The First Class Diary

First Class Diary: This Scholar Has Turned his Passion into Profession

Written by Abigael Ibikunle

Beautiful morning to you my readers! Apologies for not posting last week. It will not happen again. Smiles! So, our scholar for this week is one of Nigeria’s finest scholar, Olufemi Adesina. Olufemi Adesina is a Co-founder at FoodTrust Integrated Farms in Nigeria, a commonwealth scholarship recipient.

Guess what! He also recently emerged as one of the ten African youths selected for the inaugural edition of Borlaug-Adesina fellows (World Hunger Fighters Foundation), an initiative by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina.

So much about just one scholar. That’s right. Let me allow you have a smooth read. Don’t forget, we do international interviews as well. So, feel free to contact me on either or if you would also like to be featured on this first class diary series.

I remain your humble host. Enjoy!

The certificate issued by university bodies to a large extent cannot be used as a benchmark for competency. This is the reason why many graduates are found wanting when it comes to actual performance.

Abigael Ibikunle of Edugist: Please share with Edugist, a little about your background

Olufemi Adesina: I am Olufemi Adesina, from Ipele-Owo LGA, Ondo State, Nigeria. I had my nursery school education at Glorious Centre School, Ikeja, Lagos. But completed my primary school at Ore-Ofe Nursery and Primary, Akure. After which I proceeded to Oyemekun Grammar School Akure (OGSA), where I had my secondary school education. Immediately after high school graduation, I started applying for admission into the University, but could not gain admission into a University in 2009.

I gained admission into the Federal Polytechnic Ado-Ekiti in 2010 to study Agricultural Technology. And I bagged a National Diploma in Agric Tech. With this, I applied through Direct Entry to the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) in 2013. I wanted to study Agricultural Economics and Extension in 2013. Unknown to me, the department had already split. So, I was offered Agricultural Extension and Communication Technology. I was to start from 200 level.

Without hesitation, I accepted the offer and gave it my all. This in turn earned me a B.Agric. Tech in Agric Extension and Communication. I topped my class and graduated with a First-class Hons (4.81/5.00 CGPA) in 2017. In the year 2018, I was among the successful applicants selected for the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship to study MSc Food Security at the prestigious University of Warwick, UK. I completed my master’s program successfully in September 2019.

Of recent, I emerged as 1 of the 10 African youths selected for the inaugural edition of Borlaug-Adesina fellows (World Hunger Fighters Foundation). This was founded and endowed by Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President African Development Bank, in partnership with the World Food Prize. This is aimed at developing youths who will become champions for ending global hunger. Besides, I am a Co-founder at FoodTrust Integrated Farms in Nigeria. I have an avid interest in climate change, environmental conservation, rural development, and food insecurity challenges.

AI: Was there any motivating factor(s) that influenced your choice of discipline and institution?

FA: Yes, there were. While growing up, I spend my holidays on my grandma’s farm. So, I enjoyed fresh fruits and surplus food. But I could not do much on the farm due to its drudgery nature. However, I was privileged to experience diverse challenges farmers do encounter on their farms. Although I couldn’t do anything to address those issues at the time. The interest in food security, sustainable agriculture and eradicating drudgery in farming kept growing.

Due to my keen interest in Agricultural related courses, I aced them with ease both in my primary and high school days. Consequently, furthering my education in a higher institution, I didnt hesitate to select Agricultural related fields. However, my choice of FUTA was because I reside in Akure where the university is located. With the help of friends’ elder brothers and sisters schooling in FUTA at the time, I was able to garner a handful of information. I tried to get into FUTA twice, before settling down for a Diploma at Federal Polytechnic Ado-Ekiti. Nevertheless, I didnt give up, I selected FUTA as my first and second choice while making my Direct Entry Application, and I got the offer in 2013.

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?

FA: It depends on whatever the firm/organizations evaluating the graduate, set as standards and level of competency.

The certificate issued by university bodies to a large extent cannot be used as a benchmark for competency. This is the reason why many graduates are found wanting when it comes to actual performance.

Thus, employers are forced to recruit those with 3-4 years of Job experience. Our educational system prioritizes theory over practical. To make matters worse, the theory is taught using obsolete methods of transferring knowledge.

Thus, the only graduates that perform well are the ones that take out time to gain additional skills and personal development whilst in school. I must commend the field trip to Songhai farm at Port-novo, Republic of Benin sometimes around 2016.

It added more value to me and gave me the much-needed insights into my research area and agribusiness opportunities. And I can say that it drove home the points well, compared to other theoretical classes I have attended in Nigeria before going for my masters degree in the UK.

AI: What do you think is responsible for competence without performance? Please suggest ways of improving the performance level of university students and graduates.

FA: University curriculums are lacking the required modules needed to integrate the classroom activities and real-world demands. As it is being done in the western world, it can also be done in Nigeria. For instance, in the UK where I had my masters, after every module, we are asked to give feedback on both the teaching methods and the subject taught. The course director reviews the feedback and takes the necessary action. Furthermore, there is a need for students to undergo transferable skills before graduation.

Also, Subject Matter Specialist should be invited to the classroom to give insight on what is currently applicable as regards the topic and the course under consideration. Students should acquire hands-on experiences in industries and firms related to their discipline before graduation.

The state of our practical Laboratory and facilities in various universities are not good enough. Hence, improvement or replacement is highly imperative to enable students get the best of education.

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?

FA: God will not come down to help you, he will only use people around you. The kind of help you receive to a large extent depends on the type of people you surround yourself with or you come across in life. My parents were there for me always most especially my Dad. I can say that without his support, I wont be here today. I lost my Dad a few months to the end of my masters program at Warwick. But I was determined to graduate strong because he was very supportive.

I am blessed with great mentors who gave their candid advice. I also keep friends with like minds.

Many of my friends graduated with a first-class, including my roommate Ayetan Olatubosun. He also got Mastercard funding for his MSc at the University of British Columbia, Canada. Nevertheless, those that could not make the first-class mark, had strong 2:1 (second class upper) which has earned them scholarships, awards, business grants, and good Jobs today.

AI: As a first-class graduate, are you currently gainfully employed?

FA: As I said earlier, I just completed my MSc degree, and I am currently on another fellowship. Moreover, I also have a farm which makes me an employer too. I have never been idle since I graduated from FUTA in 2017. All to the glory of God.

AI: Do you think your grades have given or is giving you any major advantage over other graduates with lesser grades?

FA: To be fair YES, my grades have placed me even beyond where I expected. With the help of God, alongside my excellent academic performances, I have been able to build an excellent profile and a strong network, which is my Net worth today.

Nonetheless, I have spent more time adding value to myself, hence good academic grades alone are not enough to excel in life. We should be versatile, with full knowledge that learning is a continuous process, it never ends.


AI: For students who aspire to graduate with outstanding grade like yours, what would you advise them?

FA: Tell it to God. Draw out different plans to achieve the same gFAl. Solidify your foundation early enough to help you build on it easily, most especially when you are young. Also, be principled, passionate, consistent and persevere in whatever challenge that comes your way in the journey of achieving the set goals.

AI: What would you advise the government to do to improve the standard of our education system?

FA: The Government needs to eradicate incessant strikes in our universities by increasing the budgetary provision for education. They should pay attention to facilities and infrastructures in the schools. Then also train the trainers, that is the lecturers need to be up to the task with the required skills which in turn boost their performances.

However, monitoring and evaluation of university performances should be done frequently to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. With the right policies and implementation, we can improve the standard of our educational system.

AI: Any other thing you would like to share?

FA: Despite the challenges we face daily in the Nigerian academic system, some of us still achieve academic excellence. Then, to a large extent, you can succeed in anything you find yourself doing. And in whatever you put your mind to, with God on your side.

As we all know, successful people get the best of whatever they do. They keep adding value to themselves, ranging from professional certifications to networking and taking online courses, this makes them a student at some point in their lives.


About the author

Abigael Ibikunle

Associate Correspondent at Edugist, Abigael Ibikunle is a Mathematics Education graduate. A professional Journalist and a passionate writer. She can be reached via:

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