I Worked As A Cleaner While Pregnant In 200-level”, – FUTA First Class Graduate

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A single mum and entrepreneur, Blessing Chukwuma, who went viral after bagging a first class in Computer Science from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, with a Cumulative Grade Point Average of 4.58, speaks to VICTORIA EDEME on how she balanced her academics with motherhood and business

How easy or difficult would you say it was to bag first-class honours in Computer Science?

It was slightly difficult because if you study hard, it won’t be so difficult.

Were there things you did differently that stood you out academically?

I studied smartly because I didn’t have a lot of time to study, unlike other students. I was also managing my business and catering to my child, whom I welcomed while I was in 200-level. I had to come up with a study plan so that I wouldn’t have to go through all the course materials while studying. It was a combination of smart reading and time management.

What was the special study method you adopted to achieve your goal?

I tried as much as I could to attend classes, although I was not able to attend all. First of all, I paid attention to the lecturers to know the aspects of the course they focused on in class. Then, I studied past questions to understand the way the lecturers set their questions during examinations. With these, I would know the part of the course that I would concentrate on while reading. I used to study past questions from about five years before reading the materials for the course. The method was very effective for me, as I wouldn’t have to spend so much time reading. It also allowed me time to do other activities outside academics. My friends also inculcated my reading method. During exams, they were coming to me for guidance on how to read a particular course, and then I shared my reading plan with them.

In your viral post on social media, you revealed that you welcomed a baby while in school and you also owned a business. How did you feel when you discovered you were pregnant?

I was in the 200 level and felt so confused. I didn’t know what to do afterward. The father of my child, who is now my ex-boyfriend, wanted me to abort the pregnancy, but I disagreed with him. Then, we planned that I would get a condonation (a fee that students have to pay if they do not have the required attendance at the end of the semester or year) form to allow me to leave school for a year. I got the form, but the process of approval involved going through the student affairs officer, head of department, and other offices.

So while processing the form, I was questioned about my reason for wanting to leave school. I said it was due to financial constraints. I kept giving them the same answer when I got to the various offices. On getting to my HoD, he volunteered to pay my school fees because my grades were good. That was when I finally told him the truth about my pregnancy. He told me that there were other pregnant students in the school and advised me to continue with my education. I thought about his advice and decided to go back to school.

How did your child’s father support you during the pregnancy?

At a point in the pregnancy, my ex-boyfriend stopped communicating with me. I then contacted his family and told her of my pregnancy. I told the family that he didn’t pick up my calls and refused to return them. His family reached out to him and told him to look after me. He started supporting at a point but later stopped. He insisted that we should continue in the relationship if I wanted him to still support me, but I told him I wasn’t interested in the relationship again. The relationship was stressful at that time because I had to beg him for support. So, I had to tell him that I could not continue with the relationship. He then said that since I was ending the relationship, he would stop supporting me. I decided to pull myself together and work things out for myself.

How did your family receive the news of your pregnancy and how did they support you?

My dad was alive then, but now he’s late. My family is based in Lagos. When I told my mum, she was heartbroken. She was also sick at the time. There was little she could do and my dad was not also financially buoyant. My dad also had problems with his eyes. So I was just all by myself. Since my mum was sick, she could not come around to help when I welcomed my baby in school. It was just me and the baby. I had to rely on some people around me then.

How did you cope with your studies during pregnancy and when you became a new mum?

It was very difficult because I was holding a political position then. I was the deputy governor of the School of Computing in FUTA and was popular among the students. So I became a topic of gossip and even overheard some people talking about me behind my back. It dampened my spirit, but I had to pull myself together. At a point, I stopped caring about the gossip. Also, I was the one responsible for financing my education and I had to work during pregnancy. It was not easy finding a job in that condition, as most employers would not want to employ a pregnant woman. I then decided to take up menial jobs. I even worked as a cleaner while pregnant. When I was heavily pregnant and could no longer continue with menial jobs, I started working for my landlady. I was helping her to sell at her shop, while she fed me. That was how I managed till I gave birth. After I gave birth, I started working in a restaurant very close to the school.

At what point did you become an entrepreneur?

Before I started my popcorn business, I had done several other businesses. I started working when I left secondary school because I knew I had to further my education. After secondary school, I worked at a cyber cafe in Lekki. I used the money I got from the job to buy the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination form and got admitted into FUTA. I planned on starting a business while in school. When I was at the 100 level, I sold hair treatment solutions. I also sold ladies’ underwear at a point in school. Other jobs that I’ve done included cleaning and hair styling. I had my child in 2019 and decided to start my popcorn business in October 2022.

What plans did you put in place to manage academics, motherhood, and business?

When I started my business, it was no longer a new thing to manage business, school, and academics. I was used to working while schooling. My business was to make popcorn for almost all events around town and in school. I didn’t sell every day because I had to make time for my academics and my child, so I focused on only events. Gradually, I started packaging the popcorn. It was not difficult managing all three, because I was already used to it.

Was graduating with a first-class a goal for you while entering school?

When I got admitted, I didn’t have a goal of finishing with a first class. I just wanted to go to school and change the narrative of my family. I had a first-class grade in my 100 level, then I made up my mind to continue with it. But at a point, I almost gave up because I was trying to balance my academics and other activities and thought the first class was no longer possible. One of the administrative staff members in my school was a source of inspiration for me. When she found out that I was pregnant at the 200 level, she supported me. I started keeping my baby in the crèche at two weeks and the woman catered for the crèche bills monthly. So, because of that woman, I decided to keep trying to become the best in my academics. I didn’t want to disappoint her after all she had spent on me and my baby.

I studied smartly because I didn’t have a lot of time to study, unlike other students. I was also managing my business and catering to my child, whom I welcomed while I was in 200-level. I had to come up with a study plan so that I wouldn’t have to go through all the course materials while studying. It was a combination of smart reading and time management.

What was the special study method you adopted to achieve your goal?

I tried as much as I could to attend classes, although I was not able to attend all. First of all, I paid attention to the lecturers to know the aspects of the course they focused on in class. Then, I studied past questions to understand the way the lecturers set their questions during examinations. With these, I would know the part of the course that I would concentrate on while reading. I used to study past questions from about five years before reading the materials for the course. The method was very effective for me, as I wouldn’t have to spend so much time reading. It also allowed me time to do other activities outside academics. My friends also inculcated my reading method. During exams, they were coming to me for guidance on how to read a particular course, and then I shared my reading plan with them.

In your viral post on social media, you revealed that you welcomed a baby while in school and you also owned a business. How did you feel when you discovered you were pregnant?

I was in the 200 level and felt so confused. I didn’t know what to do afterward. The father of my child, who is now my ex-boyfriend, wanted me to abort the pregnancy, but I disagreed with him. Then, we planned that I would get a condonation (a fee that students have to pay if they do not have the required attendance at the end of the semester or year) form to allow me to leave school for a year. I got the form, but the process of approval involved going through the student affairs officer, head of department, and other offices.

So while processing the form, I was questioned about my reason for wanting to leave school. I said it was due to financial constraints. I kept giving them the same answer when I got to the various offices. On getting to my HoD, he volunteered to pay my school fees because my grades were good. That was when I finally told him the truth about my pregnancy. He told me that there were other pregnant students in the school and advised me to continue with my education. I thought about his advice and decided to go back to school.

How did your child’s father support you during the pregnancy?

At a point in the pregnancy, my ex-boyfriend stopped communicating with me. I then contacted his family and told her of my pregnancy. I told the family that he didn’t pick up my calls and refused to return them. His family reached out to him and told him to look after me. He started supporting at a point but later stopped. He insisted that we should continue in the relationship if I wanted him to still support me, but I told him I wasn’t interested in the relationship again. The relationship was stressful at that time because I had to beg him for support. So, I had to tell him that I could not continue with the relationship. He then said that since I was ending the relationship, he would stop supporting me. I decided to pull myself together and work things out for myself.

How did your family receive the news of your pregnancy and how did they support you?

My dad was alive then, but now he’s late. My family is based in Lagos. When I told my mum, she was heartbroken. She was also sick at the time. There was little she could do and my dad was not also financially buoyant. My dad also had problems with his eyes. So I was just all by myself. Since my mum was sick, she could not come around to help when I welcomed my baby in school. It was just me and the baby. I had to rely on some people around me then.

How did you cope with your studies during pregnancy and when you became a new mum?

It was very difficult because I was holding a political position then. I was the deputy governor of the School of Computing in FUTA and was popular among the students. So I became a topic of gossip and even overheard some people talking about me behind my back. It dampened my spirit, but I had to pull myself together. At a point, I stopped caring about the gossip. Also, I was the one responsible for financing my education and I had to work during pregnancy. It was not easy finding a job in that condition, as most employers would not want to employ a pregnant woman. I then decided to take up menial jobs. I even worked as a cleaner while pregnant. When I was heavily pregnant and could no longer continue with menial jobs, I started working for my landlady. I was helping her to sell at her shop, while she fed me. That was how I managed till I gave birth. After I gave birth, I started working in a restaurant very close to the school.

At what point did you become an entrepreneur?

Before I started my popcorn business, I had done several other businesses. I started working when I left secondary school because I knew I had to further my education. After secondary school, I worked at a cyber cafe in Lekki. I used the money I got from the job to buy the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination form and got admitted into FUTA. I planned on starting a business while in school. When I was at the 100 level, I sold hair treatment solutions. I also sold ladies’ underwear at a point in school. Other jobs that I’ve done included cleaning and hair styling. I had my child in 2019 and decided to start my popcorn business in October 2022.

What plans did you put in place to manage academics, motherhood, and business?

When I started my business, it was no longer a new thing to manage business, school, and academics. I was used to working while schooling. My business was to make popcorn for almost all events around town and in school. I didn’t sell every day because I had to make time for my academics and my child, so I focused on only events. Gradually, I started packaging the popcorn. It was not difficult managing all three, because I was already used to it.

Was graduating with a first-class a goal for you while entering school?

When I got admitted, I didn’t have a goal of finishing with a first class. I just wanted to go to school and change the narrative of my family. I had a first-class grade in my 100 level, then I made up my mind to continue with it. But at a point, I almost gave up because I was trying to balance my academics and other activities and thought the first class was no longer possible. One of the administrative staff members in my school was a source of inspiration for me. When she found out that I was pregnant at the 200 level, she supported me. I started
Were you at any point worried that you might not make the first class after all your hard work?

Yes, I was. I started with a first-class and was determined to continue in it because I wanted to change the narrative. To some people, first class is not a big deal. But for a single mum like me, I wanted to change the narrative that having a child does not stop you from achieving what you want to achieve. I wanted to be an inspiration to others.

What would you describe as your most challenging moment on campus?

It got to a point where my baby had to start schooling as she grew older. That was a very difficult moment for me because I had to find a place to keep her after school. Crèche usually closed by 4pm but nursery school closed by 2pm. I needed to find a place to keep my child after she closed from school because I might still have to attend classes. So, I had to get another woman to help me take care of her after she closed from school. The woman agreed and I was paying her for keeping my child, and also paying my child’s school fees. However, the woman relocated from the area, and then I was saddled with the responsibility of picking up my daughter again. That was a very difficult time for me. I can’t tell how I made everything work.

How did you come about the idea of studying Computer Science?

I studied Computer Science because I loved the course. I was intrigued by it and wanted to know more about it.

Do you keep a large or small circle of friends?

I have just two or three friends, so I didn’t keep a large circle of friends. I didn’t want to be under any pressure. I didn’t want to compare myself with people, so I decided to move with people who understood life and made them my friends.

Did you hold any other political position in school?

I only held the deputy governorship role. Before becoming a mum, I had the ambition of holding several leadership positions, but I had to juggle between my studies, motherhood, and business. I then decided to remove that (political position) from the picture as there was no way I would hold political positions and still manage other aspects of my life.

What was the worst grade you had at the university?

That was in my 400-level second semester. I had a 3.95 GPA. That was the first time I was having a three-point. For the first time, I almost cried. I felt like I had lost focus. It made me to sit up and locate where the problem came from. I realised that during that semester, I didn’t think I paid much attention to my studies. Aside from that, the semester was also very short and I didn’t have time to apply my reading plan.

How did you feel when you saw your final result?

I was very happy; it was a dream come true for me.

What impact did making a first-class have on you?

It has changed my mindset and made me realise that there is nothing I cannot achieve if I set my heart on it.

Having bagged a first-class degree in Computer Science, what is next for you?

I want to further my education to the doctorate level. I look forward to applying for scholarships and getting a tech skill. I have done several tech courses in the past, so I want to concentrate more on it. I hope my dreams come through because it is not easy doing all these on your own. I’m just hoping for the best.

What tips can you give undergraduates wishing to earn first-class honours?

I will say they should read smartly and understand when they can assimilate better. Each person has their time of assimilation. I could read at any time of the day but it got to a point that I couldn’t read at night again. Also, I will advise them to work in groups; and get reading partners and people who can push them. If you don’t have people to push you, you’ll want to give up. Get people that you have similar goals with, so you don’t drift away from your aspirations. This will make you focus well. Ensure that you manage your time well whether you are doing any business or passing through any challenge. Time management is key. You should come up with a reading plan that is suitable for you. You should understand your lecturers very well. If you understand your lecturers, you know the approaches and methods to follow and focus on in the course.

What are your dreams and aspirations?

For my business, I aspire to own a restaurant one day. I’m also hoping that my popcorn business will keep booming so that I can serve in grand events and meet notable personalities. I’m also hoping to employ more hands.

The Punch

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