Exploits of Nigeria’s oldest PhD graduate

Ifeyinwa Felicia Marinze, 71, recently made history when she bagged a doctorate degree from the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, Yaba, Lagos. And she hoped her uncommon feat would be an inspiration to many.

She has been adjudged the oldest PhD graduate in the Nigerian university system (NUS). The grandma, on Thursday, July 8, 2021, received a standing ovation as her name was announced during the 51th convocation of UNILAG. She was conferred with a PhD in French/Linguistics in the Faculty of Arts.

Marinze hails from Ukpor, Nnewi South Local Government, Anambra State, but was born in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on March 6, 1950. Her thesis was on “Evaluation de la Competence Communicative Orale du Francais Des Apprenants Nationale Diploma Des Polytechniques Seledionness du Nigeria.”

She told The Education Report: “I am living according to God’s plan for my life. He knew me before ever I was born and has planned my life. Wherever He leads I will follow.”

She never thought of her age when she enrolled for the doctoral programme: “I told myself it was going to be a retirement project

There was this nagging problem in the course of teaching my students all through my career as a French teacher. The students could not go beyond five sentences when engaged in oral communication in French. How can one not communicate well at the end of a two-year programme?

“What should a language teacher do, among other variables, to help them to surmount the challenge and achieve the ability to communicate with the language? These were my focal points. I didn’t want my brain to become static because, once the brain is no longer tasked, the whole body will start giving way. I was not ready to be certified brain dead. I still want to contribute to knowledge and add value to society.’’

Her first degree was at the University of Ibadan, French/English in Education in 1980. She proceeded to acquire master’s in Curriculum Studies at UNILAG in 1985. She had another master’s in French in UNILAG. She enrolled for M.Phil in 2011 and she bagged a PhD from the Department of European Languages and International Studies, with matriculation number 849003042.

By her academic feat, she became the oldest PhD graduate in the NUS and UNILAG. It took Marinze 41 years after her first degree and 36 years after her first master’s degree to bag the PhD: “God gave me patience, humility, determination and perseverance. I was a chief lecturer and director of UNEVOC Network, Yaba College of Technology, a platform for exchange, co-operation and mutual assistance.’’
      She had to save up cash before enrolment, bearing in mind what she was going to face, since there was no scholarship, or help. With no help from anywhere, she had just one option to save for her doctorate degree: “I took it as my responsibility. All the trips I made to the states and field works used for the research were my personal cash.
      “All expenses I incurred were basically from my purse. It was truly challenging, considering the security issues too. I was focused and God Almighty protected me all through the journeys and endeavours.’’

However, she met some good friends in the department who were always encouraging her, leaving their offices for her when she needed to rest: “The Yoruba respect elders a lot and I leverage on their respect.’’

“The whole M.Phil/Ph.D took nine years. I am grateful to my first and second supervisors, Prof. Osas Simire and Prof. A.M. Ilupeju, for a job well done. Their support and advice gave me the strength I needed to push through.

“I also equally got moral support from my three brothers Mike, Innocent and Tony Marinze, and their wives, my sisters, Mrs. Anne Onyeka, Dr. Providentia Marinze, my children, Ikenna and Ndidiamaka, all my nephews and nieces, my academic daughter, Mrs. Amaka Udeh, and a close family friend, Ossy Nwokedi, who encouraged me immensely and their numerous support in different ways they could offer.”

She expressed gratitude to Bishop Mike Okonkwo of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM), who taught her the word of God: “I applied that word of knowledge to my endeavours. I found that, in God’s calendar, there is no limitation. The word of God is Rhema, once you catch the revelation, you get to explore. Today I have achieved this, to the glory of God.’’

The septuagenarian urged  youths to dare to dream of what they want in life. She charged them to focus on their dream: “Place it before God and go after it. Don’t look at your age. It is only a number and a distraction. Relax your mind, eat well and have some fun too. But most importantly, do not forget your Maker, God Almighty.”

“There was a time I was faced with hurdles; I had to switch off, from everyone. It was a very critical moment for me. I had to switch off interaction from everybody. Problems will always be there and you should not allow other problems to jeopardize your movement,” she said.

Source: The Sun


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