Young people should dream big, aspire for great heights
When Miss Cynthia Ochoga announced her intention to vie for the post of Salford University Students’ Union President in far away United Kingdom, her focus was on the vision that leadership is all about bringing positive changes to people. CeeWhy, as her admirers fondly call her, emerged victorious in the election, setting a record as the first international student to occupy the position of the Students’ Government President in the school.
As it is, CeeWhy’s success presents three-dimensional challenges: first, to herself, then to Nigerian youths and finally, to Nigeria and Benue, her home state. Apart from the recent mindless killings in Agatu, Benue has the singular record of being the only state where the state governor, Samuel Ortom, found his way to the top through the instrumentality of education, having been a motor park tout. Together with Cynthia’s recent exploits in Salford University, the youth of Benue State can now see more reasons to embrace education and eschew all forms of deviance.
Cynthia has also proved that Nigerian youths are winners anywhere. Her victory in the election serves as morale booster for young people everywhere.
Recalling how she felt, when she was elected, she said, “to be honest, I’ve still not been able to put the feeling into words. But one thing is that, I’m very happy that the months of planning came to fruition.
I have always been politically inclined if you like. I’ve previously been very active in promoting student issues, student representation and welfare. During my first degree at Middlesex University, I was International Students’ Association President at the Mauritius campus for two consecutive years and it was an amazing experience, so, I’ve just seized every opportunity since then,” she disclosed.
Were you daunted that you are a foreign student? “Oh no, I was not,” she continued, “ if anything, it spurred me on. I felt like I had to do this for our international community. I wanted to put Nigeria in the history books and I’m thankful it has happened,” she disclosed.
Compare teaching/learning methods in Nigeria with that of the UK, CeeWhy revealed that they are not the same. According to her, the UK system gives students a lot of independence and involves group work. She added that lectures are discussion based and students are encouraged to participate.
We are taught the basic framework. We are also encouraged to develop concepts and we learn that way. However in Nigeria, lecturers spend a lot of time giving lecture notes and there isn’t much of conversation and discussion about the topics and concepts. In the UK, students are informed of the dangers of plagiarism, which most students who started their study back home are not aware of and spend some time learning when they get here because it has a significant impact on their study,” she said.
How are you coping with funds, especially now that the Naira is nose-diving? CeeWhy disclosed that the issue is a big one. According to her, the situation is seriously having its effect on students on government scholarship and grants.
“Just last week, we dealt with case of a Nigerian student being asked to leave one of the universities because government has not sent his fees. Thankfully, we were able to resolve it, but that was just one of the many cases that are brought to the attention of Nigerian students’ leaders in the UK. It is very sad.
“I have put myself in the place of these students, many of whom are at their final year and may not likely complete their studies. These are future Nigerian leaders that should be encouraged to be their best. The emotional pressure is very heavy on them and I want to say this to the government: ‘Many of us are in the UK because we want to improve ourselves and ultimately our country, Nigeria. An investment in us is an investment in the country. I want government to please, look into the issue of grants and resolve it quickly so that some of us can continue our studies,” she pleaded.
Sharing her thought on leadership, the Salford University Students’ Union Government president noted that leadership is all about service. According to her, leadership should be about a passion to positively impact one’s society. “All those who find themselves in leadership positions should strive to be transformational leaders. By this, I mean they should have a genuine desire to improve the lives of the people under them, engage them actively to make positive changes,” she noted.
Disclosing what she intends to achieve as student president, CeeWhy said they are many, but she has ticked two items as most important in her agenda. “I have a long list of things to do as president, but two out of them are very important to me. The first is to promote the issues of Blacks, minority and ethnic students in the university. I am one of them and, so, I know the issues and will handle them squarely. I shall use my position to also promote the diversity that exists on the campus.
“Second item is to promote entrepreneurship and employability among our students. The jobs are getting fewer and, so, it is time for us to begin to create some things. And for students who might not be passionate about entrepreneurship, I want to lobby the university authority to create more course specific workshops and seminars with industry experts invited to prepare students for life after university and possible internship opportunities,” she said.
Commenting on the challenges facing the youth globally, CeeWhy disclosed that their major challenge is the lack of belief in themselves. “From my experience, anything is achievable if you set your mind to it; work hard and smart also. So, if the youth believe in themselves and are not afraid to be ambitious, then nothing will be impossible for them,” she advised.
Prior to her travel overseas, Miss Ochoga had attended Home Science Primary School, Ikoyi; Queens College, Yaba and University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka; all in Lagos State. Completing her diploma course in Cell Biology and Genetics in UNILAG, she moved over to University of Salford in United Kingdom for her bachelor’s and Masters in Media Psychology.