Hi readers, how are you today? This time on our first-class diary series, I have one of Nigeria’s scholars, Temitope Tosin Abiola, a graduate of Industrial Chemistry from Federal University of Technology Akure, FUTA. He is a commonwealth shared scholarship recipient. He is also the recipient of the prestigious and highly competitive Chancellor’s Scholarship for International Students at University of Warwick. So much to discover and so much to share. I am excited to share with you the interview excerpts.
In his words:
‘‘if you want to go far, go together with like minds
Abigael Ibikunle of Edugist: Please tell us a little about your background
Temitope Tosin: I am Temitope Tosin, ABIOLA from Odo – Oro, Ikole Local Government Area of Ekiti State. I had my primary Education at Rapid Preparatory Nursery and Primary School Ikole Ekiti. After which I proceeded to EgbeOba High School, Ikole Ekiti, for my Junior and Senior Secondary School education. Lucky enough for me, I only attempted the Universities Matriculation Examination (UME) twice. I finally made it into the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) Ondo State, Nigeria in 2011. And I was admitted to study a Bachelor of Technology (BTech) degree in Industrial Chemistry.
In the year 2016, I graduated from the Department of Chemistry with a First-class (CGPA 4.62 on a scale of 5.00). It is worth mentioning that I also published a book titled “pathway to success on campus” during my final year. This was targeted at equipping university freshmen, with tools needed to achieve academic excellence on campus. I served in the Department of Chemistry, Kwara State University, Malete in 2017. Towards the completion of my national youth service, I was employed as a Quality Control Chemist at Biomedical Limited, Kwara State. An indigenous pharmaceutical industry and pioneer of intravenous infusion manufacturer in Nigeria.
It was in my first year at Biomedical Limited that I won the prestigious Commonwealth Shared Scholarship. I got sponsored for a Master’s degree in Analytical Science and Instrumentation at the highly reputable University of Warwick, UK in 2018. In September 2019, I graduated with a Distinction in my master programme with an average of 80%.
I became the recipient of the prestigious and highly competitive Chancellor’s Scholarship for International Students at the University of Warwick. I have just finished my Master’s degree, and I have commenced studies for my PhD for a fully funded research. My research is focused on development of nature inspired sunscreens from plants. This is aimed at understanding and designing efficient UV filters, in order to prevent the continuous and rapid increase of skin cancer (majorly caused by solar UV radiation) around the world.
AI: Was there any motivating factor(s) that influenced your choice of discipline and institution?
TT: Yes, there were. During my Secondary school days, I was determined to study mechanical engineering at the university level. However, I critically evaluated the financial state of my family. I just knew that my family couldn’t afford to sponsor such course due to the high financial demand of studying materials. Hence, I decided to look elsewhere. After series of study, I decided to study Industrial Chemistry. This was because of the many employment opportunities that will be available for me after graduation. Seeing that chemists are needed almost in all science industries. The likes of life science, physical science, environmental, engineering and many more.
Also, I was the best student in Chemistry in my school during my secondary education, this I thought would be an added advantage to me. Furthermore, I had always wanted to study at the best university in whatever course I chose to study. Hence, that influenced my choice of institution. At the time, Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) had high ranking in chemistry. And compared to other Nigeria universities specifically, FUTA was the best university of technology in Nigeria as at that time.
AI: There are two major skills that every student must possess: COMPETENCE and PERFORMANCE. While competence revolves around skill acquisition, performance is much more concerned about skills application. It is believed that most graduates are competent because their academic performance testifies to this, but they are performance-challenged. This poor performance ipso facto hinders them from getting lucrative jobs in the labour market. What can you say about this assertion?
TT: I have had interactions with graduates from different institutions in Nigeria. With my teaching experience at higher institution (KWASU), my involvement in the Industrial Training (IT) supervision, Quality Control Unit at Biomedical Limited, I would like to disagree with your claim that most Nigeria graduates are competent. Indeed, few Nigerian graduates are competent. And even fewer have the performance skills required by the industries. Studies by Stutern and other collaborators in 2018 highlighted 6 major skills that industries are looking for in graduates, to complement their academic performance.
These includes; Critical thinking, Complex problem-solving skills, Teamwork ability, Written communication, Spoken Communication and Knowledge of the subject studied. Sadly, what Nigerian higher education revolve around is knowledge of the subject studied. This is evident in the assessment methods, the availability of materials and the design of the education system. Unfortunately, not all students get enough knowledge of the subject even before graduation. Hence, the claim is not far from the truth.
AI: What do you think is responsible for competence without performance? Please suggest ways of improving the performance level of university students and graduates
TT: As highlighted earlier, it is important to admit that we have both competence and performance challenges. When this is known, we can fully understand the causes and way forward. I would like to bank on my graduate school experience at the University of Warwick in this analysis. The first factor responsible for poor competence and performance among Nigerian graduates is poor educational system.
Our method of approach to teaching and learning need to be redesigned. It needs to encourage both performance and competence skill acquisition. Also, lack of hands-on-experience of the subject taught is a major cause of poor performance and competence. This is often associated with lack of needed facilities. In order to overcome this, the education sector need more funding and considerable attention from both government and academics.
Furthermore, lack of transferrable skills programmes and rigid assessment system, are a major setback to improving competence and performance of Nigerian graduates. Programmes such as scientific/Academic writings, Team building, leadership and communication trainings should be embedded into our education. We should also consider them as a major factor in assessing student’s performance.
Finally, a major way forward to developing competence and performance skills of university students in Nigeria would be proper collaboration of universities with industries and ministries.
This will facilitate industrial visits, lectures by industrial collaborators, opportunity to visit and carry out short term research in industries and lot more. This will help students to acquire workplace ethics and understand skills needed to function effectively in such industry.
AI: Achievement in life transcends one’s personal efforts. There were people who, during your programme, rendered some assistance that made your dreams a reality. Who are specific persons whose contribution you can’t forget in your first-class feat?
TT: There is a popular African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together”. I would however say,
if you want to go far, go together with like minds
During my undergraduate studies, one of the best decisions I made was to surround myself with friends having similar desire to achieve good academic success.
Some of which includes; Oluwafemi Ogulalu (Now in USA on fully Funded PhD), Omoboye Adekunle (recently completed his master in Canada, fully funded), Bello Abidemi (current commonwealth scholar to Warwick), Obe Olayemi (In USA on fully funded master), Odusola Oluwabunmi, Ogundare Ebenezer and lots more. These are people, we strived together to break barriers and challenge existing protocols. Their help, advice and support are part of the things that keep me going.
AI: As a first-class graduate, are you currently gainfully employed?
TT: As stated above, I am currently doing my PhD. However, it might interest you to know that I have never been out of work for a day since I commenced my NYSC barely a month after graduation.
AI: Do you think your grades have or is giving you any major advantage over other graduates with lesser grades?
TT: Undoubtedly, yes. Ranging from my employment history to scholarship applications. I would say my grades is one of the factors that distinguishes me from others. However, it would be misleading to attribute my success journey to my grades only. I have given considerable attention to acquiring relevant transferrable skills and professional certification. Finally, I would also like to acknowledge the place of God factor in my journey so far.
AI: For students who aspire to graduate with outstanding grade like yours, what would you advise them?
TT: Achieving success is not the most difficult thing to do but sustaining success. To graduate with a first-class means developing resilient attitude to overcoming challenges.
It means consistency, insatiable desire for success, setting up targets for every semester, readiness to work harder every semester and sacrificing comfort.
Hence, any student who desire to graduate with first-class need to understand that it doesn’t come on a bed of roses. Also, such student needs to give up on campus distractions and anybody that can negatively influence his/her academic performance.
AI: What would you advise the government to do to improve the standard of our education system?
TT: Firstly, our government must understand that one of the tools needed to become a developed and economically buoyant country is the quality of education received by her young people. Hence, the government should give more attention to education in Nigeria by improving budget for education. They should also provide more research facilities to universities and probably redesign the education system.
AI: Any other thing you would like to share?
TT: To students in Nigerian universities, preparation is the pre-requisite to success. Hence, to become a better graduate with improved postgraduate opportunities, strive to get the best out of your studies. Also acquire as more transferrable skills as possible in the process.