Being remarks (as a parent) during the matriculation of 2018/2019 students of the Faculty of Biological Sciences, UNN, on Saturday, March 16, 2019
The Dean, distinguished professors of the faculty, and my beloved students:
I’m pleased to be back here after 31 years. In this same hall in this same university, sometime in 1988, I witnessed a prize-giving event for graduates of that year. I studied Mass Communication, however.
Students, I want you to know that your course is a special one: the future of education is in the biological sciences. Some of you, like my daughter, probably desired to study Pharmacy or Medicine or Medical Lab Science. Those who have been led by destiny into the Biological Sciences but still want to change to other courses after their first or even second year will be making a huge mistake. You don’t need to change to what you presume to be a “more rewarding” course because the world has since moved on. There is no longer anything special about Medicine or Pharmacy; great scientists of the future – men and women entrepreneurs expected to change the world – will likely come from those with a background in the biosciences.
Even in the past, the richest or the greatest inventors or the highest award-winning scientists were not those who studied Medicine or Engineering or Computer Science in the university. They were people like you who immersed themselves in research work both within and outside the walls of universities. I’m sure if you google a phrase like “bioscientists and their discoveries” you will be overwhelmed by a long list. You may also wish to read the life stories of inventors like Alexander Fleming,Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates. Moreover, there is a young man named Mark Zuckerberg; he was not even born when many in my generation were in this university. Yet, every day, you and I patronize his businesses by chatting on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp! He is one of the world’s richest people today.
What I demand from your lecturers is: they should teach you how to read and how to do research. That’s all they owe you – and that’s more important than the grades you will make in your course work. Prepare to read widely and prepare to conduct researches aimed at changing the world around you. We look up to you scholars in the field of the biological sciences to invent or improve on things that can make us live longer. In the 21st century, people want to live longer and healthier lives. People want foods that are more nutritious and plants that can yield more satisfying fruit and nourishment, that are easily available and affordable especially for the world’s poor. To succeed in this endeavour , you need to work as a group. Conduct researches together and seek venture capital together. There is no short-cut to distinction.
While we were students here in the 1980s, there were no courses like Biotechnology, Environmental Biology, or Molecular Biology and Genetics as you have now. You have the challenge to make the most of these innovations. Your parents did not have such opportunities. In those days, for instance, many graduated from the Department of Computer Science without even sighting a computer.
Bill Gates said something in 2017 that compelled me to have more respect for the biological sciences. He told the graduating students of a university that if he were starting out that day and looking for the same kind of opportunity to make a big impact in the world, he would consider three fields: artificial intelligence, energy, and the biosciences. [See https://eyeway.ng/2017/05/19/dear-class-of-2017/.]
As a columnist, I have occasionally advocated education reform. Again I tell you today: schools should begin to deemphasize certificates and focus on producing graduates who will become job creators rather than job seekers. Before your convocation, four or five years from now, we expect you to initiate projects in your areas of specialization dedicated to changing your country and the world.
I have every hope that the Faculty of Biological Sciences of UNN would be one of the catalysts for your research works and great inventions. You are the change we all seek. Together with your professors here, I hope to enjoy the privilege of pointing a new generation of bio-scientists to the desired right direction.
— ANIEBO NWAMU