Namibia: 'The Magic Is in Walking the Path Less Travelled'

24 April 2019

At the age of 26, Nigerian born Mohammed Shehu will tomorrow make history as the youngest student of the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) to be conferred a Ph.D. in Informatics.

Informatics is a branch of information engineering. It involves the practice of information processing and the engineering of information systems, and as an academic field, it is an applied form of information science.

"I decided to come to Namibia to pursue my master's degree in informatics at Nust and eventually my Ph.D. in Informatics," said Shehu.

Shehu was born in Nigeria, moved to Tanzania and quickly to Botswana where he finished his secondary school at the age of 16. In 2013 he graduated with Bachelor of Computer Science from the University of Botswana.

On Facebook, Shehu wrote a detailed post explaining his journey to obtaining a Ph.D. "When I was in high school back in Botswana, in Grade 10, the principal called the top seven students of our Grade into her office. We had no idea what was going on. They wanted to experiment with something. They were going to allow us to write the Grade 12 International General Certificate for Secondary Education (IGCSE) in Grade 11, and finish a year early," posted Shehu.

He further narrated, "That night, I went home and told my dad. He didn't even hesitate, he told me point-blank, 'You're going to do it. If you fail, at least you tried. If you pass, you'll make history'. The next day on campus, I walked into the principal's office and told her I would do it. She was ecstatic! I was quickly infected by her enthusiasm. Out of curiosity, I asked her who else had agreed to take the jump," related Shehu.

His teacher informed him that he was the only one who took up the offer. "I couldn't go back to the principal's office and take back my words. And there was no way I could go home and tell my dad I had turned it down. That's not how we were raised," he explained.

"Every day, I would stay late after school to be tutored by my teachers. It would just be me and this man or woman, sitting in an empty classroom after everyone had gone home. A teacher who was taking time out of their family schedule to help a lone student on a mission no-one even knew would succeed," Shehu narrated further.

The pressure was immense, intense and incensed to him as he had no free time. "I lost all my friends. I never attended prom (matric farewell), because I had to study," recalled Shehu.

"The magic, for me, is in the unknown; in walking the path less travelled. Being a pioneer is second nature now," said Shehu.

On why he specifically chose to do informatics, "I have always been interested in how one can use data to make better decisions, how do you make use of data to create a greater good, " the enthusiastic Shehu told New Era.

After obtaining the Ph.D., Shehu is contemplating on doing a masters in law and he is particularly interested in contracts. "In the meantime I am working on social media related projects, servicing clients through my company," he said. "My passion is entrepreneurship, secondary to that is teaching people that the possibilities to succeed are endless," highlighted Shehu.

He concluded with advice for those in academics, "Think about why you are doing it because that's what is going to keep you in there and be passionate about things or activities you take up."

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