For young Nigerians studying abroad, a crisis of identity shouldn’t be a stumbling block but a stepping stone. For millions of teeming youths at home, young girls, especially, must rise above societal perceptions. However, the government must be pragmatic and futuristic, Kofo Babalola, a student of the University College London, writes about her experience
We often seem to spend time conversing, debating on tragedies and forget the goodness that happens around us. Yes, tragic events happen but is it really worth exhausting all our time dwelling on them? I am not saying we shouldn’t address these situations, of course, we should. But I believe we could spend more time celebrating the goodness in this world that we live in. I am not denying the pain that many of you feel. But shouldn’t we turn the pain to act as a fuel to propel us into better days?It is easier said than done. However, one thing that could surely help this change is by recreating news headlines to talk about the goodness that takes place around us that most of us are blind to or don’t even notice. The point is not to tell news outlets to change their ways. I am solely here to tell my story. We all have stories to tell, no matter how short it is, we all have something to say.
In writing this, I am coming to terms with the events that have taken place in the 19 years of my life and hoping that someone that reads this will be encouraged and will instil some sort of hope in the midst of the tumultuous world we live in.
Firstly, who am I? Often a question that we are asked in a philosophical lesson or even in an interview. ‘So tell me about yourself.’ ‘My name is Kofoworolaoluwa….’ Is that really enough to answer an interviewer? Well, of course, not. We are trained to answer this in a more sophisticated format as the interviewer looks up nudging you to go on. Well, I can go on and on. I have a lot to say. To begin, do you know what it is like to be the only black girl studying mechanical engineering in a lecture hall filled with various boys and a few more girls but from other European countries? It is strange but in the best way possible. I would not say that I get stares or looked down on just because of my ethnicity. Not at all.
In fact, I see those two things as the best things that make me unique. I can use my Nigerian background to give those around me a unique perspective on how we think, and I can also use my qualities as a girl to give guys that have rarely come into contact with one just how powerful and strong, we can be. Going to an all-girls secondary school taught me that the frail characteristics that those see in girls could be used in a way to give people in my course a unique perspective. There is absolutely nothing wrong in people treating you differently, use it to your advantage and prove the naysayers wrong every time they try and assume you wouldn’t be able to achieve it.
Dwell less on those that are dubious of what the future holds for you but instead make it clear to them you barely notice them. Eventually they will stop. But do you know what happens when you give up and leave? You have allowed them to win. Looking back, you will regret every second that you allowed them to get under your skin. Trust me, I have been there. In secondary school, I can remember being in the office of the head of Chemistry department for a meeting and he made it clear from the beginning that he wasn’t my biggest fan. He started off by saying that it didn’t matter whether I got the highest mark in the mock exam for the subject, they would still not predict me an A* grade.
What did I do immediately after that? I went to the bathroom and cried my eyes out? I didn’t see the point in revising anymore for the exam. In that moment as I wiped the tears from my eyes, I called my mum. After that phone call, I wondered, if I allowed his words to break me where would I be? I surely wouldn’t be studying mechanical engineering. I began to see the good in the words that he tried to use to break me. I used the pain and frustration that I felt towards him to act as a fuel in me to finish the five subjects that I had taken for A levels.
I did those five subjects till the end, and it never crossed my mind to drop one or give one up because each one helped craft the future I am walking in today. I am not here to list my achievements but to give you some encouragement. I strongly believe that the future is fuelled by science and technology. Especially if you are young and black and to be specific a girl, it could be daunting. Do me a favour and ignore all the noise and tap into what you want to become.
We need more young black girls especially in these fields. I believe this is the tool that many African countries need to use to create a brighter future for our countries, the ability to solve problems and to look ahead. Just like in chess what makes a better player is the ability of looking ahead and predicting the moves of his opponent. Science-related subjects teaches us this skill: the ability to look beyond. Like in advanced maths, you not only want to solve the algebraic problem, but you want to find the fastest and easiest way possible because in an exam you are working against time. In order for Nigeria to become better and up to speed with nations like US and China we need to be able to tap into science and technology to help develop the youth’s minds to think in an innovative way to solve the issues we are facing today.
Can we come up with a strategy to fix our roads, that often trap the water from the rain, in a faster and cost-effective way? I can say only technology can do that because I presume as we are solving problems the same old-fashioned way, China and America are innovating and creating new ways to solve these same problems.