Aisha Zannah Mustapha is a first class graduate of mass communication of Skyline University Nigeria in Kano State. In this interview with Daily Trust Saturday, she shares her story on the path to academic success.
Did you set out to study mass communication?
It started as an interest in using art and painting as a medium of communication. I also had an interest in advocacy. Because I come from Borno State, I have always seen peer resistance to girl child education and Western education. I was able to recognise the disparities between me and my peers and I wanted to tell that story. My opportunity came when I saw an advert for a European Union (UE) gender inequality painting competition. My father helped me to register and I drew a painting of a woman talking to a crowd with a megaphone. That moment changed my life forever because my field in both storytelling and advocacy came into play. It was the first time I met Dora Akunyili and Ambassador Van der Muelen at the EU in 2008.
My interest in journalism grew till I met CNN’s correspondent, Nima Elbagir, who introduced the love and the know-how of the field. She was the first person to make me realise that journalism was a field for me. After that I decided to learn Arabic at the International University of Africa, Sudan, and then moved to study screenwriting at the Metropolitan Film School before I finally came back to Nigeria to study journalism at Skyline.
But so many others influenced my ever-growing interest too, such as Sasha Achilli, Ms Isha Sesay, BBC’s Mr Julian King, Stacey Dooley and Amina J. Muhammad who really gave me opportunities, advice and mentoring. They gave me opportunities to be on production and documentary sets.
What did you pick as a major?
This question is quite a hard one because I had interest in all the fields of mass communication. That’s why I made sure I acquired knowledge from all and I am still acquiring knowledge.
The reality is that the story writes the writer. The working environment will determine where I end up.
Coming out the best in your set means you had to let go of some things; what were those things?
I can’t say I am the best, but Alhamdulillah. Working and studying was one of the most stressful moments of my life. I was pulling 16 hours some days by the time I started 200-level undergraduate studies. I had to prioritise my future, social life and other things. I was doing an undergraduate degree in Skyline, but I also did some freelance screenwriting, was into activism and philanthropy, I translated and transcribed too.
Full-time study and three jobs sound impressive at first, but it’s decidedly less fun living it half of the time. I thought that life as a perpetual student would help me avoid having to enter the world of work fully. Little did I know that by the time I finished my second semester I’d end up pulling a series of mammoth 16 hours and my health and the stress was too much. I had to learn to organise and create space for myself to rest. I did lose a lot of friends.
Some people have the notion that mass communication is an easy course; is that true?
I might be biased to say mass communication is an interesting course; it might be both easy and hard. It depends on how you approach it. I love reading and that created opportunities that allowed me to explore several journals and books.
What was your study routine like?
It was quite normal. I had a very tight organised calendar that allowed me to know how much I needed to do while juggling work. I created an hour before Fajr; which is around 4am to 5am and 11am to 12pm every day before exams.
In your hard times, what or who was your motivation?
My parents and my husband, but I would like to say I have a very wide network of people who push me to be the best. So many, in Skyline and outside. But what motivated me apart of them is the vow I made to my little self that I can achieve so much if I am strong, resilient and patient
Did any of your lecturers push your drive to be the best?
I was a very lucky student to have the lecturers and professors in Skyline, because from the beginning my lecturers motivated and pushed me more than anyone. Dr Ashiru Inuwa, Mr Eric Msughter, Mr Abdulhameed Ridwannulah, Mr Bashir Usman, Dr Saminu and so many others. They at different moments pushed me to be the best.
Was there a time you almost gave up?
It was in my third year when it became a bit too much for me to handle work and studies. I almost gave up, but the staff at Skyline helped me find myself again.
What other challenges did you face in school?
They varied quite a lot in the case of stress, time management, events handling, friends, classmates and interacting with other people.
Who was your biggest supporter?
Allah SWT and my parents.
What are your plans?
I am ready to become the Christiane Amanpour of Nigerian journalism and the Amina Muhammad of humanitarianism. My aspiration is to be a leading correspondent for any news agency in Nigeria and after some years open my own personal news agency.
What would you encourage those who want to pursue the same career as yours?
They should remember that mass communication involves many disciplines and incorporates vital elements of related fields like strategic communication, health communication, political communication, marketing, and journalism. This diversity allows for creativity and flexibility in selecting one’s career. With a mass communication background one can pursue employment in related fields like marketing, journalism, entertainment, healthcare, communication consulting, broadcasting, advertising, foreign entities, government, and non-profit organisations. The sky is not even your limit.
What course gave you a tough time in school?
Issues in mass communication history was a bit hard for me, but I loved mass media law and ethics.
Was there any special project you engaged in while in school?
I worked on four international documentaries, two Nigerian documentaries and did three TV productions for both international and local news agencies. I am the current brand ambassador of Skyline University Nigeria.