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I was admitted into Mathematics Department on trial – First-Class ABU graduate

Zainab Bello Kofa has always been a brilliant student. She memorised the Holy Qur’an at the age of 14 and aced most of her subjects…

Zainab Bello Kofa has always been a brilliant student. She memorised the Holy Qur’an at the age of 14 and aced most of her subjects throughout her primary and secondary schools. The 23-year-old recently graduated from the Mathematic Department of the Ahmadu Bello University with a CGPA of 4.85, the highest for the department.  


Can you give a brief background on your education?

l am Zainab Bello Kofa, from Zaria. I was born and brought up in Zaria and also had all my education in Zaria. I attended Therbow Primary & Secondary School, Zaria and graduated in 2016. The same year, l got admission into the Ahmadu Bello University to study mathematics. l never chose to study mathematics, l applied for medicine but you know how destiny acts, l was admitted into Mathematics Department and l accepted it in good faith.

Did you find mathematics difficult?

It was not very difficult. You know, it is all about focus and determination. I studied hard and prayed a lot. After I secured the admission, l faced many challenges; the first challenge was the course itself because the JAMB combination for medicine is quite different from that of mathematics. English, Physics, Chemistry and Biology were the combinations for medicine and for Mathematics, you are expected to at least have Maths among the subjects. And so, at first, that was in 2017, the department didn’t want to accept me, they only allowed me to stay in the Mathematics Department for a session on trial. They wanted to see if l could cope but Alhamdulillah, here we are today.

Zainab Bello Kofa

What was your result like in the first year?

The first semester, I had a GP of 4.37 and the second semester l had 4.73, making my 100L CGPA 4.53.

Where you the highest in the class? 

No, I wasn’t at the beginning. l think I was the second during the 100L session. However, I had the highest CGPA after graduation. I don’t really know how many First-Class graduates emerged from the Maths Department, you know, academic result is like a private matter, some people feel uncomfortable when you ask them.

Many people have phobia for mathematics, how are you able to easily interpret the numbers and other aspects of maths?

Mathematics is not about the numbers. Why many people think mathematics is difficult is because the mathematics they know in primary and secondary school deal with formulas and numbers but what we do in the university is to learn how to get those formulas not how to apply them. What they are doing in secondary school is applying those formulas but, in the university, it is about getting those formulas, applying different theorem to bring about a formula.

How do you study?

I am always with my books; I like to study whether in the hostel or at home. I stayed in the hostel until after l got married in my 300L, and even after I got married, I stayed in the hostel for a while. I’m always studying and even when gisting with friends and roommates, you will find me with a book.

Did you strive to make First-Class?

l didn’t plan it; l was just working hard. Like l said, l study very hard but even after l got my first class after my 100L, you know school sometimes, you get a first class and after sometime, you drop, but Alhamdulillah, my CGPA kept rising. It was after the 200L that I noticed l was still a first-class student and that was when l developed the hope of graduating with a first-class.

What was your motivation in school?

I think, part of the things that motivated me is the fact that my father has always wanted me to be a medical student. So, when l didn’t get admission to study medicine, I knew I had to do my best. I didn’t want my father to have any regrets; l just wanted him to be proud of me, so that was the motivation.

What was your father’s reaction when you made First-Class and how did you feel? 

l knows he’s very happy now. To say I was happy is an understatement, l think I can only say Alhamdulillah.

What do you do in your free time?

I still read in my free time, l read novels, sometimes I recite the Quran and sometimes l gist. Mostly, I read or recite the holy Quran. I was able to memorise the Qur’an at the age of 14.

What are your future plans?

To further my education in the same mathematics. I would like to do a masters and PhD in Mathematics. 

You got married in 300L and had a baby while in school. Did that in any pose a challenge to you academically? 

It was smooth. My parents were very supportive. They do their best when it comes to their children’s education and so, even when l had the baby, l used to leave the baby with my mother to write exams so I wouldn’t be distracted. I have always considered it a duty to study hard and focus on my primary assignment in school. I tried as much as possible to avoid distractions and was diligent with my formative assessments too. I was extremely prayerful as well. But what I am very sure of is that the influence of my parents and husband played a major role. My parents were very supportive and encouraging and they made sure I never lacked anything during my western and Islamic education. They were always there for me and I cannot thank them enough. I also have a very understanding husband who supports me in all possible ways. I am also of the firm believe that this success is not as a result of my efforts but the will of Allah. While my efforts might have formed part of it, I believe it is more of a product of consistent prayers of my parents, husband, grandmother, siblings and the blessings associated with memorization of the holy Quran. Alhamdulillah. I got the training and discipline to study for long hours from the school I memorized the Qur’an.

What advice would you give other students, especially those who fear mathematics?

There is nothing to fear in mathematics. There is that phobia in people when they see mathematics. Even me, I had thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. In fact, l even wanted to change the course to any health-related course like Biology but one of my brothers, Abdul-Azeez, who finished from the Computer Science department encouraged me. I remember he used to say: “l know you can do it; just do it, just try it.”

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