Dreams, aspirations of visually impaired candidates
JAMB’s Equal Opportunity Group facilitates vision
They smiled broadly with excitement and satisfaction, gazing in no particular direction. Their joy new no bounds, as they speak with enthusiasm, expressing their hopes and aspirations in life. But in all, there was a unifying factor, and that was an appeal to government and stakeholders to provide an equal opportunity for all, including the blind. UJUNWA ATUEYI writes.
It was the 2019 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) that brought them together. About 139 blind candidates participated in the just concluded UTME held at Distance Learning Institute, University of Lagos, being the centre for southwest zone. In 2017, the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), under the leadership of Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, set up the JAMB Equal Opportunity Group (JEOG) to specially conduct UTME for blind candidates.
The overall aim of JEOG according to the Chairman of the group, Prof. Peter Okebukola, is to ensure that no eligible Nigerian is prevented from taking the UTME regardless of disability.He said Oloyede holds the firm view that there must be a level playing field for all candidates, so long as the candidate is intellectually capable and meets the minimum conditions for admission into any tertiary institution.
He said, “This JAMB initiative has been cited in the last two years in several countries, as a good model for Africa. So far, a respectable number of blind candidates processed through the JEOG have secured admission to federal, state and private universities, polytechnics and colleges of education. The 2019 UTME was conducted for 390 blind candidates in four centres located in Abuja, Enugu, Kano and Lagos.”He added that the JEOG is made up of senior academics including experts in special education and other relevant stakeholders.
The project is not limited to conducting examinations alone; it also provides accommodation, feeding and transport allowance to all the visually impaired candidates that sat for the examination. The overall aim of the incentives is to widen access and motivate the beneficiaries to rise and pursue their life goals.From the testimonies of some of the candidates, the gesture of JAMB, through EOG is delivering its mandate and fulfilling its objectives. But the beneficiaries desire more.
Their respective views sum up Julia Ward Howe’s quote that “The blind must not only be fed, housed and cared for; they must learn to make their lives useful to the community.” Speaking shortly after receiving his allowance, Adeleye Mojisola Aderonke, a native of Ondo state, who wants to study mass communication, said, “I am happy with JAMB’s goodwill, that was very kind and I really appreciate. Immediately we lodged into the hotel, my mum and I prayed for our benefactor and as many that joined hands to make this a reality. We are grateful. Everybody here is happy including the guides that brought us.
“Asides that, there is a burden for the visually impaired that I am appealing to government and all concerned to look into. Going to school is not an issue for us, but getting job or meaningfully engaged after graduation is our major challenge. “I want to use this medium to appeal to government to see both the sighted and blind as one. We are great people, and we can do better, we are very knowledgeable set of beings and we think deeper than a lot of the sighted ones because we are not easily distracted. We are more focused. Government should give us the chance to prove our worth.”
For Gideon Ayodele, who came from Oyo State, the JEOG is indeed a great opportunity for the beneficiaries, as the entire process was convenient for them. He said he wants to study Linguistics.“I am glad with the kind of treatment we received. But the problem is that government has not been favouring us. Blind candidates hardly get jobs, I have some brothers and friends that have graduated about five years now, yet no job. It is for this reason that my parents wanted to stop me from doing JAMB, but I insisted, because I believe my case is different. So, I am appealing to government to include us in their agenda.”
Adeniran Temitope who came from Ekiti State said, “I want to be a Psychologist. I am glad that JAMB is committed to helping me achieve my life dream. They have done so great; they have not let us down. I pray it shall be well with our benefactors. Temitope urged other blind students not relent in their struggles, as there is light at the end of the tunnel, “though we cannot see it, but it could be felt. Do not limit yourself; there is ability in disability, keep your heads up and move on. Life is not over until it is actually over.”
But Abdulazeem Adedayo, a native of Oyo State, who wants to study Law in the university, did not agree with his colleagues on the issue of unemployment and inclusiveness. His position was that unemployment is not peculiar to the blind as there are lots of unemployed people in the country today who are not blind.Though he is grateful to JAMB for its goodwill and generosity, he believed that things could be done differently.
“The reasons behind the provisions of the JEOG highly appreciated, but I am not totally pleased with the entire process. The world is a global village now and technology has advanced. These exams conducted here in Lagos can also be conducted in various states where we have visually impaired candidates. It can be done with our mobile phones, laptops and other gadgets. We have access to laptops and phones as well. So since the sighted ones are using CBT, we should also be allowed to use CBT.
“Am appealing to government to consult with authorities or leaders of the associations of visually impaired people, interact with them and get information on how they can be helped to operate computer so that they will be able to conduct the exam in CBT form instead of coming down from various destinations across the south west to Lagos to write the exam. It will make the process easier. On the issue of unemployment for the blind, Adedayo said, “I view things differently, and I talk based on my own perspective, I always consider my case to be different. As it is for those who have sight, so it is for those with visual impairment. If you are academically sound, upon graduation, you don’t need to seek for employment, employment will come on your table.
Meanwhile, Okebukola has explained that the movement is good for the candidates, as they will be forced to start moving around once they gain admission to any institution of their choice. “They will apply to UNILAG or UI from wherever they are and it is necessary that they start experiencing it. That is why our methodology of testing them is like what they have in a typical university where they receive lectures. So we read the questions and they will use their equipment to answer and then we get a group to transcribe their real answers to alphabet. Some uses typewriter, which will be directly alphabets.” On CBT, he said it is a gradual process as JAMB is developing a platform in that regard. “We are supporting that initiative where we will gradually port over to full CBT. It is going to be phased, and it will be optional for those that want it because the school system the blind candidates are coming from have not prepared them for such.
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