Mobility challenge faced by disabled students in Nigeria.

 Mobility challenge faced by disabled students in Nigeria.

By Ademola Adeleke

Demola is my name, from Nigeria. I’m a student of UNN, but one who studies without eye-sight. You can refer to me as blind or disabled, just don’t do it with contempt.

Today is Thursday and the first class on my timetable is Dr Asogwa’s. I dare not go late for his class or I’ll be banned from attending.

Above all, we will be writing his first test today, and 15 marks lost may never be regained. I have got up early, had my bath, revised my books, and now, I’m good to go. The class starts by 9am and it’s already 8:37am.

My hostel to the department is just a 10-minute walk, so I have no cause to be apprehensive. However, my classmate who assists me to the department ought to have arrived, but not even my long sniff could draw a subtle smell of his perfume. I’ve rung his phone more often than I can count but couldn’t get through to him. I need to move to the hostel exit, I need to flag down some passers-by for assistance.

Checking my time now and it says 8:48am. Dr Asogwa must have finished setting those killer questions that will send our good grades to their early grave. I actually can hear footsteps pattering along the hallway connecting my hostel to the main road, but every wave I give to stop the footsteppers only chases the houseflies away. Time is going past very quickly and I’m beginning to lose my bravado. Just a lapse of 7 more minutes and I will be shut outside Dr Asogwa’s class.

My shirt streams out in the breeze and flaps like some wings getting prepared to lift their bearer. But even if I can fly, I might end up running smack into the masts and electric poles towering into the sky. Argh! that will be a very painful way to die. So sad.

It breaks my heart to remember that I prepared so much for this man’s test, but my disability has got me stuck here, at a spot. Only a heart attack or the visit of a nude lady can hold Dr Asogwa back in his office, but aside the afore-stated, he must have limped into the class already.

I’ve actually thought of taking some steps forward, but I don’t want to end up like Adebisi Olajuwon. I was in my room yesterday when he hopped inside and swooped on the bed. He had fallen into a gutter and sustained a deep cut on one of his legs. He had an experience similar to mine, but instead of staying put like I’m doing, he decided to get adventurous by shuffling along the hallway.

You know, it’s frustrating to have to, undesirably, remain still like a painting; especially when your limbs are intact and you urgently need to be at a place. In short, dude paced towards where he felt should be the way, took a tumble on the pavement, struck his leg against the sharp edge of the gutter, tearing the leg of his jean trousers and resulting into a cut on his shin.

According to few of my blind friends in the UK and US, they never ever go through such challenge in their school as appropriate provisions are made for them in terms of mobility and other needs. So, I hope Nigeria will be like these countries some day.

His white sneakers were covered in slime and he also had his palm superficially bruised. As a result, he eventually cut the day’s classes so as to have some time to mourn his misfortune.

The time is already past nine and let nobody call me ‘unbelieving’ if I go back to my room and undress. I know Dr Asogwa so well, he will never let me into his class. Recounting what I’m going through, to him, is a flimsy excuse. He feels I can always get to the class before time if I indeed want to. He will even cite himself as an example, telling the class how distant his house is to school, yet he gets to the department before time. He doesn’t know what I go through every morning before getting to class. He doesn’t understand how I always have to work with a friend’s schedule just because I can’t trip independently.

For instance; if our first lecture for the day is by 9am and my classmate who walks me to school has something doing in school as early as 6am, I, often times, have to also go with him at that earlier time, even though I have no reason to.

Therefore, I’ll be compelled to waste some supposedly sleeping time away in school, doing nothing. Also in a case where my friend, due to some contingencies, goes late to class, I’ll also have to share in the lateness, since it is upon him my attendance at lectures is relied. And there are some few times when I’ll need to find my way to school myself, without any reliable assistance; and I will need to stay at the hostel exit just to flag down passers-by, exactly like I’m doing presently.

The hour hand of time must have snailed towards 10 already and I won’t be wrong to say Dr Asogwa is now rounding off with his lecture, quiz. Although I’ve had a few passers-by walk past my front but they all seem to be in haste, perhaps they are also late for their classes. In fact, some of them whose footsteps I could hear from a few metres away resorted to sneaking past my front just to keep me unaware of their passage.

Of course, they all know that a properly dressed blind student who stays alertly in front of his hostel needs no alms, but a passer-by who will help him to his destination. And while the kind-hearted ones simply come around to offer some assistance, others who are indifferent, or are already late for lectures sneak away or disregard totally. And for some of our lecturers, our mobility plight is a foolish excuse to them.

According to few of my blind friends in the UK and US, they never ever go through such challenge in their school as appropriate provisions are made for them in terms of mobility and other needs. So, I hope Nigeria will be like these countries some day.

P.S. The above experience is one I sometimes had during my studentship at UNN, but I sincerely hope the current blind students in this university, and other universities in Nigeria won’t have to go through this challenge like I did. Lecturers and students also should please show some considerations around these disabled students.

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