By Sheriff Badmus
Zainab started her excellent exploits in Lagos and from a tenable age, she knew education is a ticket to greater heights. Growing up amidst distractions, she was determined to avoid all teenage related vices and revel with good morals cum distinctions. Standing high with a steady record of prizes, Zainab stood atop her colleagues nearly from primary to secondary levels. These made her a role model to many as she went further to seal her name in the stands of scholars at Topmost college, Ogun state, when she emerged with the best WAEC result in 2011.
Zainab grew under the auspices of parents who believed education is a passport to excellence. Raised in a family of seven, Zainab retorted “growing up was a roller coaster of events, but my parents were of the “education is your ticket to success” point of view. This shaped my childhood and despite the ups and downs, I always knew that I just had to be highly educated.’’
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
As said by the famous physicist, Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giant.” Zainab came through teachers who believed in her abilities. Reminiscing on the impact of mentorship on her brilliance, she retorted, “I had a teacher that became a mentor in Topmost College, who believed in me more than I did in myself.’’
A Compulsive Optimist
Prior to her WAEC exams, Zainab noticed her performance had dropped. According to her “I became a bit relaxed especially when my mentor left and some of my classmates would tease me that I’m only intelligent because they are nonchalant towards education.” She would go on to score low in UTME, adding that “I didn’t pass UTME because I didn’t prepare for it. Then I started thinking low of myself and relapsed into low self-esteem.’’
However, Zainab went ahead with her ambition and was offered admission to Study Biochemistry in University of Lagos (UNILAG) in 2012. After coming out with the second overall best result in her faculty during her first year, she was further motivated by the benefits attached to her scholarship; especially that a bed space was preserved for First Class Students. In 2016, Zainab re-echoed her academic prowess and emerged the best graduating student in her department with a massive CGPA of 4.91 of 5.00.
Journey to Canada
Zainab’s journey to graduate school started in 2017 when she informed her mentor about her CGPA. However, she missed out on many applications till she decided in 2018 to return to UNILAG for her graduate studies. She did not hear from UNILAG till the end of 2018; thus reigniting her interest in a scholarship. Still skeptical, her choice of destination was guided by the fact that she wanted to boycott GRE, TOEFL and application fees.
Zainab’s dream became a reality as she is currently in University of British Columbia (UBC), Okanagan campus as an international peace Scholar.
Experience in Canada
Although in progress, apart from having all resources like free internet, uninterrupted power supply, equipment, etc. available, Zainab believes that she has learnt to be more humble, inquisitive and innovative. “For example during my first degree, we were taught to know Kreb’s cycle but not also why we think the invention Kreb’s cycle is right,” she said.
“The lecturers here give you updated knowledge and teach majorly from current research which is interesting. This makes the students appreciate the significance of the course,” she added.
However, new climes beget new behaviuors, Zainab’s challenges range from the weather which is different, the transportation system which is timed, expensive lifestyle which makes saving difficult to lack of accessibility to buying locally-prepared dishes.
Diamonds will always shine
After winning the bid to represent her faculty alongside two others, Zainab engaged 10 other contestants from five faculties in a three-minute thesis competition where contestants were required to describe their research and its importance. In a bid to ensure her audience grasps the contents of her work in lay terms, Zainab practised rigorously to improve her communication skills.
“I decided to go for the competition to improve my communication skills because the Canadians and other nationals think I speak too fast.’’ She said
Zainab’s efforts paid back as she was awarded the People’s Choice Award winner with a cash prize of $1000.
“At the end of the competition, not only did the audience (who majorly were whites) understood my accent, they were also able to remember the significance of my research at the end of my talk.” She added.
Stepping into Future with Loads of Optimism
Zainab hopes to continue research on ideas that aim at solving malnutrition problems in developing and underdeveloped countries. Her main research interest is on stopping food insecurity in climates where the land is green.
“My plan for the future is to do my PhD and postdoc in Canada or America. And after a while, retire to become a professor in Nigeria and probably make Nigeria the largest exporter of food and herbs and patent pharmaceutical drugs.” Zainab said.
Zainab’s story has highlighted the importance of proper parenting, timed mentoring, constancy of purpose and working hard. If you’re intelligent in Nigeria, you can compete in any university across the globe. Her story could be captured in Samuel Johnson words that “If your determination is fixed, I do not counsel you to despair. Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strength but perseverance.”