IS this Nigerian Britain’s cleverest girl?
Ten-year-old accepted on university course to study maths degree despite not going to school, Esther Okade from Walsall has enrolled on Open University course.
She spends her spare time in a similar way to many other ten-year-old girls – playing with Barbie dolls and making loom bands. But the key difference between Esther Okade and other children her age is that she has been accepted to study for a university maths degree – despite not going to school. Esther, from Walsall, West Midlands, has enrolled on an Open University course months after she passed her A-levels – and wants to study for a PhD before running her own bank. The girl, who gained a C grade in her maths GCSE, aged six, has joined the course which started this month. Her younger brother Isaiah is already studying for his A-levels – also aged six.
The siblings are both home-schooled by their mother Omonefe, who has converted the living room of their semi-detached, three- bedroom house into a makeshift classroom. Mathematician Mrs. Efe Okade, 37, said: ‘Esther is doing so well. She took a test recently and scored 100 per cent. Applying to the university was an interesting process because of her age.
‘We even had to talk to the vice-chancellor. After they interviewed her they realised that this has been her idea from the beginning. From the age of seven, Esther had wanted to go to university.
‘But I was afraid it was too soon. She would say, “Mum, when am I starting?”, and go on and on and on.
Finally, after three years she told me, “Mum, I think it is about time I started university now”.’
Mrs Okade added that Esther – who will study for her degree at home – was ‘flying’ and ‘so happy’ when she was accepted by the university; and wants to be a millionaire.
She said: ‘For now we want her to enjoy her childhood as well as her maths. By the time she was four I had taught her the alphabet, her numbers, and how to add, subtract, multiply and divide.
‘I saw that she loved patterns so developed a way of using that to teach her – ñew things I thought I would try her with algebra, and she loved it more than anything.’
Esther stunned her parents last year when she achieved a B grade in her pure maths A-level.
She applied to the United Kingdom Open University last August – and after a phone interview an essay and an exam, she was told in December that she had been accepted into the course.
Her father Paul, 42, a managing director, added: ‘I cannot tell you how happy and proud I am a father. The desire of every parent is to see their children exceed them, and take the family name to great heights, and my children have done just that.’ In 1981, Ruth Lawrence, of Brighton, became the youngest person to pass the exam for Oxford University, as a ten-year-old and graduated aged 13 with first-class degree in maths.
Now married mother-of-two, Mrs Lawrence is an associate professor of maths at the Einstein Institute of Mathematics, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Esther’s parents are also trying to trail blaze their own educational journey back in Nigeria.
The couple have set up a foundation and are in the process of building a nursery and primary school in Nigeria’s Delta region (where the family are from). Named Shakespeare’s Academy,” they hope to open the school’s doors in September.
The proposed curriculum will have all the usual subjects such as English, languages, mathematics and science, as well as more unconventional additions including morality and ethics, public speaking, entrepreneurship and etiquette. The couple say they want to emulate the teaching method that worked for their children rather than focus on one way of learning. “Some children learn very well with kinesthetics where they learn with their hands
— when they draw they remember things. Some children have extremely creative imaginations. Instead of trying to make children learn one way, you teach them based on their learning style,” explained Efe.
The educational facility will have a capacity of 2,000 to 2,500 students with up to 30% of students being local children offered scholarships to attend. Efe said: “On one hand, billions of dollars worth of crude oil is pumped out from that region on a monthly basis and yet the poverty rate of the indigenous community is astronomical.”
Paul added: “(The region has) poor quality of nursery and primary education. So by the time the children get secondary education they haven’t got a clue. They haven’t developed their core skills.
“The school is designed to give children an aim so they can study for something, not just for the sake of acquiring certifications. There is an end goal.”

• Culled from The Mail