The best graduate of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, Niger State in the 2018/2019 academic session, Maryam Gomina, 21, graduated with 4.73 CGPA from the Department of Physics. She tells ENYIOHA OPARA how she achieved it and her plans for the future

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You emerged as the best graduate of IBB University in the 2018/2019 session; will you describe it as your happiest moment in life?

I did not see it coming so I was shocked. Initially, I didn’t know I was the overall best graduate, I only knew I was the best in my faculty. I thought there must be someone ahead of me, so I didn’t know it until when I climbed the podium to shake hands with the vice-chancellor of the university. That has been the happiest moment of my life and I am proud to be the best graduating student of the university.

What were the other awards you won?

I won three awards. Apart from being the best graduating student of the university, I received awards for being the best science student of the university and the most outstanding student in my faculty.

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Was it your plan as a child to study physics?

When I was in secondary school, physics was one of the subjects in which I was weak because we didn’t have teachers for the subject. I actually applied for biochemistry but was given physics. I was encouraged by my elder brother who graduated with a first-class degree in physics from the same institution and was overall best graduate of the school in 2014. One of the things he told me was: “If I can do it without having two heads, my sister, you can equally do it, and even better.” Honestly, my brother has been my source of inspiration and I was inspired to achieve academic excellence.

Some people still run away from science subjects because they see it as difficult. What do you think about that?

Science is one of easiest courses because you do practical observation and from there you can make inferences. Pupils should just give science subjects their best and pray; they will overcome with determination. Some people find it difficult because of the fear they have; nothing else. The major thing is to be focused. I was determined; I really wanted to be at the top, and that was the driving force behind my success story.

Some people also believe that students studying science-related courses do not usually have social lives, was it like that for you?

There is no wisdom in allocating the same time to your studies and social life if you want to succeed and excel. If you want to excel, especially in science-related courses, you have to face it squally but that does not mean that you won’t have any social life. However, priority should be given to your studies. To be candid, social life is not my priority and I will never allow it to overshadow my studies.

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How difficult was it for you to graduate with a first-class degree?

It was through determination and hard work and I had to let go of certain things. To graduate with a first-class degree, one must be prepared and willing to do what is expected, including sacrificing the time one could use to socialise.

Those were the things that helped me to succeed. I believe that when one succeeds eventually, one will have enough time for fun and other things.

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When did your results start reflecting that you could graduate with a first-class degree?

It started right from my first year in school. My first Grade Point Average was in a first-class category and I maintained it till I became the best overall best graduate in the institution. It was amazing.

Have you always been excellent?

Yes, I will say so because I won a scholarship when I was in primary school to study a computer course and I won an award in nursery three. I have been excelling right from primary school. I always led my class when I was in secondary school.

When you were to further your education in the university, what informed your choice of institution?

I really wanted to study biochemistry in the university. But when I was given physics, I was advised by my two siblings in the university to accept it and take it seriously. Another reason was because of the proximity of IBB University, Lapai to my family and the environment where I grew up. While growing up, our parents never wanted us to be far from them and that made us attend schools that were very close to them. The family love has always been there, and so they always wanted us around. I cherish those memories I shared with my siblings and parents.

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Do you have any challenge with finances?

It was not easy because my parents had retired; they were bank workers. I got engaged for an immunisation programme in the state, and that really helped me. With the support of my mum, I was able to pay my school fees.

What was your reading schedule like?

I read for a minimum of two hours and maximum of four hours every day. I usually read in the hostel, especially in the night. Honestly, I didn’t read for longer periods than that.

During the end of my programme in the university, it became difficult because I had to dedicate so much time to my project. So, the time I had to sleep reduced a bit.

Did you have preference for using the library?

I didn’t usually read in the library, rather I made use of e-books in the library for reference. We had access to soft copies of books we needed and it made my work easier. I didn’t read inside the library; I looked for materials to update myself, especially in my course.

Were there other activities you were involved in?

I didn’t have enough time to get involved in other activities in the school because of how serious I took my studies. I was in my studies and my studies were in me so I didn’t take chances at all. I was only active in the Muslim Students’ Association of the university.

During holidays, did you read at home?

I read novels and at the same time, I tried to see what I could do to get money. I was engaged to do immunisation work at Tafa Local Government Area of the state to raise money that would take care of my upkeep in school. I also spent time with my family and helped with domestic chores.

Some men are attracted to brilliant female students, how did you handle such advances?

When I was in the university, there were men who were interested in me but I handled them with wisdom. They knew that I didn’t have time for such unless they approached me for academic discussion. So because of that, they did not bother to disturb me; they accorded respect to me.

Where would you like to work?

I will like to work in a research firm where I will contribute my quota to the development of the country and let people know that physics is a subject people can do. I want to impart the knowledge I have acquired to others. I love physics as a course.

Do you recall any embarrassing moment in school?

During the time I was in school, I never encountered any embarrassment from anybody because of the way I did my things. In fact, I commanded respect in the university, and students and lecturers loved the way I conducted myself throughout my stay in the school.

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