Alaboh Anthonia, 27, was the second best graduate from the Delta State University, Abraka, in the 2014/2015 academic session, and she graduated from the Department of Mathematics with 4.70 CGPA. She shares her experience with TUNDE AJAJA
How was your growing up?
My growing up wasn’t easy at all. I was nine years old when my parents divorced, so as the first of three children, I had to assume the role of a mother for my siblings. There were lots of challenges but I’m grateful to God for my dad and everyone who assisted in making us who we are today. Coping with numerous house chores, balancing that with my academics and having to do the things I wasn’t used to before were all very stressful for me as a child but I thank God who saw me through. My dad was also very supportive, even though he lost his job about that time too, we managed. My teen pastor in church also used to counsel me.
Did it affect your performance in school?
Not really, even though I won’t rule out the psychological effect of seeing my parents separate. But overall, I didn’t do badly. In my secondary school, I was doing well but my position in the class was like 21 out of 50. I wasn’t so much an excellent student then.
How easy was it passing your WASSCE and UTME and how many sittings?
The Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination was not a challenge for me but when I first wrote the West African Senior School Certificate Examination, I had just two credits in Mathematics and English while I failed the rest. I don’t know why it happened that way. I kept writing the exam until I had my papers in one sitting at the sixth attempt. I finished from secondary school in 2002, but I didn’t pass all my papers at once until 2008. I could have combined results but I didn’t want that, so, I kept trying till I had it all at one sitting. That’s why I thank God for having someone like my father because he understood what I wanted and supported me. He has always been very supportive of our academics and I’ll always be grateful to him. He didn’t despise me because I didn’t have my papers at once. He encouraged me and stood by me. I later got admission in 2010.
As a child and in the midst of all that happened, what did you dream to become?
My dream was to be a lawyer and human rights activist so I could fight against the military government. But, as time went on and democratic government was in place, my love for science, especially mathematics, grew. So, my dream changed to being either a computer scientist or a teacher. So, I chose to study mathematics and my dad was supportive. He was happy that I chose teaching, and he suggested I could settle for being a lecturer instead.
How easy was it to have a first class?
Having a first class wasn’t easy at all; it involves discipline, determination, sacrifices, above all, God’s grace, mercy and favour. I never thought I would graduate with a first class, not to talk of being the second best in the school, but after seeing my 100L result, I had 4.33 and I felt I could put in more effort and have a better result. When I got to school, I planned not to go to parties or the beach. I didn’t venture into things that could waste my time, I had a concrete and workable plan for each day, I decided to start reading as soon as lectures began and I tried to have foreknowledge of my courses by studying ahead. I also had friends who had first class and I learnt from them. When I had 4.33 in 100L first semester, I was happy but the people I told encouraged me that with more effort, I could make first class. My friends believed in me and they told me I needed to do more. They told me the benefits of having a first class and that the opportunities awaiting first class were enormous, including job offer and scholarship. They said Delta State Government used to give its indigent first class graduates N5m, but that was then. However, without those things, I still have joy that I achieved it. I started having first class in 200L. I had 5.0 in my first semester and 4.85 in second semester. Since then, I had to maintain it.
Were there things you did differently from others that you think helped you?
Yes, I made sure I loved all my courses, even the ones students hate. I had respect for my lecturers. I had a close relationship with my seniors for them to guide me, give me materials and explain our courses to me before resumption.
Was there a reading technique that worked for you?
You read mathematics using the normal method of reading which is the SQ3R. S is survey, Q is ask yourself questions on what you hope to gain, R is read thoroughly or study examples, the second R means recite what you have read in your own words by writing them down the way you remember without looking at your books. If it is calculation, you start solving exercises. While the third R is review, which entails comparing your note and jotter to see if you are correct. It is advisable to repeat the three Rs until your goals are achieved. It works.
For students contemplating choosing Mathematics as a course, what can you tell them about it?
Mathematics is a very interesting course; it consists of different aspects such as differentiation, integration, theorems and proofs. It is not purely calculations as people think; it entails other theoretical aspects such as abstract algebra, real analysis, metric space and topological space etc. It is very wide and requires high level of intelligence. Many people run away from mathematics because of their preconceptions; they have assumed that it is hard. No matter how simplified it is, some people will still see it as difficult, but it is not as hard as people make it look, it is simple provided you are willing to pay the price. It is guided by rules, principles, and theorems and people who are willing to adhere strictly to the rules would find it simple. It is a step by step process.
What are the applications of the course in Nigeria?
Being the bedrock of all science courses, Mathematics can be applied in all spheres of life, from simple daily activities to the highest form of technology. It can be useful in solving fuel price problem, population growth and environmental regulations through probability. Young entrepreneurs need mathematics for risk assessment, forecast and other things. It can even be used to predict the spread of diseases and most of the apps and games we have on our phones and computers are mathematically inclined. In ICT, Mathematics can be used to crack codes and hide information, which is coding theory. That can serve as security to any software-based firms, banks, etc and many aspects of this theory are based on number theory, There is also an aspect called mathematical modelling which means using mathematical methods to solve real life problems. Mathematics is used for interpreting and solving any problem. So, the applications are wider than many people know.
What was your typical day like as an undergraduate?
I was either in the hostel, in the class receiving lectures, in the fellowship or sometimes in the library. I had a timetable for reading and my standard duration was six hours, two hours each during the day, in the evening and in the midnight. Naturally, I don’t sleep for long. In the night, I might wake twice or thrice so it was an advantage for me. Initially, I never liked the idea of going to the library to read, as time and courses grew tough, I started using the library because I needed to use some textbooks. Gradually, I became addicted to the library.
Were you involved in other school activities?
Yes, I was involved mostly in the fellowship as a chorister. I was in different units in the fellowship, including prayer, evangelism, home cell and academic unit. I was the director in 400l, I was among the committee that organised the first national mathematics conference hosted by our school as the exhibition coordinator.
What are your hobbies?
My hobbies are reading novels, watching movies, talking and teaching.
How social were you?
I wouldn’t say I was a social person, though I had close friends and I was close to my colleagues. I knew when to draw the lines. I am very strict and disciplined, so I didn’t really have funny gestures from men. Some people didn’t like it but I ignored such.
What was your most memorable moment in school?
My happiest moment was when our former head of department shook my hand in 100L. I went to the department to check my result and when the person in charge was calling my grades and there were many As (distinctions), the HOD was in his office, so when he heard someone having As, he came out to see who had such an impressive result. He shook my hand and congratulated me. That was the first time I would be having a close contact with him and he was someone I looked up to because I heard he also had a first class, so I wanted to be like him and I’m happy I achieved that.
What are your aspirations?
I would like to further my education till I become a professor in applied mathematics, have my PGD in education, learn one or two programmes and establish my own school. I have always loved teaching and I found that I have joy imparting knowledge in others. I intend to change people’s perspective towards mathematics especially students in primary and secondary school. I like them to know that mathematics is easy.
What is your advice to students?
My advice is that they should be determined, live a purposeful life because today’s input determines tomorrow’s output. They should believe in themselves, think big, don’t assume they know certain things; they should be sure they know, and above all, know God.