By Demola Adeleke
Listen, if you’ve got challenged persons around in your neighbourhood, please push them out of their hide-out to showcase what they’ve got, the society needs to be convinced that we are not a waste after all. I am going to tell you about a wonderful experience I had few years ago, kindly pardon me if there is any trace of conceit in the narration.
First of all, you need to know I studied Mass Communication at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka in Enugu State, South-East, Nigeria. I just got home from school after writing the last exam to round off my 2nd year at the university. It’s a norm in my department that after the completion of your 2nd year as well as 3rd year, you must go for an internship so as to gather more experience in addition to all that has been taught in class so far.
Of course, the blind students are not exempted from the training and since I knew it was going to be beneficial to me, I thought it wise to have the experience against all odds. I began my quest for a placement right after I had eaten mum’s delicious meals for three uninterrupted days though. It was on a Monday and I had plannned to ride in my dad’s car while going to his station.
Oh, I forgot to mention that I had contacted a friend earlier even before I got home so he could accompany me during my search for a placement, so I was with him in the car as my dad drove down to a radio station where one of his friends worked. Perfect! I had always wanted a radio station and now that dad has a friend at one, I wouldn’t go through the stress of trekking all over and the prejudice that a blind person wouldn’t add any value during his internship which may probably be held by many.
That was my thought but on the contrary, dad’s friend complained that there were lots of interns at their station too and some would have to finish with their training before I could be admitted. He asked me to check again in the following month and I knew waiting till then could amount to having the internship for just four weeks instead of the eight weeks stipulated by the department.
The internship will be graded, your grade depends on how productive and instrumental you are at your placement. Well, it’s not like teaching practice done by students in the education fields whereby supervisors assigned to assess students’ performance visit the TP students and grade them according to their intellectual output during the assessment. In my department, you are given a log book where all your activities and attendance during the internship will be recorded by a superior at your place of training, so it’s not like you’re totally free from supervision. Sorry I digressed a little, only wanted you to get the full gist so you don’t get lost.
Dad, my friend and I checked some other radio stations that morning but it seemed as if they had a meeting prior to that Monday, informing themselves that a uniform response should be given to me whenever I come around for a placement. Wanna know why? Because they were all saying the same thing, “no place for more interns, check back next month”.
Dad was already getting late for work, and being a considerate blind Nigerian who wouldn’t want to remind his father about having to be dependent sometimes because of his challenge, I persuaded him to go ahead and leave me and my friend to continue with the quest. The second, minute and hour hands of the time rolled clock-wisely throughout that day with our footprints on both the tarred and dusty roads connecting Ibadan axes to the hub.
The response didn’t change, “no more place for interns” was what we got at every radio station we checked. So, without being induced, I quickly dissolved the adamant urge of finding a placement at a radio station and opened my arms wide to any place I could get, be it a newspaper firm or an advertising agency.
I was naïve, that I forgot I was bound to experience twice of the stress my colleagues would because of the fact that I’m a blind guy who would be doubted of being capable of working at every glance cast on me by those who could admit me for the internship. Mumu Demola, I was even picky. Radio station ko, police station ni. Lol.
I got back home that evening with my socks soaked with sweat, my trouser covered in dust and my head harbouring the father of all headaches. The following day dawned and just as I was about to set out again, dad came to my room to inform me that his friend had helped in securing a place for my internship. Don’t be so forgetful jorh, I meant his friend we visited at the radio station the previous day.
In a nut shell, dad drove me down to the “Nigerian Tribune Newspaper” where his friend had gotten for me and I submitted all the necessary requirements needed to be admitted as an intern. After that, I was given a date to resume fully and I left for home that day.
The following Monday approached like it was a cheetah, not even the chance of recovering from the long trek I had last week Monday was I given. #mtcheew
I took my bath and put on a nice dress, wore a nice cologne and not forgetting to mask my sun glasses on my face. I set off for work with my laptop bag hanging on my back and prayed silently to make a good impression on my first day. I got to the firm and was guided by a security man to the building. I found myself sitting in a small room, presumably an office, fully air-conditioned and likely to have a cool ambiance.
“How are you dear? A feminine voice asked softly. Well, instinct was generous to me that day, so I immediately concluded that she was one of the heads in the organisation. I bowed my head and greeted her still with the answer to her question exuding my mouth.
She then paused for a while, looking at me with a thought of impotence I guess. With a slight quiver in her tone, she asked me what I could possibly do in the organisation throughout my internship. Oh, thank goodness she gave me this chance, I confidently replied her, “I can write ma, be it news stories, feature stories or opinion articles. Just that I can’t go to the field alone to cover stories without being aided”. She looked at me with more doubts, evidently showing that she wasn’t convinced.
“But you cannot see, how can you possibly write with braille and expect us to understand it?
Naughty me, I lit up my face with a dim smile, this woman no know anything I swear!, I said in my mind.
“Ma, I can type on my laptop”. I knew she had two doubts at that time, first was how could a blind person write news stories and all, the second was how I was going to identify the keys on my laptop with my eyes shut.
Poor woman, I brought out my laptop from the bag and powered it for her. Shortly, the foolish laptop started talking like a parrot. Press F1 for help, press ALT+F4 to cancel bla bla bla. Yaga! I knew it was my time to shine.
The woman looked at me in the utmost stupefaction, she stood from her chair and came to where I was seated. “Do you mean this thing talking on your laptop tells you everything displayed on the screen? I nodded and answered “yes”. I snappily opened ‘microsoft word’ on the computer and set my fingers on the keyboard, apparently ready to type something. She had her eyes fixed on the screen as I typed some few words on MS word.
“Incredible!” she hollered. I had a smirk on my face, at least one of her doubts has been cleared. She then asked me to type my expectations at the end of my internship. That is, things I’m hoping to have known by the time I’m done with my IT.
Sneh! This woman just told me to do what I know how to do best walahi. So, I started writing like it was my last day on earth, minding my grammar, flaunting some journalistic buzzwords, ensuring a perfect transition and eschewing redundancy, indirectness, swaying from the main topic etc. After like 10 minutes of a vigorous typing, I hit the final full stop and called her attention that I had finished. She collected my laptop, connected it to the printer in her office and printed out my essay.
Drenched in surprises, she jumped up from her chair and hurried out of her office. Then she returned with two men with her hand pointing at me with the statement “this is the boy”. If Wizkid was showing on the TV at that time, I would have put out his spotlight cause everyone at the office had their attention utterly focused on me. These people must have thought blind persons can never be productive, I thought.
So, I started writing like it was my last day on earth, minding my grammar, flaunting some journalistic buzzwords, ensuring a perfect transition and eschewing redundancy, indirectness, swaying from the main topic etc. After like 10 minutes of a vigorous typing, I hit the final full stop and called her attention that I had finished. She collected my laptop, connected it to the printer in her office and printed out my essay.
I was assigned to the Saturday desk of the organisation to write feature stories and op-eds. Then God that wanted to boost my status made my editor’s personal assistant to be going through one of the dailies usually given to all editors everyday and guess what? He saw my picture and story in the newspaper with the caption “Ability in Disability”.
A feature story one of my senior colleagues wrote about me before I left school and sent to a national newspaper where he was contributing. I became one of the favorite interns of my editor and once in a while, I earned 1k for being a …
And because of the initial notion everyone had about the blind as being passive, my first op-ed at the organisation was written to enlighten the public about the blind and their needs. The experience was all fun in the end, glory be to God.