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Mary Amarachi Mba is a very simple girl when you look at her or engage her. She is calm and soft spoken but her calmness ends in her public appearance. Challenge her in academics, you will find out that you are dealing with an undiluted firebrand scientist who holds the ace in pharmaceutical science on her finger tips.

Amarachi shocked everyone present at the Award Night of University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN) 48th Convocation Ceremony which was held on 29th November, 2018. At the prestigious event, Amarachi was pronounced the UNN Overall Best Graduating student for 2018 session. Amarachi who is from the department of Pharmacy of the university graduated with 4.94 CGPA.

From the day she was pronounced as the best among equals at the UNN, prizes, awards and more have unstoppably been coming her way. Let it Out, a radio program on Caritas 98.7FM Enugu interviewed her together with her dad Engineer Paul Mba. Engineer Mba also read at the UNN and graduated in 1985.

 The person closely following Amarachi Mba, a male student from the Department of Zoology and Environmental Biology graduated with 4.92 CGPA. Umuaka Times gathered that for two consecutive years now, the faculty of pharmaceutical science has produced the best graduating student for the UNN.

Shortly after her graduation, Amarachi got married to Dr Chris Chukwudi Okonkwo and they wedded on 4th May 2019. Dr Okonkwo is from Adazi, Ogidi (the home town Africa’s litrary giant, the late Chinua Achebe) in Anambra State.

Umuaka Times spoke to Amarachi briefly. Below is the interview.

Excerpts:

Amarachi Speaks.

Umuaka Times would like to know a little about you.

My name is Mary Amarachi Okonkwo (Nee Mbah). I am from Uba Umuaka in Njaba LGA of Imo State and the first of four children. I am a Pharmacist and a makeup artist.

From the name Okonkwo, one can be correct to say you are married?

Yes I am married

You said you are a pharmacist, what inspired you to read pharmacy and which university did you attend?

As a young girl, I was interested in knowing how drugs work. I would always read leaflets of any medicine given to me. It felt good to know that I could one day assist mankind through my knowledge of drugs. I studied Pharmacy at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

How was life at UNN and tell us the benefits and challenges you faced in UNN

Life at UNN was interesting and at the same time tough. I completed a degree in biochemistry in 2011 before coming back for Pharmacy in 2014. So I had some knowledge on how things work in school. I faced challenges during my registration and during course work because we had a lot to cover in a short time.

Umuaka Times has it on good authority that you emerged the best graduating student in the whole of UNN? Can you confirm that?

Yes. I emerged as the overall best graduating student in UNN for the 2017/2018 academic session

Wow. This is serious; many girls from Umuaka would like to know how you did this. Please can you share some experiences on how to be a good student?

Being a good student begins in the mind and requires a lot of discipline and sacrifice. As a student, right from my primary school, I would always attend classes, make my notes and read them, ask questions for clarification, do my assignments by myself, prepare well for exams and above all, commit my studies to God in prayer. There is no magic to it.

Are you aware that there are some other students who do all these and at last, they do not perform well? What do you think is responsible?

Well, there are reasons for this. Some students do not read critically. Some do not access themselves after study to know if they understand what they have been taught. Some students read materials that are out of scope. Some do not know how to approach questions. Some are a little careless especially with exam instructions.

Your answer brings to the fore this burning question many want to find an answer to over the years. What makes one person more brilliant than the other, given the same academic circumstance and environment? Some say it is nature, while others say nurture and both. What do you think?

I’ll say both genetics and environment play a role in intelligence. Children born to smart parents would be expected to be smart too although there are some children born to illiterate parents who are still intelligent. Environments not conducive for learning wouldn’t help a child’s Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Even diet plays a role. Breastfed babies tend to be smarter than babies who are not breastfed. Malnourished children may have lower IQ’s than their well fed counterparts.

Under this, what do you advise Umuaka parents who want their children to be like you?

I’ll advise parents to invest their time in their children’s academics and upbringing. Children should be breastfed exclusively for 6 months and given nutritious diets as they grow. Parents should check their children’s school work and be their teachers at home, give them assignments, encourage them to work hard and reward them for hard work. Parents should enroll their children for skill acquisition programs, ensure that their children make good friends, support their children and pray for them always.

Good one indeed. How did you feel when you were informed that you emerged the Overall Best Graduating Student at UNN in 2017/18 academic session? Did you see it coming?

I was so happy. I felt great. I know I had worked very hard throughout my stay in school but I didn’t see this coming my way.

Have u been inducted?

Yes I have.

Tell us a little about what happened during the induction. What are the lessons you learnt from the event?

The induction, which took place on the 19th of July, 2019, was an eye opener to the fact that as pharmacists, a lot of responsibilities rest on our shoulders. We took oaths to this regard and we were officially pronounced as pharmacists. There were some lessons from the keynote address. We were encouraged to seize every good opportunity, to work hard, to do things ahead of time, to be organized, to practice honesty, and to live up to expectations.

If you were not a pharmacist, what would you have liked to become?

A beautician and fashion designer

waow. But you can still move on with the two. What do you think?

Yes I know. I am a makeup artist and I sew a little

You emerged the Overall Best Graduating student at UNN, am sure you are in a better situation to talk about the quality of education today in Nigeria. Can you say the standard is drifting or growing?

I would say it’s drifting.

Even with all these technological devices that aid learning? Can you shade more light?

We still do not have enough qualified teachers and learning facilities.

Do you support that JAMB should be scrapped?

No. Well, as it stands, JAMB serves as a general screening test for secondary school graduates who seek admission into universities in Nigeria.

And finally, if you are given an opportunity to address one issue in our universities today, what would you like to address?

I would like to address the state of our research. The Nigerian universities should be the centres of research for the industries. Students should be trained to acquire the requisite skills for the industry.

Umuaka Times congratulates you for this great honour you brought to our holy land Umuaka. Thanks for your time.

Thank you.

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