The best graduating student of Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State in the 2013/2014 academic session, Oputa Alma, 21, finished from the Department of Computer Science and Information Science with 4.99 CGPA. She shares her story with TUNDE AJAJA in this interview:
Some people have said that the grading system in private schools is too generous and unrealistic unlike what obtains in public schools. Do you see any difference in their products?
The grading system is the same. It’s just that we pay for our comfort in private schools, which enhances our performance. Those things that could make learning very conducive and stress-free are already provided for us, and we pay for them, so we tend to do better. For instance, some public schools pay N15,000 as tuition fee while some private schools pay up to N700,000. Whatever we pay already covers power supply, water supply, accommodation, equipped and functional laboratories, etc, and an enclosed environment where not
just anything goes, unlike in public schools where those facilities are not always readily available and the teaching and living conditions are not good enough. The attention and care we get in private schools cannot be compared to what we have in public schools. When you put all these variables together, they influence a student’s performance. With the kind of money we pay and the kind of academic environment, the difference is expected.
We learnt you had wanted to study Medicine while growing up. What motivated you?
My dad is a doctor, a consultant, and he is my role model, so I wanted to follow in his steps and make him proud. I loved what he was doing and I just wanted to be like him. That was why I had such plan, not because I knew anything about Medicine or had so much interest.
Why did you end up studying Computer Science and Information Science?
I didn’t pick the course; one of my teachers in secondary school randomly picked it for me because I never knew about the course until I was offered. I was keen on studying Medicine then, so I didn’t care what my second choice was. In fact, everyone thought I would study Medicine, but it didn’t work out. But now, I’m okay with the course, coupled with the Information Science that deals with everything about information, from the gathering/collection to its processing, storage and dissemination. I have always loved mathematical courses and subsequently, the programming courses because I love practicality. I don’t really like theory; theoretical courses were boring to me. I had to put in extra efforts in reading and learning them. I can study mathematical courses in the noisiest environments, but for theoretical courses, I had to consecrate myself and concentrate on what I was reading.
But some people run away from Computer Science because of courses like programming.
Programming is not difficult. It is something people should make up their mind to learn, keep practising and enjoy. The practicality of programming made me like it because it was like magic to see that I would actually develop a calculator and it would work. The fact that we are able to practise the theories we learn and read about should make it interesting for anyone interested in the course.
What is the big deal in computing that some people even learn as vocation outside the school wall?
People say a lot of things to give excuses concerning this issue. However, my belief is that there is nothing that is not simple in life; it just requires undivided attention and commitment. And for the computer courses being offered out there, my view is that being in school is a different ball game from external trainings. I feel being in school gives a bigger opportunity to know more, even beyond the course you are studying. It exposes you to certain things, while external trainings mostly specialise in a particular area or field.
Did you work towards being the best graduating student or was it providence?
From the beginning, I told myself I was going to be the best student and make my dad, especially, proud. I made up my mind to do things the right way, study hard and get to know God better. So, I planned for it, and to God’s glory, I achieved it. There was no major challenge whatsoever and I realised that making that decision made it so easy for me. I also knew the place of hard work and I did work hard.
How easy was it for you to graduate with first class honours?
It wasn’t difficult for me to have a first class. It’s easy if one puts in the right efforts. Of course, it doesn’t come without obstacles; that’s where we need God and a lot of discipline to make the right choices.
What was your reading timetable like?
That varied a lot. For some days, I wouldn’t read any academic book because of some other things I had to attend to and on some other days, I would read for about 12 hours, though not frequently. I made sure I started preparing early enough for whatever test or exam. I had to avoid sleepless nights during exams. I was a good listener in the class too, so I kept a general knowledge of each course in my head in case of any impromptu class work and test. Also, I didn’t deny myself of good sleep because I only sleep at night, even at home, so averagely, I used to sleep around 12am and wake up by 7am but I would never sleep until I was well prepared.
How often did you go to the library?
Sincerely speaking, I don’t like libraries because they are too quiet. Anytime I tried reading in the library, I would just end up staring at everything and everyone. I prefer to search for books online and maybe use a book that I needed when my friends borrowed such from the library.
You were 20 years old when you graduated, how did you handle peer pressure?
If someone was becoming a distraction to me, I would drift away gradually from that person. Most of my friends were serious-minded people, so I didn’t have such battles to fight. Also, I like to do all I have on my to-do list, so I don’t easily get distracted. I had a lot of friends, including guys, and I liked attending social events as long as they didn’t interfere with my schedule. I didn’t make myself available to be disturbed by anyone, male or female. So, there was no pressure.
You once had a blog on fashion, what attracted you to fashion?
Yes, I used to have a blog on fashion but I stopped it about a year and half ago. I would say my love for looking extremely good at all times attracted me to fashion. But I plan to start something better soon because I know I am an entrepreneur.
Why didn’t you go for a course in Arts that could help your interest in fashion?
I’m a born scientist. I have been in love with science since my primary school days. I can always go to a fashion school whenever I am ready to.
Were you involved in other school activities?
Yes I was. I was in hospitality service unit all through my four years in school. I was the Public Relations Officer for my department for a year and I was a member of the Google team of my school too for a year.
What was the Google team about?
As of the time I was a member of the team, Google wanted people out there to know about Google maps. They wanted people to know that they too could place their houses, schools and offices on the map. They wanted to also teach people about how to use the map and other Google tools like Google++ which is a social media. I was part of the team creating that awareness to the masses and teaching them the much I could.
What have you been doing since you graduated?
I am currently serving my country as a youth corps member in Covenant University. I was posted there and I’m doing a research on Bioinformatics. I hope to do my Master’s degree immediately after the youth service programme.
What are the other plans that you have?
I have children, fashion and technology in mind. I plan to set up my NGOs, motherless babies’ homes and free schools to take care of children because I want to help children on the streets begging and suffering to become learned and better people. I plan to set up my shoe brand and build my boutiques all around the world. I also want to help advance technology in whatever way I can to help better the lives of people. My background made me the strong, confident, determined and God-fearing, so, I’m prepared for the future.
What is your advice to students?
Students should not be discouraged; they should try and be positive. They should read everything, even the ones they don’t want to read. They should not rest until they master their courses very well and are prepared enough for tests and exams. Trusting in God with everything they have got is also key and they should not give up easily.