Adedeji Oluwakorede Joshua from the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Ilọrin, emerged as one of the overall best students at the just concluded University of Ilorin combined convocation ceremonies held in October with a CGPA of 4.96. He, however, achieved the feat despite combining tailoring with academics. In this interview with Daily Trust Saturday, the 22-year-old indigene of Odo-Otin Local Government Area of Osun State talks about the struggles and sacrifices that led to his triumph despite the obstacles, among other issues of interest.
How can you describe this feat and how did it come about?
I think the first thing is to recognise God’s grace in all of these through hard work, dedication and discipline. It has not been easy, I must say, but with prayer and sustained efforts, we were able to conquer.
Did your background play any role in this?
Of course, I attended a private school and was born a Catholic. My parents taught me how to pray and be hard working which gave us this attitude and mentality to always strive and believe in ourselves. They were always concerned about our position in school. That was a major driving force growing up.
The prolonged 2020 ASUU strike and COVID break affected many of your colleagues who ventured into or prioritised money-making ventures during the period. How were you able to stay focused?
There were a lot of distractions during that period for students and the issue of money was at the peak. Many ventured into businesses and other related ventures to earn money because of the situation of the country. That period truly distracted many students which was no fault of theirs, but it took me a lot of discipline to stay focused, especially seeing my 200-400 level results. Then, I vowed not to be distracted at this stage after coming this far. During the strike, I decided to go to the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMA) for an internship to prepare me further. But this year, I am working at NAFDAC for my internship.
Having 4.96 CGPA in pharmaceuticals is not an easy task, did you see this coming?
No. Initially, my plan was not to be the overall best student, I was just working to maintain my CGPA and do the best I could do, especially after seeing what other people were scoring in other faculties. Although, in my secondary school, I was a good student, but I know that the university has a bigger population, more diverse and competitive and it’s a different ball game entirely. In my first year, I just decided to read as much as I could and see what comes out of it. I ended up with 4.96 CGPA which gave me the spark that if I can achieve this now, why not try to continue. From there, I got the impetus to push further and in my 300 level, I tried to maintain it, though it came down to 4.91 in 200 level and shot to 5.0 in 400 level. In 500 level, I had a B, which brought me back to 4.96 where I started from. So, I guess being able to remember why I was here in the first place and what I have achieved in my lower level gave me a refined focus to continue to strive. But I thank God that I was able to pull it off at last.
What were the distractions and how did you overcome them?
The first is money which was never enough and there were times when one didn’t have any. It’s either you go and hustle or find a way out. Finding a way out and not allowing my entrepreneurship to overcome my academics was my major struggle. At times, one is tempted to go get the money but I make sure that the hours I use in extra curricular issues, I balance it in reading. But there was no woman; not that I don’t have them as friends or they didn’t come, but it’s about people management, knowing how to keep people close in a way that you are all friends, rather than chasing people away. And then being prayerful.
On the issue of the internet, it comes down to per hour management, knowing that I have just three hours to read a course. For instance, I either turn off my phone or data or put it on flight mode, so there is no time for Whatsapp or browsing the internet. Luckily for me, although it might not be for others, there was no internet service in my room in the hostel which also assisted me.
What kind of work(s) did you engage in to make ends meet?
I sew clothes for my colleagues on campus but I didn’t allow it to affect my reading time and also used some of my spare time to go and teach off campus.
Did you learn tailoring before or how did you come about it?
My mum is a tailor and it was from her at home that I started learning the rudiments of cutting and sewing. But when I got to school, I enrolled for a skill training programme organised by the Student Union Government (SUG) of the University of Ilọrin to learn more about tailoring. From that experience, I got better and started to sew bags, kaftan and lab coats among others, which students and my classmates wear for ward rounds. However, my dad was actually the one who made me to remain focused in academics, but I was able to balance the two very well through by grace of God.
How would you say your tailoring experience helped in achieving this?
My tailoring or entrepreneurship skill helped me a great deal to manage my time and improve on my management skills. From the business of tailoring, you get to know how many hours it takes to sew certain things and how much it will fetch me. I apply that same number of time/hours to my books. So, I was able to manage my time more when I have less of it to myself. It taught me to be more productive and see things more from an entrepreneurial perspective. Just like the stepwise procedure in cutting and sewing. Most times, you do the cutting of clothes alone in your room and after you finish and perfected it, people will be asking: where did you sew the clothes? Same thing when you are reading; nobody sees and understands the kind of efforts and prayers you put in but during graduation, it is fulfilling to become the star on everyone’s lips.
How challenging was this for you?
Very challenging. Some courses presented difficulties, there was the long ASUU strike and COVID 19 break also. As you get to a higher level, courses become bulkier and you still have the same 24 hours. So, I look for the best reading skills that work for me and how to balance it out with my schedule. Refining my reading skills and proper time management helped me a lot to get the best out of my schedule, coupled with my supportive parents, colleagues and faculty.
What was your reading pattern like?
We have two types of courses in the pharmacy school, some are calculations while others are purely theoretical. Once I begin a session, I try to find out or get an idea of the course that might give me problems and I begin to read those that are very bulky first based on enquiries and advice from senior students. But I don’t have a fixed number of hours that I use to read, sometimes I can read for two hours while other times, I can stretch it to about 10 hours or more, especially during examinations. But I try to prepare ahead for the course that I know might give me problems. My objective was not just to pass a course and allow the rest to suffer. I try to maintain equal successes among all of them. Basically, I had 83 As throughout and only four Bs without any C. I tried to maintain that focus across courses. Some days because of my tailoring, I increase the study time. But I noticed that if I sleep well in the day, I assimilate better at night. In the calculation courses, I can’t do it anytime, whether morning or afternoon, because it only entails calculating and practising. For bulky theoretical courses, I go to the faculty at night and read alone in most cases. Although I still do so during the day, I prioritise night when I really want to do serious and bulky reading.
What do you look forward to in future?
For now, I look forward to a post-graduate scholarship to further my education abroad after my NYSC and masters and then fulfil/improve my capacity in professional pharmaceutical. My ambition is to become a professor of pharmacy and probably Nigeria’s future Minister of Health because as a public health practitioner, I hope that one day, I might be able to help solve our country’s pressing health challenges. My passion is in research and I started writing papers during my academics and published with some lecturers and journals amounting to 85 citations so far, including a book chapter that was published by the WHO during my 400 level.
What is your message to the youth and others out there?
My advice is that the bedrock of everything is having faith in God which will gear you toward excellence, hard work and productivity. The youths should know and listen to their beliefs, have a direct focus and watch their goal when they come into school. You don’t just have success; you have to work for it and be prayerful. Yes, there will be challenges and distractions but having that faith in God and yourself that you can actually go further will take you to the zenith.