Adetutu Wande-Kayode’s father died when she was four but this was not enough to kill her quest for academic excellence. She tells LEKE BAIYEWU how she broke the Department of Mass Communication’s record to graduate with a first class from the University of Lagos
How difficult was it for you to step out of the shadows of disappointment early in life?
I am the last child in a family of six. My father had a degree in demography from the then University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), while my mother studied Mathematics and Statistics at the Kwara State Polytechnic.
Significant to my growing up experience was my dad’s death while I was four years old. My mother was very strong through those years and through her, I learnt to trust in God from childhood. My mother, out of her caring attitude resigned from her banking job before my dad’s death, when she noticed we were not doing so well in school.
After my father’s death, rather than returning to her banking job, she felt we needed her more than ever before. Even though it appeared to be one of the most ridiculous things to do at that time, God really used her to ensure that we all had a very good upbringing. She chose to be her own boss in order to spend more time with her children.
She is 50 now and her happiness is that we are all graduates of various universities.
When did it dawn on you that you have special academic talent?
Learning comes naturally to me although there is a reason for that. I went through three primary schools in Ilorin and Lagos States before completing my primary education at Fun Bell Nursery and Primary School, Iyana-Ipaja, Lagos. I can remember that almost everything learnt was through songs and we had to sing so many of them on the assembly ground each morning.
At Government Junior College, Agege, Lagos State, I was the assistant senior prefect and became the senior prefect during my senior secondary schooldays. These were public schools and there I learnt to hold my own in the midst of different people with different family backgrounds. It was quite an experience!
What were the challenges you experienced when you got to university before you clocked 16?
My journey to the university was not difficult because I prepared for the transition. I had seven distinctions and two credits while I was in SS2 and scored 271 in the University Matriculation Examination (now Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination) while in my final secondary class. I also scored 80 per cent in the UNILAG’s post-UME test.
Apart from personal effort, my siblings, who had been in UNILAG shared their experiences with me and their encouragement made my admission process faster. My name came out on the merit list for the 2008/2009 academic session. I was barely 16.
I faced tougher competition at the university because I was no longer a ‘local champion’ as I used to be. Every secondary school’s bests were well represented and I faded fast into the background. I had no hostel accommodation and was living with fellow coursemates in them. There were various social groups but I had no interest. There were many things going on in the school that I considered as distractions, so I kept to my studies and it helped me regain my confidence that I could be the best again.
How did you handle pressure from your friends to join them in social activities?
As a child, I was trained to be independent. So despite my young age, I knew how to take decisions on my own and maintain my position. At UNILAG, many ladies received more telephone calls between 7pm and 11pm and to which the common response was, “Are you downstairs? Okay, I’m coming.” From there, they went out with some guys and only return around midnight when the gates to the hostels were about to be closed.
The fresh students were particularly more willing to explore freedom but I was not, in the least, swayed. Eventually, by the time first semester results were out, I topped my class and by then many others learnt their lessons. Of course, I learnt so many new things too. The importance of networking was one of them.
Did you have a boyfriend on campus or anywhere?
No, I did not have a boyfriend on campus or anywhere else.
But you must have noticed some interest from some guys in the school?
I saw nothing wrong in having a boyfriend anyway, but I thought I was too young for serious relationship. I knew I still had enough time on my hands. So, there was really no need to rush into it. I believed that having one, especially in the early years of my education, might have being a source of distraction.
It would mean obligatory outings; constant communication and probably emotional disturbance; being in the library for six hours and concentrating for only two hours; reading at the pace of two pages per hour and all the other hindrances. It would have had a negative effect on my effectiveness as a student, especially as it would mean I would have to share my time; time that was ever fleeting.
Did you actually study hard for the purpose of leaving as the best student?
I wanted to be the best and I worked towards it but more importantly, I did not want to disappoint my mother who told me that I would graduate with the best result in my department.
I did the most important thing, which was to pray. I can still remember one heart-felt prayer I said, just before resumption, while studying and God was faithful.
I chose Mass Communication because I wanted to affect the world by my write-ups. I particularly want to write and change lives.
Actually, my sister also studied Mass Communication in UNILAG and she once came home to inform everyone that there had been no full-time student with a First Class in 30 years or thereabout in the department. Knowing my intention to study Mass Communication in the same university, my mother said with an air of confidence, “Tutu will go and break the record.” My elder brother had also told everyone who cared to listen and I did not want to disappoint them.
By faith, I knew God really answers the effective, heartfelt prayer of righteous men. Hence, I knew I was going to graduate with a first class. Many other people before me were excellent too but they did not come out with a first class. I graduated with a cumulative grade point average of 4.69 and I was also the best graduating student in the department.
How do you feel attaining such academic feat and what is your plan for the future?
I am really elated and grateful to God for He is the lifter of my head. Much more, I’m grateful because I didn’t just come out with good grades. Since I love to teach and write, I plan to lecture after my studies and to blog along with it as well. The educational sector needs fresh hands and the blogosphere needs to be cleared of what I term ‘vanity blogging.’
Who is your role model?
I have more of mentors than role models. My mentors are my mother; Ebimoboere Agbiki of Fotizo Ministry; and Pastor Isaac Idowu of the Great Light Ministry. My mother, because she is such a beauty inside out; I remember the assistance she offered when I had very poor grades in mathematics in Junior Secondary School. She took it upon herself to teach me personally after school. And then, I went on to have A1 in SSCE, despite the fact that I was in arts department.
From her, I have learnt about sacrifice and I think parents do not have to work so hard or pay huge school fees for their children in order to make them academically excellent, if only they can sacrifice their time and be available for their children and wards.