How Aminat Yusuf's parents prepared her for perfect success at LASU
Aminat’s academic feat is a result of her determination and her parents’ deliberate efforts to see her excel.
On Thursday, June 15, 2023, the management of Lagos State University (LASU) announced the 23-year-old as the institution’s all-time best-graduating student with a perfect Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 5.0.
This feat, the first of its kind in LASU’s 40 years of existence, underscores the law graduate’s brilliance in setting a difficult record that cannot be surpassed.
Two days after Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, hosted Aminat and her parents at the State House, Marina, the family spoke to this writer at their Aboru residence in the Iyana-Ipaja area of Lagos State.
Evidently, Aminat’s academic feat is a result of her determination and her parents’ deliberate efforts to see her excel.
What makes her a special scholar?
Throughout her days at LASU, the celebrated academic champion did not for once see herself as a special student because, despite her brilliance, she believes she was not popular because only a few students knew about her academic standing.
"I’m not very special, there are about 270-something students in my class. I’m sure I don’t know more than 30 people by name. I don’t attend parties. I’m not the party type. I’m quite boring in terms of how people perceive me, but the few people I have in my niche know I’m friendly and I’m fun."
Contrary to her self-assessment, Aminat’s parents, Ibrahim and Halima Yusuf knew their daughter had a special gift that catalysed her intellectual prowess. Her parents attributed her brilliance to her inquisitiveness and passion for learning.
According to her father, a journalist with TheNation newspaper, “Aminat has always been a precocious child right from childhood. She’s always been inquisitive right from time and always ready to learn new things. The ultimate goal like I used to tell her is that there’s no half-measures and that she can achieve anything in life if she remains focused."
Attesting to this, her mother explained that Aminat developed an interest in learning at a very young age and they nurtured it to become a habit.
“When it comes to learning, she has an interest in it. She loves learning anything. Even when it does not concern her, she will want to know. She has the habit of wanting to know anything as long as it has to do with life and it’s not negative,” she said.
Having detected her thirst for knowledge in her formative years, Ibrahim was able to push Aminat as best as possible to achieve her goals through careful nurturing by encouraging her where possible, rewarding as well as admonishing whenever the occasion demanded.
What’s her upbringing like?
Aminat is the first child of the family and by virtue of that, her parents expended a great deal of energy to bring her up the right way to serve as a model for her younger siblings.
Explaining how she was raised, Aminat’s father said his brilliant daughter "grew up in a home where moral values, Islamic ethos were a big deal."
"As the first child, she was minded to be well-behaved so as to serve as a good example to her younger siblings. So, naturally, living in that kind of environment had its own merits," he explained.
Not minding her parents’ strict and principled disposition, Aminat understands her position in the family and she submits to her parents’ wishes with a strong conviction that they want the best for her.
She said, "My upbringing, as the first child, with very disciplinarian parents, you do normal basic things. I followed all the instructions, they are always instructing and guiding me. I’m not rebellious. I can’t even be rebellious, there’s no senior sister to defend me or senior brother, I am alone. There are times they’re strict, they are very disciplined and I am also an obedient child.”
What’s the secret behind her academic success?
In a bid to make her a lifelong learner, Aminat’s parents applied the axiom, "catch them young," in raising her. She started primary school very early and finished early. In fact, she moved to JSS1 from primary four after sitting for the Common Entrance Examination.
Her father said, "She had a very eventful early childhood education. She began primary school quite early. She attended schools in Auchi, in Edo State and later Lagos State. As a very promising scholar, she was so brilliant that she had to sit for the Common Entrance Exam for the award of the First School Leaving Certificate in primary four and that meant she jumped two classes including primary five and six respectively and moved to JSS1."
There are a number of other factors that contributed to Aminat’s academic feat at LASU. Besides her studiousness, she was unrelentingly focused and determined to make her parents proud.
To achieve her goal, Aminat, despite the preponderance of social media entertainment and their ubiquitousness restricted herself to LinkedIn where she got internship opportunities and attended conferences.
Also, it is not uncommon for scholars to be famous on campus, especially in their departments, but Aminat's brilliance didn't come with any fame as an undergraduate. Throughout her years at the university, she had only three friends. That explains why she believes she was not popular in her faculty.
"For those four years, I had three friends. In my diploma, I had two friends. So I don’t know how to manage so many people, I’m quite boring in terms of how people perceive me. The few people I have in my niche know I’m friendly and I’m fun, but every other person sees me as a boring person. For social media, I don’t know how that one operates, I am not on social media," she said.
Another factor that contributed to her record-setting feat at LASU was her passion for the course she studied. Aminat likened it to reading an interesting novel.
"Law is interesting. It comes with having a passion for something. I’m very passionate about it. It’s a field I find very enjoyable. It’s very practical. It’s interesting, it’s more like reading a very interesting novel,” she said.
“If I’m interested in reading, I’m in the library. I’m always in the library until it closes at 5:30 pm. And on a random regular day, if I don’t have any other engagements, if I’m reading I could read for 18 hours a day," she explained.
How her lecturers contributed to her feat
Aminat’s lecturers at LASU also deserve commendation for the additional roles they played in mentoring her to become the pride of the university. She explained that she became some lecturers’ favourite student due to her performance in exams.
"You know they (lecturers) don’t know students by their names but by matric number. So maybe my answers are quite impressive and they come to class particularly to know who the student is, and so from there, they offered guidance. Also during holidays they mentored me," she submitted.
To expose her to the practical aspect of her course of study, some of her lecturers facilitated her internship at firms and attendance at conferences and webinars.
Apart from spending hours in the library, Aminat is a student who prepares for exams by reading three or more books on one topic.
“Any law student in my class knows that I always collect extra sheets. It’s a thing for me, because I read two or three textbooks for one topic and you want me to put everything in a small book. It’s not going to be easy to compress all the information, even though I tried to compress my thoughts, no matter how much I tried to summarise, I will still need extra sheets," she said.
What’s next for Aminat?
Amid the celebration of her achievement, the Government of Edo State offered her a job but the young scholar has not made any decision on the offer as she currently interns at Olaniwun Ajayi Law firm in Banana Island while prepping to gain her MSc and PhD at Harvard University.
While preparing to go to Law School, Aminat is also currently working on opening a YouTube channel where she will be taking law students through compulsory law courses from 100 to 500 levels.
Explaining her reason for launching a vlog, she said, "I know for a fact that it is not every information you can get in the classroom. Sometimes by reason of the way the class is structured, students who are at the last end cannot really listen to what the lecturers are saying. Or you just get tired and you’re not paying 100% attention. If you have a video you can reach out to at any point in time, it’ll definitely be of help.”
Her parents’ views on education
The young scholar is blessed with parents who understand the value of education and would go any length to ensure their children have the best of it. It’s no surprise that her trader mother and journalist father succeeded in making her a worthy model.
In her mother’s opinion, "Education is life. It’s the key to everything. It’s a key that can open any door, without it, you’re nowhere."
Aminat’s father’s philosophy of education is anchored on Nelson Mandela’s quote that "Education is the most powerful tool you can use to liberate the mind."
He believes “Education is one of the lasting legacies parents can bequeath to their wards. It’s good to leave some forms of inheritance to your children alright, but nothing compares to providing them sound education."
He concluded that as a father, he always tries to put education as his top priority on the scale of preference.
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