Since 1997, Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) did not produce first class graduates in its English Department. In fact, the last distinction graduate of the department, Akinmade Akande is now a professor of English.
In OAU, the English and Geology Departments have a reputation for not producing first class graduates. However, on Wednesday, December 12, 2018, the university at its 43rd joint convocation ceremony announced Roheemah Arogundade and Kehinde Lawal as the first graduates of the University to bag first class from the English Department.
In this interview with Pulse, the two outstanding graduates talked about their lives on campus and their academic achievements.
Pulse: Did you determine to break the jinx when you realized there's been no first class graduate since 1997 in your department?
Roheemah: Growing up, the thirst for excellence was instilled in me by my parents. So I always aspire to excellence wherever I find myself and upon my entry into the university. That's what I worked towards achieving.
Kehinde: I strongly desired it but it was hard at the same time to dispel the thought of the long-believed "impossibility." From the onset, I was determined to try and make a stride for goods grades (maybe not for a first class but to be the best in a class of about 400 students). The desperate zeal to really finish with a first class grew when I made a 5.0 CGPA in my 200 level 2nd semester result. At that point, I was wowed and I made up my mind to try all I could to have first class. So, from that time, I was working towards it.
Pulse: What did you do differently that made it easy for you to break the record?
Roheemah: I wouldn't know if I had done something different, only that I decided to work not only hard but smart too. I had a plan for every semester. I had a senior colleague who I would meet at the end of every semester to make copies of her notes and materials in order to prepare for the next semester in advance. I also ensured that I attended every class, attended discussions and tutorials, met with lecturers and fellow students when I needed to understand some topics. Also, I ensured that I read all the topics treated in class in a day. And most importantly, I never neglected my prayers.
Kehinde: Well, I can not state specifically what I did differently from others because I do not know how much effort some other people pumped towards having a first class in the department. But, on a general note, what I noticed that I did differently from many of my colleagues was to study every night ( even if it was just for an hour). Many students failed to cultivate the habit of consistent revision or studying until it's time for assessments. "Crash reading" never works for me. So, I tried to prepare for exams from the beginning of the semester.
Pulse: What were your campus days like?
Roheemah: They were quite interesting. Apart from academics, I was involved in other activities. I was a member of the drug-free club and also a member of Association of Nigerian Authors. I participated in volunteering activities such as Nigerian cleanups and some others. I took a course in project management. I was engaged in freelance writing and editing and also tutoring.
Kehinde: Campus life was quite stressful for me. I had too many extracurricular activities I delved into. From my 200 level, I was committed to being a member of different committees in the department. I was a member of the Audit committee, Trip and Excursion Committee, Award Dinner Committee, Class party committee and others. In my 2nd year also, I started as a member of NASELS' Communication Bureau (the press outfit of the department). Gradually, I rose in rank to become the assistant managing editor, the managing editor and the Editor-in-Chief in my final year. I was actively involved in the publication of the departmental magazine (FOUNT) in 2015 too.
Pulse: Were you aware there was another student in the department with record-breaking CGPA and did you see her as competition?
Roheemah: No, I didn't know earlier on but when I did, I was quite happy when I realised that a friend was also doing excellently well. There was no competition of any kind, instead, we always met to discuss difficult topics and explain them to one another.
Kehinde: Yes, there were rumours. Same way mine was a rumour until I finally graduated. But I didn't see her as competition. During exams, we had group discussions and revised past questions together. I was very happy we made it but we were surprised that we finished with the same point- 4.56.
Pulse: What do you think is responsible for the lack of first class graduates for 21 years in the department?
Roheemah: I believe every student works hard or tries their best to be excellent too. So I just believe it wasn't time.
Kehinde: I can't say precisely. However, I feel the orientation fresh students get on admission into the department is quite discouraging. So, even without making an effort to make the first class, students in the department just naturally feel comfortable having average grades because everyone believes the first class grade is impossible.
I hope that the achievement Roheemah and I have made would further encourage students and prospective students of the department to do better. Now it is established that it is possible, I hope to see more people graduating with first class in years to come. Although it's not by default, hard work is highly recommended too.
Pulse: Apart from studying what would you say helped to achieve this academic feat?
Roheemah: God and my support system i.e. my family and friends
Kehinde: God, Prayers and support from my mother, family and my best friend.
Pulse: Did the school management reward you for breaking the record?
Roheemah: At this moment, no.
Kehinde: There are not many awards in the department and the single one that exists was not awarded to anyone.
This is something that also needs to be changed to encourage students. The school should make provisions for awards and Alumni too should do the same.
Pulse: With your first class degree in English what career path do you intend to follow?
Roheemah: I'm passionate about academics, so I'll be getting involved one way or another in that but I also love writing. So definitely that's something I will be pursuing too. I'm open to anything really, as long as it is something that contributes positively to the society and gives room for self-growth.
Kehinde: Good grades aren't guarantees for a secured career path but they open doors of life-changing opportunities for those that seek it.
With a first class from OAU and in a department where it was previously considered impossible, I have a certain level of confidence that it would be relatively easy to study further anywhere in the world.
I would love to explore opportunities in the communication field like corporate communications, marketing, advertising, media relations, brand management, and public relations. All these are interrelated fields that my degree in English would help me with immensely.