With a CGPA of 4.96 out of 5.00, Oluwafemi Sarumi emerged the 2019/2020 Overall Best Graduating Student of Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB).
He had also in 2016, emerged the Overall Best Graduating Student of Lagos State College of Health Technology, Yaba. Sarumi tells DAMILOLA ROLEOLA about his educational journey, among others.
This is not your first academic qualification. Can you list others?
I had my national diploma and higher diploma in Environmental Health Technology and B.Sc. in Environmental Management and Toxicology.
Why do you study courses that relate to the environment?
The interest is not inborn. I tried to get into medicine when I graduated from secondary school through A-level but it wasn’t coming through so I had to come in through the field of environmental technology. That of medicine didn’t happen, not because I didn’t have the ability but Nigerian institution and other factors. So over time in Lagos State College of Health Technology, I discovered that the environment is the actual wealth and what you give to the environment is what it gives back. And unlike a medical doctor that attends to one person per time, an environmental scientist actually attends to over 8,000 people at a time according to WHO statistics because whatever happens to the environment affects all. So if the environment is not being catered for and a disease like cholera breaks out, just imagine 8,000 patients queuing at medical centre in a community.
Take us through your admission process
I wrote UTME twice. The first one was immediately after secondary school, and then the second one was after my A-level. I had applied for a medicine course at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and I was literally qualified as I had every requirements, but for one reason or the other not known, I wasn’t given admission; I didn’t even get any course despite being qualified for medicine. Later on, I applied for Lagos State School of Health entrance examination. When the result came out, my name was the first on the list and my mother felt I should accept the admission which I did.
What was it like going through the Déjà vu of acquiring another first degree?
Sincerely, it was a though decision but thank God for the love of education and a better future for myself. I knew that if I didn’t further my education now, I’ll still have to do it in future because I want to practice this profession and I wouldn’t want to be underrated because of my HND. In fact, out of all my set that graduated after HND, I was the only one who took the bold step of applying for B.Sc. Another thing that made it difficult was the bench mark of FUNAAB. If you don’t have a first class, you can’t come in with direct entry and at that time, Lagos State college of Health Technology reviewed their grading system, in which 60 was the pass mark and 90 was A. So less than 60 was a carry over and this really made it difficult for students to come up with first class, I was the only one who came out with a distinction. Even with my distinction, applying for B.Sc. wasn’t really easy because age was not on my side and the day after my convocation where I was awarded as the best graduating student in Lagos State College of Health Technology, I was in Abeokuta for Matriculation in FUNAAB, but I just had to keep on moving.
How would you describe your experience while in school?
I had a social life back in school. I didn’t do parties but I engaged in other social and extracurricular activities like a cohort of intellectual guys called the ‘bread and beans association’, we made the class fun and also shared knowledge. I also represented my college in football and I also engaged in church activities. In fact, I was the musical director in my final year and I organised concerts and programmes. Although, people don’t believe that there is a connection between my result and I. Even my lecturers didn’t know that I had such a result because they see me in class but don’t know how intelligent I am. I’m also not the bookworm type as I don’t sleep in libraries or read overnight; I do those things in my comfort zone.
You made mention of financial constraints on a post on Twitter, can you describe this financial constraints and how you overcame it?
I thank God for my parents that knew the value of education. We didn’t really have a silver spoon but thank God it was a federal school and my school fees weren’t really expensive. My elder sister was also in FUNAAB at the time, so you can imagine the expenses my parents had to bear and I didn’t have access to scholarships that would have relieved some financial burden on my parents. I thank God that I was able to satisfy my basic needs, but even now that I’m done with my degree, there’s nothing to further my education at the moment.
Considering your various achievements, would you say you’ve been given the recognition you deserve?
I would say all recognition comes from God. It’s actually enough for me that I graduated because there was a time that I was so ill and I had to miss a year. I was supposed to graduate with 2018/2019 set but ended up graduating with 2019/2020. Also, there was COVID-19 outbreak, so I’m really thankful that I ended up graduating. But speaking of recognition from the school, it’s relative because we see how students from other institutions are motivated but this area has been weak in FUNAAB. We’ve not had any award from the school or government. The only thing I can say I’m enjoying now is compliments from my family and friends on social media and ex-may colleagues.
What did you do differently to emerge the best graduating student?
I would say I was resilient. I had 5.0 at various levels but maintaining it was a challenge, I felt tired at times and didn’t feel like reading. In fact, I don’t read for long. But there was a time when we were giving a new material to read a week to the examination and in my resilience, I read for 12 hours straight sitting on a spot unconsciously. My sister was scared but I just had to cover up that material for the examination. In fact, I was so resilient that I did group works alone just to ensure that don’t lose marks.
What are the economic and social benefits of environmental management and toxicology in Nigeria today?
It is believed that prevention is better than cure. Most of the diseases we are faced with today, if we had tried preventing them earlier by cultivating good environmental habits, we won’t be spending so much trying to cure them. A good example is climate change. You see so much activities and money spent to plan conventions for climate change in Nigeria or plant trees and we still have corruption in between. So many efforts are put into treating contaminated water and it can’t be clean as before. Meanwhile, whatever is done in a community against climate change affects all other communities as there are no boundaries globally when it comes to climate change. Environmental management helps to make forecasts that would help avoid expenses that would have been incurred in remedying it. However, in Nigeria, such forecasts are taken for granted.
What can environmental toxicologist like you do to save humanity and the earth from global warming?
Based on research, we can adapt to the new environment. What we do is to make several researches to help people adapt to the new environment and also orientate people on the effect of some activities on the environment; also, encouraging them to embrace eco-friendly techniques. When I become a philanthropist, I’d empower people with things that will reduce carbon emission.
What is next for you?
I’m open to opportunities but I’m not desperate. I really want to impact on people, volunteer, go for my master’s degree and work with NGOs. I’m also open to discipline beyond science. I’ve practiced accounting; I’ve practiced law, so I’m open to learning new things that would help the society and improve me as well.
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