The Assistant Head girl of Louisville Girls High School, Ijebu-Itele in Ogun State, Agnes Maduafokwa, who had the highest score, 365, in the recently released Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) in this interview with IYABO LAWAL, speaks on the secrets to her scoring the highest mark.
Can you give an insight into your background and growing up?
I grew up in Lagos with my family, my four brothers and I. I am the only girl. I attended Greater Scholars International School, Ajah, for my primary education, from where I proceeded to Louisville Girls High School, Ijebu-Itele, where I am the Assistant Head Girl. I am 16 years old. My younger brother is in Lagos, but my three older siblings are abroad studying.
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Tell us about your academic performance in school?
From primary school, I have always been standing out. I won several awards. I have always been doing well in Mathematics, Sciences and others. Then in my junior classes, because Louisville is very competitive, I was doing well, but not very well. I was getting one award each academic session, unlike my primary school performance.
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When I got to senior secondary school, I decided that I would do better, and when we were asked to choose between Science, Arts and Social Science, I chose Social Science at first because I was confused at a point. Then we did pre-SS1, where we had a feel of all the classes, and then at that point, I still chose Social Science because I wanted to prove a point, that if you are smart, it does not mean that you must go to science classes.
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It was one week into our choices when I was having a Financial Accounting class, I did not really understand what they were teaching. I was not feeling the passion like I have for Chemistry and Physics. After two days of classes, I decided to change to the science class because I did not enjoy the social sciences.
When I got to the science class, I found myself doing better because I liked what I was doing. Nobody was forcing me to do what I wanted and I decided that yes, this was the best place for me.
From SS1, I started doing better and I emerged third in the whole set. In SS1, I got awards on an academic day. When I got to SS2, I tied for the first place and when the tie-breaker was used, I became second. Now in SS3, in the first term, I was first but the grade point was tied. I sat for GCE and also did very well. I got two Bs and six As. We now had the UTME and found out that I was top in my school. I thought that was very good, then I heard the news last week that I was the first in Nigeria.
I am very pleased because I’ve been trying since junior school to stand out. I have been trying my best. When I got to the Senior Secondary School, I tried so much to excel. Now, I have really got to that position where I can say I have really made it.
When you heard the news that you were top in Nigeria, how did you feel?
When I saw my result as 365, I didn’t really believe it. I felt it was too good to be true. I was not sure at the point that it could be the highest in Nigeria and then someone told me somebody got 377. Then my mum woke me up with the news last week. I was really happy. I was excited and glad that I have been able to represent my family, school and state very well. My family is proud of me and I’m very happy.
What is the secret behind your excellent performance?
In my school, people study a lot. Sometimes they read into the night when they are supposed to be sleeping. Personally, I believe that the way to do things is to trust your system. When you are supposed to sleep, you should sleep because sleep is very essential.
If you have an examination, I feel that you don’t have to burn the midnight oil because if you have been working hard from day one, there is no reason to read extra hard the night before the exam. Apart from that, when you read too much, you might not be able to remember everything; because it is called “fast reading.” But when you read at intervals and breaks, sleep when you are supposed to, it really helps a lot and that’s what I do
So, what is the motivation? What drives you to study hard?
When I got to SS3, I was made the Assistant Head Girl of my school and as such, I have the reputation to uphold and everyone is looking up to me. I could not afford to perform poorly or drop in my grades. If I was not perfect, maybe nobody would be looking out for me but as the Assistant Head Girl, obviously, my results would interest many. If I were dropping points, my mates and other junior students would know. So, I was motivated to do better, to read more because my juniors and teachers were expecting much from me.
What is your aspiration in life?
I want to be able to make a change in our country, Nigeria. I believe I would be able to do that by becoming an engineer because engineering has to do with using ideas for life’s experiences. Wherever I go to my college, I plan to come back to Nigeria and make the country better.
How would you describe the roles of your parents in your success story?
I got my brains from my mother because she was very smart growing up. And even before I started doing very well, her family members would always tell me I took after her because she was very smart while growing up. I decided to do better than her and would always reassure myself that I could actually do better.
My parents paid for my fees. And I knew that I could not waste their money for any reason. So, that helped me in my quest to excel. They put me in a good school and paid my fees. The onus is on me to do well and in my school, when you get a position in the set, between first and third; they would give you a scholarship for the next session. So, that also motivated me because I really wanted to relieve my parents of the burden of paying tuitions for five children. Any school session we were in, I always wanted to get between first and third so that the tuition for that session could be off.
Who is your role model?
My role model is my mother. She is a very strong woman. She was a very smart person growing up; she never lagged behind in her class, and that was what I wanted to do: to meet up and even surpass the standards.
Besides, she is a very strong person. She always puts our needs first and ensures that everything is going right. That is the kind of person I want to be; someone that is very strong to be able to help an institution, be it family or country.
What would you say about your school and your teachers?
My teachers don’t just teach; they actually give us the opportunity to ask questions. We have something called the LLRC, where you can sign up and they teach you off school hours. They take their time to teach you after school if you don’t understand any topic or subject. Our classroom has a maximum of 35 people and a minimum of 25. So, it is really a small classroom. It is not a big classroom where if you do not understand, you might not be able to get through to the teacher. They always ensure that every student is carried along, and they always have this feeling of wanting everybody to pass.
While preparing for GCE and UTME, our teachers were very helpful. They arranged extra classes and never made us feel that the exams might be difficult. They encouraged us to do well.
How do you feel about being the best in UTME?
I feel very fulfilled and happy. At the same time, I feel that every other person that did well should also be happy. It is not always about being the best; as long as you have done well and made your family proud. You may not have made the top 10, but if you know you have done your best and fulfilled, you should be happy. Do not compare yourself with other people. For me, getting the best result makes me feel I can inspire other juniors who would want to do engineering.
Why the choice of engineering?
I have always been creative and likes coming up with nice ideas. Besides, I like putting things in order. I feel that I can use my knowledge of all these things to actually put it into solving real-life problems.
Some people feel that engineering is for men only, but I feel that it is not true because engineering is all about ideas and creativity. If you know your strength is in science subjects like Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics, and you feel like you want to make a change, do things better, engineering is it.
Right now, I’m looking at industrial engineering, but I have not made my choice yet, because, in the first year, I am going to be doing fundamental engineering, then I will choose the exact course in my second year.
You scored 99 out of 100 in Physics and Mathematics. How did you feel?
I felt I have made my point. It showed that nothing is impossible. For some people, it is not possible, but I have been able to show that it is, indeed, possible to get everything in the exam. I would not say it is hard, but it was obviously tasking, but with constant practice, it’s possible. I feel it’s a very good thing because others are being inspired.
What did you plan to score in the UTME? Did you think it was a missed opportunity not to score higher?
When I was reading for UTME, I actually wanted to get the first in Nigeria. I wanted to get 375, but when I wrote the mock exam, I got 327. I thought getting 375 might not be feasible. I thought 375 was too high to aim for, but then I started reading more because I wanted to get higher than 327. I was looking at 350, but when I wrote the exam, I felt nothing is impossible because I knew I did my best. When I did the exams, I cross-checked my answers and everything looked okay. At that point, I knew I could score higher than 350. When I saw my scores, I was not looking at the science subjects: Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics. I was looking at English, and I scored 72 but was actually expecting something higher.
I was expecting a higher score because I felt like I had done better, but I am grateful for what I had and know that I have to improve on my English.
You scored 99 in Mathematics. Many would consider you a genius. Is it something that runs in the family?
Mathematics actually runs in the family. We won so many awards even from primary school. I took it from my parents and uncles.
What does it take to be the president of a Mathematics club?
When I joined the Maths Club, my teachers advised me to join because they knew I am good in the subject. They knew we would be going out for competitions. Then we needed officials and they picked two of us. They voted and I became the vice-president, and later president when the set ahead of me graduated.
I tried to put the club together. Sometime, I taught because I divided the club into two – junior and senior. I taught the junior club when the teachers were not around.
When I was in primary school, we usually had Mathematics Olympiad, and every time I hoped to be the best and usually did very well. I got many medals and awards from there, right from primary school. In junior school, I was doing well, but not the best in Mathematics. When I got to senior school, I was more determined and I eventually got higher marks.
What is your advice to students in secondary schools?
I want to urge them to trust the system. I don’t know where I would be without the advice that Louisville has given me. Some people feel that school is just to go and read and pass exams. There are so many things that you can gain from non-academic things.
Always try to obey the rules and regulations of your school because personally, I think it has helped me to be a better person.
Source: Guardian Nigeria Newspaper
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