At Edugist, we tell education stories better than anybody does in Nigeria. Our motivation is to cover and unfold all stories; to present a platform to check excesses in the education sector through our editorial lens, celebrate our heroes – teachers and students – so as to rekindle interest and the needed attention in learning and development.
This is why we are starting the First Class Diary to spotlight as many first class students as possible; showing the world we still value and celebrate knowledge, present them to potential opportunities, motivate prospective students and undergraduates students in our tertiary institutions.
In this first episode I sat with a brilliant Azeez Nurudeen Tosin whose story is quite unique. Azeez personally choose to study Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Lagos, a course of study many see as onerous and requires so much mental acuity. Whilst he ended well with a first class, he started on a poor stead, 3.0 CGPA (second class lower) but through hard work and change of routine on campus and support of some of his lecturers, his result tide. Post graduation, different opportunities has presented, Azeez ditched all to follow a path many believed is not rewarding using all criteria. Teaching! For the scholar, is the path he derive journey and it also present an opportunity to contribute to human development.
When I shared snippet of this interview on my personal Facebook page, a commenter has this to say:
Arrant nonsense! May be he has no experience in teaching profession is a last thing I’ll ever think of
Whatever the above means!
Read interview excerpt below:
Elvis Boniface of Edugist: Could you please give a brief description about yourself?
Azeez Nurudeen: I am a first class graduate of Mathematics and Statistics from the prestigious University of Lagos, Akoka, Yaba, Lagos, Nigeria. I am an education enthusiast and by that I have found a career in education and proud of being a teacher at present. I have produced many students – scholars doing very well and some with first class like myself – who I believe will be great assets to the development of Nigeria. It will be nice to add that I am an entrepreneur too. I have my hands on some businesses ‘in their start up stages’.
EB: Were there any motivating factors that triggered your choosing your course of study?
AN: Absolutely! I was never an all round student – I really don’t have the resources to be. But Mathematics – of all – comes to me easily. There is also one Science subject that connects with Mathematics than any other; Physics. I was very good with Physics too. I got my first popularity in University being the only student in my level to go for Physics electives when there are choices of Chemistry and Computer. I have always been at home with Mathematics.
EB: As a first-class graduate, there were surely some moments you likely experienced some setback in your performance. Could you still remember any of those moments?
AN: Very well! I started very poorly. I started with a GPA of 3.0 (that’s 2:2). I smiled when I saw the result broadsheet and I said to myself “this is the result you deserve for your shabby preparation but this is not what you worth”. I was determined to do everything possible, which I did by His Grace. I started having GPAs of not less than 4.5 except for one setback again in 200 level, I had 4.40. I had an F in a course. With my relentless effort on revisiting my paper, it was later upgraded to a D. There wasn’t anything I could do thereafter but to sit up and see how I can make up for that upset.
I have learnt better as an inquisitive graduate than as a first class student during my period in school
EB: 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. Do you agree with this assertion?
AN: I can’t agree more. This is the reality. I have learnt better as an inquisitive graduate than as a first class student during my period in school. The Universities need to see to this. They should not pretend that this is not true or that they don’t even know it. Apparently, undergraduates who are very qualified to be called a savvy student (displaying both competence and performance traits) are very minute and they are most time the lucky ones who have elderly educated persons who already made them know what they should pursue in the university. I have even seen some people sacrificed ‘competence (good result)’ for performance. Our universities have a lot to do on that.
EB: What do you think are responsible for competence without performance and could you suggest ways of improving the performance level of university students and graduates?
AN: There are of course many things responsible but I will focus on few. I have this saying that our people are generally afraid of changes. They always claim this is the way we have been doing it. I am always astonished like, do you want progress at all? What stops the universities to go out and learn from advance universities around the world. I have heard many claims about finances and resources too and I still cannot fathom why our universities position themselves as parasite that just want to take wealth from the government without adding tangible things. I am not sure it is an herculean task for all our universities to have a farm they run to generate millions. That’s why I clamour that we don’t want to changes. As much as I am not oblivion to the federal government issue delivering our education system, I can’t decipher why ASSU, a union of professors will be doing the same thing the same time and expects the same result. We know what Albert Einstein called that. Let our universities start investment in businesses for the sake of running the universities. A team of 10 sound people can run businesses for any university.
EB: Achievement in life transcends ones 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?
I have heard many claims about finances and resources too and I still cannot fathom why our universities position themselves as parasite that just want to take wealth from the government without adding tangible things.
AN: My parents, Mr and Mrs Azeez were golden. While I have been doing some works since I finished secondary school. They never left me. They gave their all financially and spiritually. When I do something myself, like buying books from the money I earn they will promise to pay me back, even though I don’t ask for it. That is a great motivation and they have come to my rescue so many times. Dr A. A Mogbademu is also one of my special persons. It was his course I had the F. He later became my mentor in year 3 and he mentored me to great feats: like publishing a paper in a mathematical journal – a feat rare of undergraduates – and taking me to many mathematics symposiums where I presented that paper.
EB: As a first-class graduate, are you currently gainfully employed?
AN: Yes I am. This could have been laconic as possible but it is necessary to state that I chose to be a teacher and not teaching because I couldn’t get a ‘decent job’ outside teaching. If there is any lesson I will admire forever it is “know what you can do and go for it”. Yes, other things will entice you. I have been enticed by bank jobs from relatives and also hot vacancies that I know I will have a chance. I never gave them much thought. I am committed to what I do. I am training myself well to be the best in this field and change the teacher’s story. My target is that in few years to come, I want to elevate my status. Being a teacher that one who works in multinational will envy. Envy, financially, morally, socially and every good ‘ly’ possible. I am a gainfully employed as a teacher and I am proud about that. With time I will become prouder.
EB: Do you think your grade have or is giving you any major advantage over other graduates will lesser grade?
AN: I think so. I have not done any research on that but I have experienced it first hand myself. I am mostly respected anytime my companions realise I graduated with a first class.
EB: For students who aspire to graduate with outstanding grade like yours, what would you advise them?
AN: I am not that good at giving a generalised advise unless I know some things about the person. This is because what works for me may not work for another. Nevertheless, the best I could give now is to make a to do list for making outstanding result and follow it strictly. Let a trusted friend be aware and set a punish as well as reward for breaking the pace or achieving a result respectively. In this part of the world, we record a lot successes that happen to us only by chance and not because we work much for it. This should stop. We are mostly successful if we have plans and follow them strictly. Undergraduates should also join organizations that will improve their leadership skills. That’s skill is key in today’s world.
If there is any lesson I will admire forever it is “know what you can do and go for it”. Yes, other things will entice you.
EB: What would you advise the government to do to improve the standard of our education system?
AN: There are many things as well here. As intangible as this may seem, the government first need to change the way the universities recruit and monitor lecturers. As I teacher, I believe that recruiting a lecturer should transcend being a PhD holder or so. Aren’t our lecturers the one aiding the production of performing-incompetent graduates? We have too many quack lecturers in our universities carrying PhD and professorship. If the teacher or lecturer is bad, what do you expect of the students?
The government should also fund education better. We cannot continue to have budget of education that cannot compare to the research budget for Harvard University only or worse still other ministries. It is only education that can save, develop and hold a nation.
We asked Azeez to speak to Edugist Camera