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Meet American University Of Nigeria’ s Best Graduating Student


When she was in Primary Six, two
visitors came calling at Immaculata
Onuigbo’s school in Enugu. They were
from the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua
Foundation, Abuja.
“My school was one of the schools they
came to and I was lucky to have been
chosen for the exams,” Ms. Onuigbo
recalled.
“So, I went for the exams, the first one
was a written exam, the second one
was an oral interview. I was lucky to
emerge as one of the winners of the
scholarship from my state. That was
how I won my first scholarship to
secondary school.”
It was a visit that set in motion Ms.
Onuigbo’s journey of emerging the
best graduating student at the
American University of Nigeria, Yola –
with the highest ever Cumulative
Grade Point Average score in the
school’s history.
After her secondary school, she had
gotten another scholarship into the
university.
On Friday night, she bagged six
awards including the Afrinvest (West
Africa) Award for Academic
Excellence that includes a paid
internship at any of the company’s
subsidiaries.
But the valedictorian’s journey to the
zenith of academic excellence did not
come without challenges.
She recalls the days in secondary
school when she’d be left in tears
while watching the retreating back of
her parents, in Abuja, back to Enugu,
while she continued on her way back
to Yola.
“The first challenge was language
barrier,” she said.
“Prior to coming here, it was only
English and Igbo that I normally hear,
but I came here and almost everyone
was speaking Hausa, so I heard to
adapt to hearing people speak Hausa,
and I eventually learnt how to speak
Hausa.
“Another thing was the journey; the
road trip was always very stressful but
then it was always worth it coming
back to school.
“For academic challenges… I had great
teachers in my secondary school.
Whenever I needed help, I always
asked for one and they were always
willing to help, so it made it very easy
to excel academically. I didn’t have
much problem academically.”
The American University of Nigeria
was established in 2003 by former
vice president Atiku Abubakar as
Africa’s first ‘development university.’
The student membership cuts across
several African countries, including
Uganda, Cameroon, and South Africa.
The university is home to several
students’ associations such as the
American University of Nigeria
Honors Society, an association of
distinguished and exemplary students
created to foster academic and ethical
excellence.
“Being a member (of the Honors
Society), the minimum CGPA to be a
member is 3.5. So, if you want to
maintain your membership, you have
to work hard to at least be above that
3.5. So, it helped me to keep my grades
in check,” Ms. Onuigbo said.
“Also, the scholarship programme that
we do, we organize jazz nights, we sell
tickets and then the money we get
from the ticket sales we use it go give
scholarships to primary school
children. So, it really helped me build
my community service skills. I served
as secretary.”
Ms. Onuigbo says she also participated
in the school’s Feed and Read
programme, a project designed to
teach basic literacy and numeracy to
Almajiri boys but later expanded to
include children orphaned by the
Boko Haram insurgency.
“We go there and teach the children
how to read and how to count,” she
said.
On what she did differently to achieve
her academic prowess, Ms. Onuigbo
said she chose a course that she
enjoyed.
“I would say that I was lucky to have
chosen something that I enjoy doing.
“Because you know, one thing is that
no matter what studying is actually
hard. What makes it easier is if you
are enjoying, then you feel the pain
less. So, I enjoyed what I read, and I
love learning, learning new things.
Every day I learn a new thing. That
was what helped me.”
Her days in the university were,
however, not focused on only
academic activities.
Her classmates said she was “really
good” at football, and was always the
first to report to the pitch at 4 p.m.
“One major part of my life in campus
is sports, I play volleyball and soccer,”
Ms. Onuigbo said.
“I believe that it’s good to keep both
the intellectual part of you and the
physical part of you intact. Sports
always helped me to relieve stress, so
that’s one of the best part of AUN. I
use it to balance my academic life. My
spiritual life, I’m a Catholic, I’m in the
choir. Whenever I sing, I enjoy it. It
makes me feel really good.”
The AUN uses the American grading
system where 4.0 is the highest
possible Cumulative Grade Points
Average (CGPA). To finish Summa Cum
Laude (the equivalent of the Nigerian
First Class: 4.50 – 5.00), a student has
to score between 3.9 and 4.0.
Ms. Onuigbo scored 3.98.
She said her ambition is to be a
university professor.
“For a while, I wasn’t really sure of
what I wanted to do after university
but like I said before, Honours Society
helps students that are academically
challenged and all.
“I participated in the tutorial services
and actually came to see that while I
teach people, I actually learn more. It
gives me a special kind of happiness
when I know that someone knows
something because I actually helped
that person. I think that was when I
started thinking of venturing into the
education world.
“I also have wonderful professors. The
female ones, they are really worth
looking up to. I admire them and I
think it’s something I can actually do
and would love doing. I know the
work is an everyday thing and you
may tend to get tired of it, but because
I will be learning every day by doing
that, I think I will be okay being a
professor at a university.”
On Friday night, Ms. Onuigbo’s
parents watched quietly, inside the
university’s expansive Commencement
Hall, as their daughter was called up-
stage a record six times for an award,
each award coming with a prize
money.
“I am overwhelmed because I (didn’t)
expect such miracles, but everything is
from God,” said Christopher Onuigbo,
an Enugu-based engineer.
“I thank God, I also thank the
Yar’Adua Centre because without the
Yar’Adua Centre, I don’t know
whether such good will come across to
me or reach me. The Foundation is the
pillar of this little girl.”
Her mother, Victoria, described Ms.
Onuigbo as “just naturally gifted.”
“Because as from Primary Four, she
used to write letters. If I am out now,
she wants to tell me something, she
will put it in writing, when I read it,
I’ll just laugh and say ‘this girl has
sharp brain,’” said Mrs. Onuigbo, a
nurse.
“They are three boys and three girls,
God has blessed us and crowned us
with this Onyinyechukwu,” she turned
and pointed to her daughter, “She
goes with her name, ‘Gift from God’.” 

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Posted by May 20, 2017.

Categories: Gist, News

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