The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Prof Isaac Adeyemi, charged the graduates to be patriotic and dedicated to nation building.
“Our beloved country is currently going through a rather stressful period. All hands must be on deck to seek lasting solutions to militancy and insurgencies and disregard for the rule of law. This is the time to prove your worth as you can’t afford to fold your arms or sit on the fence,” he observed.
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