A 24-year-old Nigerian on Wednesday made history in Africa as he received a Ph.D Degree in Mathematics at the convocation ceremony of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) for the 2012/2013 academic session.
Olaoluwa Hallowed Oluwadara, whose thesis was adjudged the best in Engineering and Science, having made a cumulative grade point average of 5.0, was described as the youngest Ph.D holder in Africa.
According to the university, Oluwadara was able to finish the programme within the three years of stipulated period.
He got two first and second degrees in Mathematics (Pure Option) and Physics in 2007 and 2008 respectively, at the age of 18, from the University de Bangui, Central African Republic.
Speaking on behalf of his colleagues at the convocation ceremony, Oluwadara said his achievement was not only a personal triumph but a triumph for mathematics as a useful subject of study in Nigeria.
How I emerged Africa’s youngest Ph.D holder at 24
24 year old Olaoluwa Oluwadara is University of Lagos youngest Ph.D graduating student, and also Nigeria’s and Africa’s. In this interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly, the Doctor of Mathematics gave a graphic report of how he achieved that feat and much more…
You achieved a rare feat as the youngest Ph.D holder in Africa. How does it feel?
It feels good and fulfilling. It is not my ultimate goal but I am honoured and humbled that my hard-work has been rewarded. I’m really grateful to God.
What do you think helped you achieve this?
I owe this success to God. Over the years, He has helped me to set incredible goals for myself and worked hard towards them with focus, discipline and consistency. Good mentoring from my parents, pastors and supervisor also helped.
During your programme, what was your daily routine like?
I woke up every day in front of my laptop. I hardly shut it down because it was a useful tool for my research. I spent time studying and researching both at home and in school. I also had time to pray in the morning and attend church services.
What was the driving force for you?
The desire to be the best has always been my driving force. I wanted to excel, to reach the goals I fixed for myself. I kept on pressing forward.
Tell us some of the ups and downs you had enroute to where you are today?
At 13, I failed my A’ levels during my first attempt for reasons other than poor performances. I say this because I had the best result in my school before the exam. It was a serious disappointment but it turned out to be very pivotal because not only did I learn how to be humble, patient, resolute and how to depend on God, I also channeled my frustration into better performances. I went on to have better scores and more outstanding successes after that setback.
What age did you start and finish pre-university?
In Central African Republic (C.A.R) and many francophone countries, primary school spans six years, secondary over seven and the University at Undergraduate level over three years. I started primary school at 5, secondary school at10, and reached A’ levels at 13, courtesy of four double promotions (one in primary school and three in secondary school).
Can you share with us your growing up days and the pre-university schools you attended?
I had a normal childhood. I was dearly loved by my parents and siblings. My parents really invested in my education. When they were chanced, they tutored me in Mathematics and other subjects. I attended the International Preparatory College (College Preparatoire International in French) at Primary and Secondary levels (from 1994 to 2003) and the Lycee d’Application de l’Ecole Normale Superieure (2004) for my second A’ levels.
Tell us about your family, your position in the family and what kind of family you are from?
I come from a godly family of three children. I am the last born of my parents. They are missionaries of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry to C.A.R.
You had your first and second degrees outside Nigeria. How would you rate the education system there viz-a-viz that of Nigeria?
French speaking countries are known for their solid mathematics background. However, the education system is not only about Mathematics. I think each education system has its strong points and weak points and differences are bound to be. The system in Nigeria has a lot more openings and benefits from better funding but we can do better in lifting our standards, especially at the secondary school and undergraduate level.
What were the challenges here in Nigeria that you didn’t face outside Nigeria?
Coming to Nigeria was a personal challenge for me since it was my first time staying away from my parents and adapting was always going to be a challenge. However, during my Ph.D. programme, I had challenges of having access to some relevant articles and there were no research grants to facilitate the publication of my works in open access international journals.
What did you actually study in your first and second degrees?
I studied Mathematics and Physics at undergraduate level, bagging two Bachelor degrees simultaneously in the process. I also have two Masters’ degrees in the same aforementioned subjects.
What were your cumulative points there?
The education system in C.A.R. did not operate CGPAs. We use aggregate scores often over 20 and converting to GPA is not really plausible. For example, I scored 16.36, 15.31 and 15.76 over 20 respectively in each of the years of my Bachelor Degree in Mathematics.
What had been your childhood dream?
As a child, I wanted to work at the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) of the USA. I also wanted to work for the CIA and for IBM.
Are your parent’s academics?
Even though they are missionaries, my dad studied Mechanical Engineering and my mom, Town Planning.
You are now a doctorate degree holder. What next?
I would like to work as a lecturer and a researcher. In the near future, I will go for my post-doctorate and another doctorate degree by God’s grace.
Did you envisage you will be the youngest Ph.D graduate in Africa?
Yes, I did. I was following other Ph.D candidates and their ages at graduation. There was a 26 year old doctor from University of Lagos and a 25 year old doctor from Babcock University. Thank God, I was able to beat their records.