She probably had journeyed the length and breadth of planet earth, in search of practical ways of making her dreams come true for a better world. During one of those solitary moments covered in her fanciful veil, Hassanat Mojirola Lawal’s thoughts were enraptured by the whisper of the American inventor, Thomas Edison, who once said: “The three things that are most essential to achievement are common sense, hard work and stick-to-it-iv-ness.”
Raised in a family of six, Hassanat had grown up under the tutelage of parents whose knack for academic excellence could not be waived aside. Coming from a family where the father and mother are teachers seems to be a catalyst to her dedication to making the best of every opportunity she has got to learn. “It is kind of a norm that you should be the best you can be,” she disclosed.
Hassanat studied Microbiology at the University of Ilorin and graduated with a First Class in 2016. Even though she did not envisage the feat from the outset of her programme, the parental background where excellence could not be traded for prettified frivolities became a push for her. Hence, she rekindled her consciousness in the second semester of her first year and became acquainted with leading scholars in the department who encouraged her to excel. After all, at times greater heights are attained by standing on shoulders of great men. Upon graduation from the institution, she did not get accolades or laurels per se, butfelt the innate fulfilment that all the hard work she had put into her educational sojourn really paid at the end of the day.
Mentorship and Scholarship
Not resting on her oars, and seeking to get further exposure to deepen her passion in finding solutions to human health problems in Nigeria, she applied for many scholarships. Luckily, “the most unbelievable thing” happened to her. She got the Commonwealth Shared Scholarship to study for a master’s programme in Environmental and Human Health at the University of Exeter; which she eventually finished with a Distinction.
Meanwhile, getting the scholarship had a lot of personal efforts and inputs from her mentor. It is not exaggeration that the dearth of proper mentorship has made many young Nigerians to lose their potentials and priorities. The situation is worsened by the prevalence of damning remarks like ‘education is a scam’ by those whose short walk to stardom has bastardised the perception of many youths about true success.
It is a known truism that criticism, disappointment and failure are core courses in the school of success. Hassanat seemed to have taken these courses too with utmost seriousness; but she excelled with divine favour and then with encouragement from her mentor.
According to her, having a mentor served as a motivation for her. “I wrote the essays; he reviewed for me. On days I was tired of it all, he said: Hassanat, you must leave Nigeria by September and it kept pushing me through. But then I got tired. Nothing happened to click. I kept receiving rejection mails. I told him I was tired and would focus on other things. And then I received three fully funded scholarship offers in a space of 3 weeks,” the scholar revealed.
Experience in the UK
Studying in a UK university might not have been too spectacular to her in comparison with her alma mater in Nigeria; yet, the experience has made some impacts on her. Some of the core skills required for the 21st century are critical and analytical thinking. Learning abroad seems to have broadened her perception in these realms; making her see things from different perspectives and enhancing her activities with informed decisions.
Furthermore, the academics abroad appear to be more meticulous in handling students’ socio-academic issues. She remarked that, “tutors read every single word you write in an assignment and even note grammatical errors – which means one has to be extra careful and cautious.” Perhaps this is because of the teachers-students ratio which seems to enhance one-to-one or personal learning. Likewise, students are often spurred to carry out individual research for each assignment – finding out something new that has not been published yet and expounding what others have done in order to add to the frontiers of knowledge.
Looking at the Past with Nostalgia and the Future with Hope
Hassanat had held a few positions in the past which equipped her with requisite skills to withstand the academic rigours she had passed through. She was head girl while in secondary school in 2011; female coordinator of Association of Muslim Microbiology Students 2015/2016; and Ameerah of MCAN in Edo state in 2017. Aside that, she had volunteered in a few capacities, impacting lives in her immediate community.
However, her past seems to be negligible compared to the future she envisages for Nigeria and humanity, especially in the area of human health. Even though she has never been a fan of being a medical doctor; she has fervid interest and passion about what could be helpful to human health. Therefore, she aims to carry out research with interlinks between social theories, environmental issues and policies and how they affect human health. Equally, she hopes to work with organisations whose areas of specialisation concern measuring the efficacy of interventions being put in place toward bettering human lives and how relevant these interventions are to the target individuals in terms of culture and acceptability.
If anything could be learnt from Hassanat’s story, it is that: efforts when coordinated by guidance of a mentor and fueled with divine reliance can yield desired success. More so, consistency and perseverance are invaluable to stimulate and enhance one’s long walk to stardom. And one has to always bear in mind the advice of the English writer, Samuel Johnson, that: “Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength but perseverance.” Be consistent and persevere as you toil your path to greatness.