In this report FRANCIS OKOYE writes about the plight of visually impaired Ali Ibrahim who was offered admission by JAMB, to study Political Science at the University of Maiduguri, but was rejected by the University due to lack of facilities to train candidates with special needs.
The story of Ali Ibrahim, who lives in a camp for the internally displaced persons (IDP) in Borno state is pathetic, as it underscores the plight of persons living with disabilities in the society. Having been thrilled by the presentation of a political science lecturer at a workshop, Ibrahim, developed keen interest in the discipline and approached the presenter to know how he could enroll and study political science.
The University of Maidiguri lecturer encouraged Ibrahim to sit for the required papers for the proposed course of study and get assistance from him to secure the admission. Based on the confidence from the university Don, Ibrahim who had already obtained diploma in Special Education from the University of Jos, wrote JAMB in 2018 for the 2018/2019 academic session.
He was offered admission to study Political Science in the University of Maiduguri, his first choice and the institution within his catchment area. Sadly, Ibrahim’s dream to obtain the degree was hindered, as the department does not have facilities or provision for persons living with disabilities (PWDs) in its academic base.
This situation depicts governments neglect to the plight of persons living with disabilities, as every federal government institution is expected to be established with the inclusion of the special people on its programmes. It also portrays the difficulties faced by persons living with disabilities (PLWDs) in their quest for education, especially the visually impaired, since the system of reading differs from the other regular students.
The resolve by some institutions that persons who are visually impaired cannot cope up with the educational curriculum in terms of lectures, assignments and writing examinations is based on the non-inclusion of the PWDs at the time of establishing the institutions. So the hitches faced by Ibrahim is an error that could have been avoided if various institutions never undermined the need to make provision for people with special needs in their curriculum.
Unfortunately, the only school for the blind in Borno state is nothing to write home about, as the special school has been abandoned to its fate with dilapidated structures, lack of teaching materials and teaching staff.
However, a one-day Sensitization On Mainstreaming Disability In the Humanitarian Response in Northeast , organised by Gammun in collaboration with Christoffel Blindenmission and German government, afforded various categories of PWDs in Borno state, the opportunity to further expose their predicaments to the society.
It was at the meeting that Ibrahim revealed his predicaments as he explained how he lost the admission offered to him by JAMB for the 2018/2019 academic session. He also tendered two letters written to the Borno State government, as well as the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development in 2018 and early 2019, for a grant to enable him pay his study fees and procure basic instructional materials to convince the university, since they lacked the facilities.
While narrating his ordeal to Leadership Sunday in Maiduguri, Ibrahim said on his arrival at the Department of Political Science, armed with his JAMB admission and other requirements, the management informed him that they would have to hold a meeting to decide his fate.
He said the department kept tossing him back and forth until after a month when one of the principal officers in the department informed him that the department does not have facility to train him and as such, could not admit him.
“But I asked the officer, ‘don’t you have a talking computer that you can use to train me? In the University of Jos where I studied Diploma in Special Education, they have computer, which they use in teaching us with other materials. The computer when it is put on for us , it used to talk.’
“The officer answered that the school authority denied me the admission because they don’t have the facility for the training of persons with disabilities.
“So after that encounter, I looked for the Head of the Department of Political Science. We sat down and discussed very well. I handed over my documents to him and after going through them, he said in
some schools, there are facilities used in teaching people of my class, but he cannot say anything with regards to my admission, because, the school authority have no provision for PWDs . So when I got frustrated , I abandoned the admission,” Ibrahim lamented.
According to him, in his quest to explore other avenues for possible assistance, he applied to the Borno State government for education grant, to procure the facilities which the University is lacking. He narrated that he wrote separate letters to the Borno State government and the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development which did not yield positive results.
The separate letters dated 3rd December 2018 and 22nd January 2019 and presented to LEADERSHIP Sunday reads: “With great humility, I , Ali Ibrahim, a Kanuri from Marte local government area of Borno State and the first visually impaired student offered admission to the University of Maiduguri, do passionately solicit your financial assistance of N163, 000 for the payment of my tuition fees and procurement of basic instructional materials.
“I was offered admission to the Faculty of Social Sciences to study Political Science. However, the major challenge I am facing is the inability to secure the offer by paying the relevant fees and procuring basic instructional materials to enhance my learning.
“These include I.C. recorder for N45,000, 20 packets of plain braille papers for N6000, portable typewriter for N50,000. May I kindly bring to the notice of your excellency, that I am yet to even pay my school fees which is N30, 000 , departmental fees for N2000 , and hostel accommodation fees for N30,000. This makes the total of N163,000.
“It may be pertinent to bring to your notice sir , that the scan and read appliance is an equipment, which among others, scans, converts into various audio-visual formats, and simultaneously read any hard printed document to any visually impaired person. The Job Access With Speech ( JAWS ), is screen reader that when installed, reads any document on computer screen to computer users who are visually impaired.
“Similarly , Braille machine is used for putting down in manual readable form, any note or class activity to aid students with visual impairment. Efforts have been made by friends and relatives, but could not avail me these materials.
“May it interest the honourable, that my purpose of writing you draws directly from the truth found in your sincere and selfless commitment in improving the lives of the less privileged and needy in the society, especially in Borno State. The Honourable, having this request granted at this era of global demand will go a long way towards molding me for effective societal and humanitarian service thereafter.
“Sequel to the above sir, may my prayer obtain your favour. Please , I passionately beseech your little kindness, for this is an opportunity very hard to come by once.”
According to Ibrahim, he did the necessary follow-ups but eventually missed the admission being that JAMB result is only valid for one session.
“Before you know it, the academic session ran out and I gave up the admission. So it became a point of surprise to us that in this 21st century , a person can be given admission and the school management denied him the admission,” he queried.
Although, a University in Kano, promised to offer him admission even with a score of 150 against the 163 which he obtained to secure admission to the University of Maiduguri, he could not pursue the second option because he has a family and orphans of his sister who was killed by the Boko Haram insurgents. It appeared difficult for him to abandon his dependants in Maiduguri to go and study in Kano.
While reacting to the development, particularly the denial of admission to Ali Ibrahim by University of Maiduguri, the state coordinator, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC ) Borno State, Jumai Mshelia urged universities and other higher institutions in the country to include education of the physically challenged persons in their academic curriculum.
The human rights lawyer noted that inclusion of the persons living with disabilities in the educational plans will prevent some of them from begging and roaming the streets, saying that it will also harness the potentials in them towards the development of the society.
Mshelia said, “In respect of a person living with disability, that is a blind person that was denied admission by the University of Maiduguri, though I have not heard much background information of what led to denying him admission. May be he has no prerequisite requirements that University of Maiduguri needed for that particular course, secondly, if he had the prerequisite requirements, did the University of Maiduguri have facility for him?
“If they don’t have , then what is the next option for him, I advocate that University of Maiduguri should have forwarded such person to other universities that has such facility so that he can be admitted. And I plead with the University of Maiduguri to ensure that such programme is offered in the school, at least, it will prevent physically challenged persons from begging and roaming around the streets.”
The programme manager, GAMMUN Centre for Care and Development, Mr. Agudu Cornelius, said the plight of the physically challenged was the reason for organising the workshop where the PLWDs narrated their ordeals in the society. Cornelius emphasized the need to mainstream disability inclusiveness in all human endeavours to give them a sense of belonging.
“They should not be neglected, they are part of us and we are part of them. Institutions of learning should consider the plight of the PLWDs in their academic programmes,” he said.
He noted that building special schools for the disabled is not the best solution to their plight, stressing that such will further segregate them from the general populace.