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How Olabisi Ugbebor Became Nigeria’s First Female Professor in Mathematics At 25

At the young age of 25, Olabisi Ugbebor made history has Nigeria’s first female professor in Mathematics which is a remarkable feat.

Born on January 29, 1951, in Nigeria’s financial epicenter, Lagos, Ugbebor who is now 69-year-old started schooling at a very tender age as she usually cry that she should be allowed to also go to school anytime her siblings were on their way.

Despite her tender age, her parents succumbed to her unabated desire to be educated like her siblings and got her enrolled. 

“I would be crying that I would also go to school,” Ugbebor recollected in an interview with Nigerian Tribune. “So, one year ahead of time, my parent took me to the headmaster and appealed to him to create a small separate space for me to put my chair at the rear back of the class. That was how I was for a whole year. I would listen to them as if I were part of the class.”

When Ugbebor was allowed to sit exams with the class, she surprisingly came first. Authorities at the school had no option than to promote her, stating that doing the contrary would be against the law of natural justice.

That was how she got promoted to primary two. By the time she was in primary six, her father was a manager in a company and he was used to being transferred from one place to another. 

Following her father’s transfer to Ilesa, now in Osun State, Ugbebor went to Government Teachers Training College Demonstration School (GTTCDS). There, at the tuition-free school, she took the national common entrance examination and came first in Western Region. 

When she went for an interview, she was given admission into Queen’s College, Yaba, Lagos. Fortunately for her, that same year, the company where her father was working, which had never awarded scholarship to children of staff members before, called the entire staff to a meeting and decided that staff’s children be given a scholarship. 

“So, that was how those of us children of staff who were seeking admission into secondary school were asked to sit for exam. Again, I came first. They eventually picked three of us, myself and two others who came second and third in the exam,” recounted Ugbebor.

After her ordinary level, the company decided to extend the scholarship to cover two years for Higher School Certificate course and it was only Ugbebor out of the three who benefited. 

Ugbebor was again offered a Federal Government Scholarship to study Mathematics in the University of Ibadan. And, after her first degree, the University of Ibadan itself awarded her a scholarship for postgraduate studies in Mathematics up to Ph.D. at the University of London.

“So, throughout my life, I have been on scholarship. My parents did not pay any school fees on me and they really thanked God for that,” she told Tribune.

At University College, London, she studied for the year 1972-73 for a Postgraduate Diploma in Statistics. She then continued to study at University College for a Ph.D. 

Professor Ugbebor is also the first Nigerian woman to be appointed acting Head, Department of Mathematics, University of Ibadan.

She is a Reciprocity member of the London Mathematical Society; she is also a member of the Nigerian Mathematical Society, member of the Mathematics Association of Nigeria, a member of the African Economic Society, and a member of the Third World Organisation of Women in Science, Italy.

An Associate Professor of the Mathematics Department in the University of Ibadan, she still derives pleasure in imparting knowledge.

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