By Ngozi Nwoke

Brilliant students are usually the pride of their parents, teachers and school authorities. Their academic excellence is a manifestation that the resources of their parents and efforts of the teachers were not in vain.

Last week, Corona Secondary School (CSS), Agbara, Ogun State, celebrated its graduating students for being resilient, disciplined and focused.

Not even the COVID-19 pandemic, which distorted the academic calendar, could alter their tradition of excellent performance during examinations. The 51 students of the set that passed out again proved the stuff they were made of.

The students won over 22 scholarships from various international universities, valued at $2.5 million and also performed excellently in different national and professional examinations.

At the graduation and valedictory ceremony, with the theme, “Discipline: The Path to Achievements,” it was celebration galore. The students, teachers, parents and guests had a great time in celebration of the teenagers, who went, saw and conquered.

The head boy of the set, Jay Esemudje, was named the valedictorian, Tamaramiebi Akika was named the salutatorian, while Zara Okoli was named the Third Best Overall student of the set.

In her welcome address, the principal of CSS, Mrs. Chinedum Oluwadamilola, commended the efforts of the set despite the transition of classes to virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said: “We thought they were going to be depressed and sad when we transitioned to digital learning due to COVID-19 but they always had a happy face.

“Some schools couldn’t make this transition very easily, unlike what we were able to do in all Corona schools. We transitioned seamlessly to the online and hybrid mode of teaching because, as a school, we are tech-savvy, sufficiently equipped and experienced to continue to provide world-class education.

“Corona Secondary School, Agbara, is the first e-learning school in Africa, since 2006. So, we are sufficiently equipped. So, these children with enviable maturity took on the task of learning remotely and today they have proved that they are certainly digital natives.

“They were committed to their studies, worked immensely hard and didn’t let the challenges be a reason to flop. So, I am extremely proud of you all. Your diligence paid off.

“This class is the class that has a group known as community changers. This remarkable group took on and completed seven community service initiatives around Agbara and in faraway Takwa Bay and they got global recognition from the things they did.

“They raised funds to purchase and donate educational materials; they upgraded a library, they painted a school, they donated printers, they did food distribution to malnourished children, erected road signs in and around school and were really formidable.

“This is also the class that has the highest amount of international scholarships that we have got so far. At the last count, this very impressive Class of 2021 had got over $2.5 million worth of scholarships from various schools around the world. And one of the schools had instituted an endowment and a price for some students.”

Oluwadamilola charged the graduands never to forget the lessons they had learnt from the school, saying: “Remember that you are never going to be able to score a goal until you take a shot. And also don’t wait for your ship to come in, go out to meet it. Congratulations.”

The CSS board’s chairman, Niyi Yusuf, acknowledged that the performance of the students and their teachers couldn’t have gone unnoticed or unrewarded.

He said: “This is a set that, between them, they have received over $2.5 million worth of scholarship awards. It is also a set that has won many international and national awards, which cut across academics and sports.

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“They won a global mathematics championship just two years ago and have recorded many firsts, both in academics and sports. This speaks to an all-round development of students.

“They have shown resilience because this is a set that has survived COVID-19, and a very difficult period. And, like we joke, instead of three terms in their final year, they’ve done four terms.

“My advice to them is that they should always remember that sometimes things don’t happen as we wish, but they should keep strong because tough times don’t last, only tough people do.”

Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Engr. Noimot Salako-Oyedele, could not hide her joy as she congratulated the graduating students for their uncommon achievements.

She said: “These young boys and girls have been well equipped to face the future. They have been well brought up to be confident, of good character and composure.

“There is a very good legacy of very successful alumni of this school and this has been achieved by the fantastic faculty here who have done good work and laid a good foundation to be able to face future challenges.

“So, I want to implore this brilliant  set of 2021 who have been awarded numerous scholarships that they too must go out there and fly the flag of Corona, so that we can always hear very good reports and feedback from them.”

In his keynote address, the Honourable Commissioner of Education, Science and Technology Ogun State Prof. Abayomi Arigbabu, noted that success doesn’t come from good work or enormous talent but through self-discipline. Self-discipline entails you having a good plan for yourself and sticking to it irrespective of the distractions or obstacles that come your way.

“When you don’t have a plan, other people would use you to achieve their own plans or goals. Always let your eyes be on the goal and work towards it vigorously.

“Search for knowledge in whatever field you choose and don’t be discouraged by failure, because failure is also part of life. When you fall, take the sand from the spot and see what you can build with it to go forward.

“Also fear God and don’t cut corners. Work and earn your good name. Be of good character. Avoid procrastination, distractions, laziness, and temptations.”

The highpoint of the event was the presentation of the valedictory awards to the top best graduating students among the Class of 2021.

Speaking on behalf of Jay Esemudje, who had already gained into a university, his father, Mr. Napoleon Esemudje, said: “We are very proud of him, we have been proud of him for a very long time. He is a gifted child. He has been astonishing as a person and has always been a trailblazer.

“Aside being proud of Jay, we also want to thank the school management for grounding him and making him who he is today. At 17 years old, this has been an outstanding achievement for him and all thanks to the school. Aside from academics, he is a singer, he loves acting, reading, and a simple gentle guy.”

Jay got scholarships from six universities in the United States bioengineering at Duke University.

The Deputy Head Boy, Adesiji Olumide thanked all the teachers and staff of Corona Secondary School, Agbara for their impact and immense support.

He said the class would ensure to keep to the values and discipline that were imbibed in them, as they sojourn through the next phase of their lives. He appreciated the school for helping him improve on his confidence in himself among others.