By Agatha Emeadi
For 16-year-old Stephanie Chiemela, who made nine A1’s in the recently released West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) result, the benefits of success are pouring in like showers of blessing as the Good Book says in Ezekiel. The teenage WASSCE Wonder Girl is the second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Marcell Madu from Okwu, Okpofe, Ezinnihete, Mbaise, Imo State. She made her alma mater, Federal Government College, Ogbomosho, Osun State, proud by her sterling performance. With confidence, intelligence and focus, Stephanie is already showing that she will toe the line to greatness. In this interview, she reveals how she made the record-setting result.
How did you feel when you saw WASSCE result online?
I was surprised; I could not believe it although I worked for it. It was so astonishing; I did not know what to do. I went to a cybercafé to check. When I came back and told my mum that I had nine A1, she said it was not true. She said we must go back to check again, because she wanted to see it herself. My parents had already promised me a smartphone if I make ‘A’ in all my papers. They do not give us phones while in secondary school, including my elder sister before she got into the university. They gave her when she was going to the university. But at home, we could have access to my mum’s phone especially when we browse for educative pieces.
So, have you been given a smart phone since you have fulfilled your part of the agreement?
Yes, I have a phone now, but it didn’t come from my parents; even though my Daddy was going to get one for me the next day because he was very happy with my result. We did not know how my result hit the social media and calls and celebrations were so much, people were calling to congratulate my parents and I. A member of the House of Representatives from my community who happened to be my mum’s classmate got in touch with her and asked for my number to congratulate me. My mum told him that she was not home for him to talk to me, and again, I did not have a phone. The man asked for my mum’s account details to get me a smart phone immediately, which she did. That was how I got a phone.
What are the other benefits the result has brought for you?
I have gotten scholarship already to study Medicine and Surgery in any university of my choice in Nigeria through the Old Students Association of my school (FEGOCOSA). When I wrote JAMB -UTME, I chose Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) to study Medicine and Surgery and for the nearness to home, but with this offer now, alumni of my school are sorting out my change of school and all that at the University of Lagos. Some other people have called my parents and pledged their support to fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor. Again, the phone in my hand came through my result; many parents want me to be their children’s mentor which I cherish a lot. I receive many congratulatory messages every day.
How did you achieve the impressive result?
Actually, everything is God. I would say the secret of my success as a student was my strong belief in God, hard work, determination and being prayerful.
Did you create time to read or just depended on what the teacher taught in class?
As I was growing up, I focused on every day excellence. I created time to always read in the night apart from our standard class work, and general night prep. I would wake up in the night, switch on my torch and use it to read. I made sure I did not use it to disturb others. Some of my friends loved my idea of waking up to study in the night and craved my indulgence to wake them as soon as I woke, which I also did.
Do you do combine reading with friends?
No, every one stayed on their bed to read either sitting or lying down; whatever position that suited the person.
Some people accuse your generation of laziness. How did you rise above laziness?
Some people do put their legs in water to stay awake, some drink coffee, wash the face when they wake up, I did not do all that and didn’t drink Lipton or coffee because they contain caffeine.
When did you start taking your studies seriously? Was it as a primary or secondary school student?
While in primary school, I did not take my studies seriously like that, because the mentality was whatever that you are taught was just okay, but when I gained admission into secondary school, I realized that there was a great difference between secondary and primary schools because the education level has increased and so is the knowledge level. Once one gets into secondary school, there is this increase in capability to take studies seriously than when one was in primary school. I started taking my studies seriously from JSS 1.
Were you taking the first position from JSS1?
From JSS 1, I was coming back home with 2nd or 3rd position, but the moment I got to JSS2, I buckled up and came first from JSS2 to SS3 before we wrote our WASSCE.
Were you the Head Girl of your school?
I was actually going to be the Health Prefect, but had chicken pox, a skin disease that is communicable. So I had to come back home for treatment. By the time I recovered and returned to school, the screening exercise was over.
Now that you made your school this proud, what is the latest?
I have not really heard from the principal but the Old Students Association (FEGOCOSA) has given me scholarship to study Medicine and Surgery in any university of my choice in Nigeria; and I want to specialize as a cardiologist.
Why the choice of cardiology above others?
I have encountered people with different types of heart diseases, so I have always wanted to help them in my own little way. When I was in junior secondary school, I wanted to be a neuro-surgeon because I am a fan of Ben Carson and have read his books and other novels, but when I got to SS3, I started reconsidering my goals in life and decided to settle for cardiology.
Apart from cardiology, what other course do you fancy?
I am a fan of Chemistry and would love Pharmacy as well.
How did you develop the discipline to read?
What made me to have the strong will to read was what my mother told us every day: “Remember where you are coming from, remember the parents you have.” Her admonition gave me the determination to read, even when others were playing, I told myself that I had to get this course Medicine and Surgery and there was no other means than to read; I would quickly pick up my book and read.
Your school is co-educational. Was there distraction from the boys? How did you handle all that?
Because of my personality, I do not get involved in such areas, I concentrate on my studies and have my respect.
Were the boys afraid of you and your academic excellence?
I don’t know, but personally do not take rubbish.
Apart from your parents, do you have a role model?
Ben Carson is my role model. From my younger age, I had encounter with the Ben Carson series ‘Think Big’ that was what gave me the zeal and determination to become a medical doctor.
What advice do you have for the younger ones so they can sit up, start reading and excel in their own examinations?
In everything I do, I like to put God first, I will always advise them to pray always, before anyone writes any examination, bend your head on the table and pray to God to guide you through the work. Even if it is just a second prayer or the one “Our Father, who art in heaven? I have had experiences when I see some examination questions, it will be scary, but with prayer, I conquered all. Again, reading is very important. There is no gain without sacrifice, if one does not read, the person will not pass, it is not magic. Everything I achieved is through God and hard work. My everyday secret to face all examinations is reading. Chemistry questions used to be very lengthy and scary, though they are simple questions for someone that reads, but it could be scary and rattling, but subjects like Physics and Biology are normal. The good thing is that they are simple when one reads.
How do you read, just school materials or everything?
When it comes to school examinations, I do read more of my notebooks, but during external examination, it is advisable to read textbooks because the scope of the textbooks is usually wider and that is the difference between both. WAEC will not give area of concentration, question can come from anywhere. Settings of notes differ but textbooks bring all to the same level. I also know that examination bodies carry syllabuses which they follow, that is the reason I read text books more.