Twenty-year-old Soromtochukwu Ihedilionye emerged best graduating student in the Department of Petroleum Engineering with a CGPA of 4.61. In this interview, he gave reasons why Nigerian students do well abroad, why students in private universities make First Class and how to gain exposure outside the classroom.
Tell us briefly about yourself?
Ihedilionye Gerald Soromtochukwu is the second son of Sir Emmanuel Ihedilionye, a Business Development icon, and Lady Dominica Ihedilionye, a civil servant. I hail from Orlu Local Government Area in Imo State. I was born into a family of five children and we grew up in Lagos State. I come from a humble Catholic background that lays great emphasis on integrity, discipline, excellence and hard work. My parents were disciplinarians and made sure that their children were well cultured and received the best possible education. They have always pushed my siblings and I to excel in our academics, and by the grace of God, we haven’t disappointed them as we have bagged quite a number of academic awards amongst ourselves.
I started schooling at a very young age and had my nursery and primary education at Rainbow International Children School, Lagos. At the age of 9, I wrote the common entrance examination and got admitted into Saint Francis Catholic Secondary School, a missionary school located in Idimu, Lagos. After six years in Saint Francis, I graduated in 2014.
WASSCE and UTME results
I sat for the West African Senior School Certificate Examination in 2014 and made 6A’s in Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Chemistry, Physics, Christian Religious Studies and Civic Education, as well as 3B’s in English Language, Computer Studies and Photography. I also sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination that same year and scored 241.
Any input on the choice of FUTO and course by parents?
My choice of study and institution were influenced to a large extent, by my parents. Honestly, before my SS3, I didn’t know that a school like the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) or a course like Petroleum Engineering existed. I only knew about the more popular courses like Electrical, Chemical, Civil and Mechanical Engineering. While registering for UTME, I was confused about the course of study I wanted to pursue. I always wanted to be an engineer but I also loved Biology and Geography. So I decided that I would go for an engineering course that was related to any one of those subjects, and then my mum suggested Petroleum Engineering. I did a research on the course and I realised that it was what I wanted. I also didn’t want to school in the West because I grew up there, and then my dad suggested a school in the East which offered the course, FUTO. I ended up registering Petroleum Engineering and FUTO as my choice of study and institution; I passed the post-UTME and got admission into the university in 2014. That was how it all began and I have never looked back ever since.
Aggregate results from 100 level to 400 level
I had a rough first year because it was difficult adapting to the university lifestyle as I was the youngest in my class. I made a CGPA of 4.05 after my first year and I wasn’t even among the top ten in my class. But subsequently, I went on to make very high semester grade points and even made a 5.0 in my final year. I finally finished school with a CGPA of 4.61 and ended up being the best graduating student in my department.
Potential of graduating with First Class
I was always confident that I would make a First Class but I finally confirmed it in my 400 level first semester.
How I survived strikes?
When it comes to the ASUU strike, I would say that I was quite fortunate. During my time in school, the long strike periods I experienced occurred during the school holidays. So I used such periods to get engaged in internships in companies in the oil and gas and banking sectors, so as to gain work experience and invaluable technical, transferrable and soft skills.
Easy to make First Class in private universities
I do agree to some extent. Most private universities run an organised, structured and well-supervised academic programme for students, unlike public universities. Students in private universities receive good lectures each day, carry out necessary practicals related to their course of study, learn in conducive environments, enjoy good feeding programmes and hostel accommodation, as well as limited distractions. This is not the case in public universities. Most lecturers come once or twice in a semester for classes, students are made to read numerous handouts and textbooks without proper guidance, learning environments are not always conducive and a lot of unethical events occur due to lack of proper supervision. This makes it difficult for students to pass exams and get good grades. But in all, I believe that it majorly depends on the student. If a student is determined and success-driven, he or she can excel irrespective of the schooling environment, be it a private or public university.
Tips on how to make First Class
First of all, one must be sincerely determined to succeed. Without a burning desire for success, there isn’t much one can achieve even if he or she has all the tips or secrets to make it. Secondly, you must discover what reading style works best for you. Some students prefer reading in the library while some don’t. Other students prefer reading at night, while some have to read multiple times before they can understand and retain. Once you discover what works for you and apply it, it becomes very easy to read and pass exams excellently. I also encourage students to attend lectures frequently, and for those who have nothing else to do, attend all the lectures if possible. Most lecturers set exams based on what was taught in the class. Therefore, by attending lectures, you already have an idea of how the exams would look like and what to read. In some cases, you might not even need to read to make an A in a course as long as you attended all the lectures. My last but most important tip is God. It is always good to commit all you do into the hands of God through prayer. I have seen brilliant students fail courses because of missing scripts or wrong marking. Most times, it’s not always by how much you have read or written, but by God’s grace. There are many other applicable tips but I believe these are the basic ones.
Bookworm or a triangular student
I am a bookworm to some extent as evidenced by my grades and the several scholarships I enjoyed, but I was never a triangular student. I actively participated in church activities and always went to class but I never went to the library (except in my first year). I was actively involved in extracurricular activities. I was a class representative from the third year to final year, I joined various volunteer organisations and organised various conferences and seminars on leadership, capacity building and entrepreneurship while in school. I took up leadership positions in various student groups and even started a few businesses with my friends in school. I also represented my school in conferences and competitions nationally and internationally, and won the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Nigerian Council National Petroquiz Competition (2019 Edition) for Nigerian universities. My social life wasn’t left out as I attended a few parties and hangouts while at the university. I believe that the university shouldn’t just be a place for reading, passing exams and getting a degree. Every student should also try to gain valuable knowledge and exposure outside the classroom.
Nigerian students doing well abroad
In my opinion, this is largely due to the environmental conditions in which Nigerians are brought up. Nigerians are born into intense pressure, competition and responsibility. What do I mean? Most Nigerians grow up without standard educational and socio-economic infrastructure unlike foreigners, and therefore have to do twice as much to learn and perform excellently in their academics. This puts them under intense pressure to work really hard under much more stringent conditions so as to achieve academic feats. If Nigerian students can perform really well despite these challenges, they would perform even much better when they go abroad and are exposed to the benefits they were initially deprived of. Also, the level of academic competition is quite high in Nigeria. Nigerians value education and most Nigerian parents instil this culture into their children. Every child then strives to become the best in his or her school and this promotes fierce competition. And we all know that competition breeds good performance. Most Nigerian students take this culture over there and therefore, tend to do much better than their peers abroad. We also have the issue of responsibility. Due to the hardships faced in the country, it is quite difficult to send one’s child to school. Children notice all these, and to them, the only way they can repay their parents is by doing well academically. So even when they travel abroad, they still strive to do really well so as to make their parents proud. This has a way of pushing them to achieve even more than their peers over there. So despite the situation of the country, Nigerian students still find ingenious ways of displaying academic brilliance.