Dr Auwal Bala Abubakar is a lecturer at the Department of Mathematical Sciences, Bayero University Kano, who won the University of Chulalongkorn, Thailand’s Highest Journal Citation Report (JCR) after his PhD dissertation in Mathematical Science. In an exclusive interview with Daily Trust Saturday, Bala shed more light on how he emerged as the overall best in Thailand and what should be done to enhance the learning environment in Nigeria.
Daily Trust: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Dr Auwal Bala Abubakar: My name is Auwal Bala Abubakar. I was born 32 years ago at Costain Quarters Kaduna North Local Government Area of Kaduna State. I attended Hannanul Islam Nursery and Primary School, Kabala Costain, Kaduna. I started my secondary school education at Kaduna Capital School and later moved to Prince College Kaduna, where I completed my secondary school education in 2004. After that, I proceeded to the Bayero University Kano and studied BSc Mathematics and completed my program in 2011. I was appointed Graduate Assistant at Bayero University Kano in 2012 and continued with my Masters degree in Mathematics which I completed in 2015. In 2017, I got a PhD scholarship at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Bangkok, Thailand and completed the program July 2020.
For Islamic education, I attended Ihya’ul Islam, Costain quarters and later moved to Hayatul Islam Kabala Costain. Finally, I moved to Madarasatul Tahfizul Qur’an Wattarbiyyatul Awlad popularly know as ‘Qur’an on Cassette’ where I memorized the holy Qur’an at the age of 17 and graduated in 2005.
DT: How did you emerge as overall best in Thailand University?
Dr Auwal: There is a foundation called Dr. Tab Nilanhidi Foundation under the Faculty of Sciences, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand. This foundation at the end of each academic year, will request all universities in Thailand to submit dissertation of all their graduating students which includes undergraduate, Masters and PhD. After the universities submit to them, they will categorize them based on discipline. For example, Mathematics category, Physics, Chemistry and so on. Under each category, they will assess the outputs of each dissertation based on Journal Citation Report (JCR) impact factor and select the three candidates with the highest impact factor. Alhamdulillah, I was lucky to be among the three under Mathematics category and also best of the three, that is the winner. That foundation I mentioned above organizes and hosts the award every year.
DT: How did you feel winning the award?
Dr Auwal: Like I said, the award is based on research outputs. I was the best because my research outputs were published in journals with more impact factor than that of my counterparts. I published six research papers in highly reputable journals such as Numerical algorithms, computational and applied mathematics, Journal of Franklin Institute, etc.
As for how I feel, I must say I was very happy because I was able to put smiles on the faces of my parents, wife and children, my friends, teachers, colleagues, childhood friends and Nigerians at large. Despite our challenges in Nigeria, we are still trying to make our country proud.
DT: You talked about challenges in Nigeria’s system of education. Can you shed more light?
Dr Auwal: The challenges I mean here is the condition of our educational system, especially in the tertiary institutions. We all studied in a harsh environment, where there is no stable electricity, no internet, no books in our libraries and so on. However, to some extent, it becomes a blessing, especially when you go out of the country to further your education because if you can succeed in Nigeria under those circumstances, then there is the probability of succeeding where you don’t lack such things.
DT: How can you compare studying in Nigeria and abroad?
Dr Auwal: I can say that any Nigerian student that studies in Nigeria and truly excels will surely excel abroad. However, there may be exceptions or when the student decides not to focus on his studies.
DT: What do you think should be done to enhance the learning system and environment in Nigeria?
Dr Auwal: There are two things; funding and accountability. As for funding, we need to start thinking about how to fund education without relying completely on the government.
As for accountability, sometimes funds are provided to the institutions but most of the time misplaced or stolen by the management. So, there is need to hold them accountable if we really want to make progress.
DT: Your advice to the youth and others in the education sector
Dr Auwal: My advice to the youth is whatever you are studying, make sure you do it well because you don’t know when you will need the knowledge. Again, try to be good ambassadors of your family and Nigeria where ever you find yourself. Avoid the idea of fast money and live a simple life.
Finally, there are lots of scholarships around the world but most of them require you possess a certain class of degree. Try as much as possible to be on that class and many opportunities will come your way.