Update Post: December 4, 2023 11:53 pm
Twenty-two-year-old Ede Raph-Ehigie, who graduated with first class degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from Benson Idahosa University, Benin City, Edo State; tells ABDULLATEEF FOWEWE how she achieved excellence in spite of the challenges she faced
What would you say was the biggest motivation that spurred you to aim for the highest grade in your course?
Firstly, I like getting the best out of anything I do. Also, my family and best friend believed in me and that I would make the first-class grade, and that helped.
Was studying Electrical and Electronics Engineering a dream come true?
Well, I will say yes because I was studying Zoology at the University of Benin before I switched to engineering at Benson Idahosa University. I dropped the course (Zoology) because it was too hard for me, and right from my primary school days, I have always had my strengths and showed interest in mathematical subjects, so it was a total relief and easy for me to study Electrical and Electronics Engineering. I was the valedictorian at my secondary school graduation.
What inspired you to switch courses and institutions?
I’ve never been a fan of biology-related courses, but my mother wanted me to study Medicine because she believed my gender didn’t fit in a workshop, but I got Zoology instead. It was very stressful for me. Meanwhile, I knew I could do much better in any engineering course. I wanted to be an electronics engineer, so my father encouraged me to switch to a preferred one. Electrical and Electronics Engineering is very complex, and electricity is the foundation of almost everything. The world is up and running as it is because of electronics, and electricity. You can apply basic electrical knowledge in several fields. It does take a lot of hard work, brain work, and focus, but it’s understandable and adventurous. So, I advise girls to give it a shot, stay focused, and pray about it.
I got admitted into Igbinedion University Okada, Edo State, the year I left secondary school, but I didn’t wish to study there, so I prepared to gain another admission in the following year, and I got admitted into the University of Benin. I spent a year at UNIBEN before I dropped out to continue my education at Benson Idahosa University in Benin City because I didn’t want the kind of course I was studying at UNIBEN.
When did you leave secondary school?
I left secondary school in 2016. I attended Igbinedion Education Center, Benin City. I got admission into Benson Idahosa University in 2018.
Given that not everybody in your class graduated with a first class, what are the things you think students could learn from you?
Well, one thing I am very good at is time management. I am perfect at managing and balancing whatever I do. Meanwhile, I was the class representative, the resident advisor, and a student director, and I was still running my business. So, I was sure that I performed all my responsibilities on time and I didn’t waste time doing my assignments as well. I made sure I started studying way before exams. I searched for things I didn’t understand on YouTube and Google, and I always made sure I understood, instead of cramming. Most times, I stayed up at night reading. All these efforts, with the help of God, gave me an edge.
Would you say you began well in your first year, in terms of your academic performance?
Well, in my first year, I had a first-class grade. However, in my second year, for my first and second semesters, I had a 4.0 and 4.45 grade point average. I almost gave up, to be honest. But one day, a lecturer told us how the third, fourth, and fifth years could turn the cumulative grade point average around. So, the lecturer gave me a mental boost, and I buckled down. I did better throughout the remaining years.
When I was studying Zoology at the University of Benin, I gave up on education and wanted to become a DJ. It was funny. At that point, I wanted to play recorded songs for an audience.
What kind of business do you do?
I have a catering service.
How did you balance your education with that?
During the school period, I took orders. Then, I went home during the weekends, prepared them, and returned to school with them, but during holidays and breaks, I cooked full-time. Though I knew how to arrange my time accurately, I ensured I did all my assignments, and made sure I read sufficiently. As I told you earlier, I am good with time management. I write down my plan for each day and set targets every day. That made it easy for me.
I’m a quick learner, and that’s one of the paramount factors that helped me. I’m very confident in myself, and I can say I am pretty smart. A field like engineering needs concentration and studying hard. I made sure I read before exams came. I read almost every day in the evenings from about 9pm to 12am or 1am. It depends. I made sure I read at least three days a week.
Did you encounter any challenges as a first-year student at BIU?
Yes, I did. The first few weeks were very stressful with all the clearance and registrations. But eventually, things became easier. However, it reached a stage when I was in the university that I lost hope and gave up.
Why did you lose hope?
I had a low performance when I was in the 200 level. I was a bit distracted, but then I returned to the first-class level in the 300 level.
How many of your mates also graduated with a first-class degree?
In my department, there were two of us, and we were both female. Additionally, among the entire faculty, there were only five of us who graduated with first-class honours.
Would you have been disappointed if you did not make first class honours?
I would have felt horrible. I can’t even stand it. I like to aim for the best. I am sure I would have felt unaccomplished. I don’t mean students who did not make first class honours are not the best. It’s more personal. The best grade in a university is first-class. I like to get the best out of anything. So, for me and the kind of person that I am, I would’ve felt the other way. Because, In my leadership, I rose to the highest level. It’s just a thing peculiar to me. Though, it’s effortless sometimes.
Why do you think many undergraduates fail examinations?
From my observation, I would say sometimes it’s due to laziness and lack of seriousness. Sometimes, students do their best as much as they can. But other factors don’t align. Also, some students do not ask questions about what they don’t understand in class. Most would keep mute, and most of the time, it could lead to failure. It’s important to be inquisitive as much as you can.
What was your most memorable moment at BIU?
It was the moment the school management appointed me as the Student Director on campus.
Being a young female electronics engineer, how would you like to improve yourself, and what difference do you think you can make?
I would like to have more certifications and work. I also hope to expand my business and impart it to the younger generations in my capacity. Firstly, it is obvious to me that women can be perfect engineers as well. So, I want to make use of my skills to innovate and enhance my field within my capacity.
How did you manage relationships at school?
Yes, I was in a relationship. Well, I think it depends on the kind of person you are and who you’re dating too. I was in two relationships in school, and one was a huge distraction for me, and while dating the other one, I had perfect grades. So, I think students should know how to set boundaries.
I was able to create time for social activities a whole lot. I organised school parties and participated in business fairs and cultural carnivals.
Did you receive any recognition or awards for your performance at school?
Yes, I did. I won Most Influential Female Student Entrepreneur of the Year, Most Versatile Female Student, Best-dressed Female, and Class Representative of the Year, as well as the Most Outstanding Head Resident Advisor award and my RASD recognition awards.
What role did your background play in your academic performance?
Well, my mother hired private lesson teachers for us while growing up, and sometimes, when I was in secondary school, she woke me up at midnight to study. She’s a supporter of education. She loves it.
What did they say when they saw your final result?
They both screamed and were super excited to the extent that my mother carried me on her back.
What have you been doing since you graduated?
I have been running my business and acquiring some Microsoft skills.
What is your plan?
Well, right now, the next step is to go for the National Youth Service Corps programme. After that, I will study for my master’s.
What comes to your mind when people say there is no job out there?
I believe it is not for me. I condition myself to think positively and as optimistically as possible because the mind has great power.
I would advise young students to prioritise and dedicate themselves to studying diligently, as that is the most crucial aspect when they’re still in school. Parties and various forms of enjoyment will always be available, but the four to five years in university are undeniably significant. Individuals need to make personal sacrifices for their advantage. They should also develop a habit of pursuing greatness and working independently, particularly female students. Additionally, they should maintain a constant connection with God and prioritise fostering a positive relationship with God, as God is the ultimate source of assistance.