Omotola Matesun, in this interview by RONKE SANYA, shares her story of exceptional determination to study the course of her choice despite all odds.
What was growing up like?
Growing up was normal really, nothing out of the ordinary, except that I started secondary school, a boarding school, at age 8, and I finished at 14.
I am from Ogun State. I attended Bright Star Nursery and Primary School, Bajulaiye and then finished at Kabmaf International School, Fola Agoro, both in Lagos. Then, I came to the United Kingdom in 2013, to study Law.
Life is full of challenges but the most important thing is how we overcame and made a success out of the challenges. Tell us about your unforgettable challenge and how you overcame.
Apart from graduating with First Class Honors, the fact that I actually got my LLB is the biggest achievement. I started out doing a diploma in Law for two and a half years in Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, with the aim of doing a Direct Entry crossover into the LLB course. Before the completion of my diploma, however, the university lost its accreditation and the condition on which it regained partial accreditation meant that there was no admission for the year I was to be admitted via Direct Entry.
I proceeded to Lead City University, where I was admitted into 200 Level Law with my diploma from OOU, but again, in my final year, the university ran into problems with the NUC, which labelled the course ‘illegal’. What this meant was that we could not graduate from that department and were advised to switch to the course closest to Law. So I, like many others in the Law faculty, switched to Politics and International Relations. After graduating, I did my National Youth Service, and then came to the UK to pursue what I originally went to university for. That is just one out of many challenges.
So, you attended OOU and Lead City before you went to University of Greenwich. What differences did you identify in the method of teaching in Nigerian universities and in United Kingdom?
People who know me know that I have the love of Nigeria at heart, and I believe in us as a nation. However, with regard to this issue, both systems of education are worlds apart, and the difference is not in Nigeria’s favour. For one, in Nigeria, the teaching is very abstract, as opposed to the United Kingdom where you get the whole picture. The topic, subject, and even the whole syllabus come alive, because the lecturers are very committed to the students’ success and progress, which is as a result of their passion for what they do.
Also, a lot of planning, research, and resources go into academics here. These, and more, are major key players lacking in the academic environment in Nigeria, we simply are not investing enough in education.
Also, a lot of opportunities are created for students to put theory into practice. The good results this produces lend credence to the saying that experience is the best teacher. I could not possibly tell you how much more I learnt about Law during my various legal work experience, than I did in class. From working at my university’s Legal Advice Centre throughout my studies, to doing a placement at Lewisham London Borough Council (Legal services), helping litigants-in-person at the East London family court, shadowing a district judge, amongst others, I was able to match what I was being taught in class with reality, and it made so much more sense that way. Going into the real world of work after university would not be as much of a shock to me as it is to many fresh graduates in Nigeria.
Your experience as a Nigerian Student in University of Greenwich.
University of Greenwich is a truly international institution made up of students from about 176 countries, so the spotlight was not on me as a foreign student or a Nigerian for that matter. There is a big community of Nigerian students at Greenwich.
Nigerian students excel and often top their class when they school abroad, what can you say is responsible for that, considering the fact that you also had a First Class when you relocated and not in Nigeria.
This can be attributed to what I said early on when I highlighted the differences between the educational sector in Nigeria and the UK. In addition, Nigerians are very determined and focused, especially when it is over three thousand miles from home, and an exorbitant amount of money is paid.
When you introduce yourself as a Nigerian, what kind of response do you get?
Nigerians are people of interest around the world now, especially here in the UK. People want to know more about us, our culture, parties and all. They want to discuss Lagos, our music, jollof rice, the progressing economy, and so on.
Someone once came to deliver a sort of guest lecture at the university and during my discussion with him, he commented on how Nigerians are so educated and well-spoken, especially the females, and he asked me why. I also remember being selected in my first year to have a meeting with the then Minister for Justice, Simon Hughes MP, and he mentioned how very strong and rapid the Nigerian economy is, of course that was after mentioning how Nigeria had one of the worst traffic in the world.
So in all, I mostly get good vibes when I introduce myself as a Nigerian.
At the point when you discovered you made a first class, how did you feel?
As soon as I got my last exam result, and I calculated my cumulative and I had made a First, I went on my knees and returned all the glory to God Almighty who saw me through all the challenges. I knew I had gotten a First since May, and the official confirmation from the university in June, but it still feels surreal.
Why were you so determined to study law even after studying another course and did NYSC?
My determination to study law stemmed from the fact that I believe I am well suited to the profession, and vice versa. I am passionate about learning and gaining knowledge, and with law, you learn new things about yourself, other people, your environment (jurisdiction), and even other jurisdictions, everyday.
In addition, I love to help people, which again is a core aspect of being a lawyer; using your knowledge to help people. Also, my love for writing is one of the reasons why law has a pull for me. Working in a field where one of the essential skills is good communication skills (oral and written), which I possess and happen to love, appeals to me in no small measure. After my first degree, I did not feel like I had acquired a degree I wanted to work with. So naturally, the fit between me and law has left me with a feeling that nothing else will make me feel fulfilled every day of my working life.
You must be really fulfilled now that you eventually studied the course of your choice and then made a distinction.
I couldn’t be happier, and more fulfilled. It means a lot to me.