Those who think that nursing mothers do not have a place in the academic community need to have a rethink. So also are people who deride those whose parents or guardians are of poor academic background.
With the success attained by Chidinma Izuegbunem at the 26th convocation of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt, the above perceptions have no place in annals of an academic community.
Chidinma is not just a nursing mother, she is also a daughter of a truck driver. Her father drives the truck popularly called tipper.
At the university’s dome known as The Amphitheatre, the mother of one stole the show at the convocation ceremony, beating over 4,000 other graduates to emerge as the school’s valedictorian for 2013.
Besides, the Medical Laboratory Science graduate, who garnered a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.64, to become the shining star, received five of the nine awards on the occasion. These are the Vice-Chancellor’s Prize for Best Graduating Student; Dean’s Prize for Best Graduating Student in Faculty of Science; UNITECH Women’s Association Prize for Best Graduating Female Student; Prof. T.J.T Princewill’s Prize for Best Graduating Student in the Department of Applied and Environmental Biology (Microbiology option); and the Mrs. Daba Constance Odimabo Prize for the Best Graduating Female Student.
Her accomplishments drew applause from scholars, students, royal fathers as well as other dignitaries that attended the convocation.
The mother of an 11-month-old baby, while speaking with our correspondent, said her success was not by accident as she prepared and worked hard to achieve a first class grade.
Beyond her industry, she acknowledged that God’s amazing grace also saw her through, putting her in good stead to ward off peer pressure on her way to emerging the best student in the university.
“My success is by the special grace of God and the efforts of my husband. I studied very hard. The issue of ‘sorting’ (paying lecturers for improved marks) does not arise because the Rivers State University of Science and Technology detests it.
“I started five years ago. When I was coming into the university, I had a target of making a first class. I made sure I came to school every day and did not skip lectures. Visual learning is my best form of learning.
“I preferred being in the class to listen to my lecturers, and watch their demonstrations. This is apart from reading my books in school and at home. I set a standard for myself from my Year One. My father, Emmanuel Izuegbunem, is a driver. He is a tipper driver,” she added.
But with this success, is Chidinma thinking of ending her career in the kitchen? ‘Tell that to the marines’ was her quick response, adding that she looks forward to attaining loftier academic heights very soon.
Indeed, according to the Igboukwu, Aguata Local Government of Anambra State-born graduate, she looks forward to becoming first a lecturer and then a minister of education or health.
She notes, “I want to be a lecturer. Perhaps from there, I shall rise to become the minister of education and minister of health because health is my own profession, having studied Medical Laboratory Science.”
Chidinma, who said peer pressure did not make her to lose focus on campus, also admitted that her marriage to Martin Azike, a lawyer, did not distract her. Though the affiliation started in her first year, it only climaxed in her fourth year.
“I knew him (my husband) when I was in Year One. My relationship with him did not pose danger to my studies because he is also a serious-minded person. He loves education. Since the day we met, he has been encouraging me to study hard.
“My husband usually visited me on campus when we were courting because I stayed in one of the school hostels at that time”.
Explaining further on how she coped with her studies while she was in a relationship from her first year in school, the valedictorian said though she entered into an affair with Azike in her Year One, the action did not disrupt her studies.
In fact, her husband, she added, encouraged her to sustain the tempo in her studies, resulting in her academic success.
“When I was about to wed, one of my lecturers advised me against the decision. His reason was that it could adversely affect my grade in the university. But I told him that there was nothing I could do because the wedding date had already been fixed. After our wedding, I told my husband that he should not allow himself to be a barrier to my graduating with first class.
“I told my husband this because some of my lecturers have started seeing him around me. My husband promised me that he would never be a barrier to my studies and would encourage me to make a first class. My husband really tried for me because in my final year, lectures commenced by 8am and my husband was always bringing me to school before classes started. I left the hostel and joined my husband after our wedding in my fourth year. He woke me up every night to do my reading.”
Giving an insight into her upbringing, Chidinma said she had her early education (primary and secondary) when she was with her grandmother (her father’s mother). But was that a minus in accomplishing her life and academic desires? Her response was an emphatic no. In fact, she admitted that the era prepared her for the daunting task of facing her studies in her own accord.
Advising other youngsters to take a cue from her, Chidinma urged them to take their studies seriously by reading their books regularly and resisting all manner of peer pressure. Such peer association, she said, could distract them from achieving their academic goals and nobler things of life.
Earlier, RSUST Vice-Chancellor, Prof. B Fakae, commended the Rivers State Government for its immense support to the university and for energising the school towards glory. Congratulating the graduands, he described the convocation as a celebration of excellence.
“First , it is God Almighty who gave us all we needed for this mission of change. It is through the instrumentality of our visitor, Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who threw the challenge at us that we make this account today. We are grateful for the support so far received from you and we are equally grateful for the funding that has enabled us to reach the height so far attained,” he said.
The VC said achievements were made in research and e-learning, scholarship, infrastructure, accreditation of programmes, quality assurance in academics, corporate social responsibility and others.
Also, the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of Council of the university, Justice Adolphus Karibi-Whyte (retd), congratulated the graduating students on their achievements, just as he attributed their success to years of hard work and dedication. He also urged them to be good ambassadors of the university.
“As you go into the world, which is more complex than the university environment you have been used to, I implore you to use your present achievements as a springboard to launch yourselves to greater accomplishments.
“The qualities of hard work, commitment and dedication that enabled you attain this new level, coupled with the new skills and knowledge you have acquired, should propel you to greater heights in your future undertakings. In whatever endeavour you may find yourselves, we urge you to be good ambassadors of your alma mater, the Rivers State University of Science and Technology and your nation,” Karibi-White said.
Four thousand, eight hundred and fifty-five persons obtained first degrees while 526 others received postgraduate degrees on the occasion. (Punch)