Twenty-six-year-old Abdulmalik Bashir, who graduated with a first-class in Water Resources and Environmental Engineering from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, tells GBENGA ODOGUN (of PUNCH) how financial challenges pushed him to academic success
Can you walk us through your academic background?
I attended primary school in the Adavi Local Government Area of Kogi State. I attended the UBE Secondary School, Idatochi, and thereafter, attended the Egbira Community Secondary School, Ogaminana, where I completed my secondary education in 2012. After leaving secondary school, I had to stay at home for two years before I got admission into the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, for the 2014/2015 session, and studied Water Resources and Environmental Engineering. I graduated in 2019 with a first class degree and was the best student in my department.
I have yet to collect my certificate. I am currently using a statement of result in place of a certificate.
Why haven’t you collected your certificate?
I have been to the school several times without success to collect my certificate. The last time I was there, the Non-Academic Staff Union was on strike and is still on strike as I speak. There is no one to attend to me.
How did your parents support your education and upkeep?
When I got admission in 2014, my parents took care of me. But in 2016, I started facing financial challenges because my father, Ohieku Siyaka, is a teacher in a primary school in the Adavi Local Government Area before the long period of screening was carried out by the state government. He fell into the category of un-cleared teachers and since then, which is more than seven years now, my father, who is the breadwinner of our family, has not been paid a dime
My mother is a petty trader, but two years after my admission, she developed health challenges that later resulted in a partial stroke and she could no longer trade. In my 300 level, things became extremely difficult for me. I had to resort to begging and meeting a few friends to solicit their assistance. Only a few of them assisted me and from what I got from them, I had to send money home to my parents because the situation at home was piteous.
How did you manage to forge ahead?
I encountered serious financial challenges that almost forced me out of school but for the grace of God and some friends, who lent me money that I later paid back during my service year. My mother’s health challenges affected my academic studies a lot, because before she fell sick, she ensured that I lacked nothing; but when she became sick, I had to turn myself into a beggar on campus before I could feed. There was one particular day I packed my belongings and wanted to abandon my studies, because I could no longer cope but I summoned courage and stayed behind to see what God would do for me. The suffering and financial challenges I faced while in school motivated me to aim for a first class degree. So, I decided to put hunger aside and concentrate on my studies. With severe hunger, I ensured that I read my book to meet my target.
At what point did you start working towards graduating with a first class degree?
It started in my first year. I had vowed to graduate with a first class degree so that I could free my parents from poverty and that I achieved at the end of my studies. However, I have been greeted with unemployment since I graduated and completed the National Youth Service Corps. I am appealing to the government at all levels, private individuals and corporate organisations to assist me with a job so that I can take care of my sick mother and my father, who has remained on the un-cleared list for the last seven years, and my siblings, who can no longer go to school because of the financial challenges my parents are facing. With my qualification, I can work in the ministries of water resources and environment. I can as well work in any oil company. If I have the resources, I can as well set up a business.
I dedicate my academic success to my father and mother, who deprived themselves of the comfort of life to see me through school, especially at the primary and secondary levels, before the challenges came. Their efforts posed a bigger challenge to me and made me decide to become the best student in my department and faculty. Today, I am partially happy that I have achieved the feat and I will be completely happy when God Almighty, individuals and the government assist me to secure a job and start taking care of my parents.
Where did you undergo national service and where was your place of primary assignment?
I underwent national service at the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State.
How did you fund your movement to the state and community you were posted to?
I didn’t fund any movement. My father managed to squeeze out some money for me for my transportation.
No, the institution paid corps members a monthly stipend of N7,500 only and the nature of the work didn’t allow free time to take up extra jobs
Did you make efforts to be retained at your place of primary assignment?
Yes, but as of that time, the institution was facing serious financial challenges, which led to a delay in the payment of salaries to their employees, hence, my application was declined.
Have you applied to other academic and corporate institutions for a job?
Yes, I applied to the Nasarawa State University for a job when I saw the advertisement for recruitment online but I couldn’t complete the process because I was still serving. I completed service at the end of October 2021.
What do you currently do to earn a living?
I work at a private construction company. I joined the firm last December on an ongoing water supply and sanitation project, which is about to reach completion. My take-home pay is nothing to write home about. I am just doing it to avoid boredom.
Does the ABU not retain first class graduates as some other Nigerian universities do?
They do but not always. I think for some time now, they’ve stopped retaining their first class graduates.
What lessons can young Nigerians who face similar challenges learn from you?
I am calling on the Nigerian youth to be focused and not allow any challenges to push them into committing a crime. Rather, they should convert the challenges to success through seriousness, focus, and determination in whatever lawful enterprise they are engaged in because with determination, a lot can be achieved in the end.