Kinfeosioluwa Akin-Ibisagba was named the Best Graduating Student of the Department of Civil Engineering, Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State in 2021, after graduating with a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.92/5.0. She talks about her successes despite losing both parents in the first semester of her 100 Level
Did you know you were leading your set all along or did it come to you as a surprise?
Honestly, I didn’t know. I was just studying and going to classes, doing every regular thing regular students do. But I was intentional about my grades and I never toyed with my studies at all, not even for one day. It was when we were about to have our Intensive Training in the penultimate year that I found out that I was indeed leading my class as my CPGA was the highest. It was actually a surprise, albeit a pleasant one. I never expected it, but I know I worked really hard to get it.
How did you feel when you saw your final result?
It was like a dream. I was stunned. I just looked at it and was so elated. I felt a rush of motivation to do much better and keep pushing for the best. It was a really beautiful experience. It further proved that anyone can be anything once they put their mind to it and work really hard. I knew all the sacrifices I had to make in order to get a good grade, and I was just glad everything paid off.
What were some of these sacrifices you made?
Hmmmm… when one has a clear focus on a dream, one will make sure nothing comes between one and that dream. It was always my dream to get good grades and make my family proud. I knew that I couldn’t be like other students. I had to work extra hard. It isn’t every day you get to see someone who schools at Covenant University. So, I knew the sacrifices my sponsors made to get me into a private university and I had to pay them back with nothing less than good grades. I deprived myself of pleasure and a lot of other things other students would do to make sure I never derailed. Was it tough? Well, I would say it was. Was it worth it? Of course, it was, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything else.
How did your parents receive this news?
My parents are dead. They are not here. But I know they are happy wherever they are, looking at how successful I have become in my education. I had other family members who were extremely happy for me when they saw the results. I saw pride in their eyes when they looked at me, and it made me shed tears of joy.
Would you like to talk about what led to your parents passing?
Well, I lost my mother and shortly after, my dad also followed. This was during the first semester of my first year at CU. Through the family drama, depression and silent tears at night, God promised to see me through. I had not even recovered from the loss of my mum when I lost my dad. It was tough for me because we were very close. I didn’t even know how my life would be after that. Even my other family members were worried that I wouldn’t be able to cope. But I had to be strong.
What kept you going during that period?
I held unto God’s words that He would never leave me alone. Year after year, God kept making things easy for me and gave me more for all I had lost. He not only gave me joy, but He also gave me peace. This Best Graduating Student tag is not just an achievement for me, it is a reminder of God’s faithfulness to me and how He is intentional towards me. Despite all I went through, God strengthened me and made me to be mentally stable. I was so scared for my mental health but God did it. This achievement is for my mum and dad.
Was there any target you set for yourself when you got to CU?
I set out to achieve nothing but excellence. My parents inculcated in me the culture of being excellent in whatever I do before they passed away, so I set out to make first class from my first year. I have been reminded on several occasions of the edge it will give me. I knew that in my first year, I was already on first class despite the challenges. I just had to make sure I didn’t lose out on both ends, and I am so grateful to God.
Did you have a reading pattern or schedule?
My reading schedule was very unconventional. On most days, I read at midnight or in the early hours of the morning because of the serenity. Other times, I read during the day with my ears plugged, of course, to block out the noise and distractions. Occasionally, I took a break and didn’t read. I’d watch a movie and just relax, but I definitely made up for those resting days. Reading, for me, was more than a chore; it was a hobby, a way of life, so I enjoyed it.
What attracted you to engineering?
The thought of being behind the scenes in order to birth something through creativity and innovation was what attracted me to engineering. I have always loved Mathematics and the sciences, so I knew engineering was it for me. I was drawn to Civil Engineering because of the several jaw-dropping engineering structures that always caught my attention. That I could one day get to see my own designs come to life was very thrilling for me.
What were the challenges you had to contend with as a female student in the Department of Civil Engineering?
Academically, I didn’t find it challenging. The courses weren’t very different from what I did in secondary school, so I had no problem grasping what I was taught. But getting used to an environment with a very large population of people from different spheres of life was somewhat challenging. As a female, it was pretty much like everyone else, I think. It was just a place for me to learn and come out better.
Were you sociable?
Yes, I was very sociable. My achievement came as a surprise to many because I come across as playful. I am very intentional with my friendships and I ensured I carved out time from my schedule to spend with them. Outside school, I particularly enjoyed going out and hanging out with my friends. I consider myself to be extroverted sometimes. I strongly believe in balancing things out.
Distraction is a major problem for undergraduates. What were the things you did to beat distractions?
To be very honest, being a Covenant University student shields you from a lot of things. There weren’t many distractions because it’s almost like we had all possible distractions removed. However, in this digital age, one major distraction I faced was social media. Thankfully, I had trained myself to be disciplined enough to choose when to read and be productive. From time to time, I had to delete my social media apps and go off social media. All these were to make sure I was more focused on my education, and I am glad everything paid off.
There are students who believe that being in a relationship is a distraction; what do you think?
I don’t think it is. I think if you find someone that’s on the same frequency as you, is ambitious and focused, then you can spur each other on to do better and achieve more. If you can’t seem to find a balance between school and a relationship, then, I strongly advise against it because that’s not your main reason for being in school. For me, relationships are secondary when one is in school. Focus on what brought you to school first. If a relationship comes along the way, fine. If not, you have the main reason for embarking on the journey in the first place in your hands, and what can be more fulfilling than that?
What advice would you give to undergraduates who desire to graduate with first-class honours like you?
The first thing I have to say is for them to know themselves. Know what works for you and stick to it. Know when and where you prefer to read; your assimilation rate among other things. Don’t compare yourself with someone else or try to impose their reading patterns on yourself. When you read, do so to understand. Be diligent and committed. Set goals for yourself and strive to achieve them. You may have to forego some things in the meantime but it’s beneficial for the goal ahead. Surround yourself with a community of like-minded people. It helped me a lot. When I didn’t have motivation, my friends were there to encourage me and believe in me and I did the same for them.
Some people believe that one must have earned very good results in previous schools to graduate with first class honours. What was your performance like before you got to university?
I don’t agree with that school of thought. I think entering the university gives everyone a clean slate. Whatever happened in the past shouldn’t affect the present and future. If you’re determined to succeed and you’re consistent then I believe it’s very possible to finish with first class honours. I’ve always performed exceptionally well in my academic work. I topped my class in primary school and secondary school. All this couldn’t have been possible without God’s grace and favour upon my life.
What are your aspirations?
I aspire to live a life of impact. What can be greater than when people remember the good I did for them and smile? I want to put smiles on the faces of people with the job that I do.
Now that you have an excellent first degree, do you intend to pursue a career in Civil Engineering?
Yes, I do, but, particularly, I would love to go into consultancy as I have a flair for design. I’m also currently enthusiastic about Data Analysis/Science and I look forward to building a career in that area as well.
Do you have any favourite quotes you live by?
The book of 1 Corinthians 15:10 says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them — yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” I am all that I am by the grace of God.
For years, Nigeria has had a lot of building collapse incidents. What do you think could be done to address this menace?
Building collapses in Nigeria have really been a growing concern even with one of the direst cases being the 21-storey building at Ikoyi that collapsed last year. In developed countries, collapses are usually due to natural causes. However, in developing countries like Nigeria, overloading, use of substandard materials, non-conformance to specifications, poor supervision and lack of maintenance are some of the numerous cases. In addition to these, one cause that has eaten so deep into the hearts of many is greed. Only God can help us with that. To address this problem, every project should undergo proper quality assurance by the various government agencies that have been set up. During the design and construction process, thorough checks should be done by certified professionals.