Whither inclusive education for people with disability in Nigeria?
Sir: Our society is one without a Catholic menu. Goodness and mercy are assigned only to people with full limbs. Those without are relegated to the quarters of irrelevance. How sad. Even though we celebrate December 3 every year as international Day of Persons with Disabilities – with fanfare for performance sake, we pay lip service to the real issues bothering people with disabilities. How many people with disability do you see recognised by government. What is even worrisome is to see segregated schools for people with disabilities.
And so, we have schools for the blind, the deaf, the dumb, with special needs and someday maybe who knows because we love to invent everything new in Nigeria, we may have schools for albinos. What we have yet to ask ourselves is: would these children upon leaving schools be quartered in special residential areas by government? Wouldn’t they relate with people with full limbs. We hear so much about abuses of these children in these schools that no serious government has been able to address.
Investigations of abuses are only reserved for people whose parents are in government employment. Hardly – such is reserved for some people, who never altered the course of anything, positively. The story behind the success of many people who suffer from adversity is fascinating enough for government and civil society. Recognition and appreciation on how they achieved success certainly would bring true happiness to their lives and challenge many in the cold to get the best out of life. Society owes many people an obligation to deliver a package of kindness by recognising them so they can be worth something in future and influence the lives of others as well. Nigeria would be guilty of a serious lack of respect for citizens if it doesn’t give an equal opportunity to all. A country that neglects her disabled individuals.
Helen Keller (deaf-blind but a great poet, writer/disability rights activist), was not neglected, Ludwig Van Beethoven (deaf but the world’s greatest composer) was not, Thomas Edison (slightly deaf and the electric light inventor) was not, Albert Einstein (suffered from Asperger’s syndrome & dyslexia) was not, Sir Isaac Newton (stuttered in speech, theory of gravity) but was not neglected, Prof. Stephen Hawking (a great astrophysicist – motor-neuron disorder) also was not neglected, but why are Nigerians abandoned not only by government but by family, friends and society?
Can Nigeria ever provide every child with disability a good education? Can she end poverty suffered by people with disability who have been turned loose to beg for nickels on our streets and fight to give them chance to realise life’s ambitions? Is it a rocket science to provide schooling opportunities’ for people with disability with their able partners in the same environment so that they can be mainstreamed easily into the society? Haven’t we heard it said that it is ‘this ability’ and not ‘disability.’
Simon Abah wrote from Abuja