Investigation: Children with disabilities deny access to education

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By; MOHAMMAD IBRAHIM, Kaduna.
Twelve year old, Auwal Surajo’s dream was to become a Soldier so as to defend the territorial integrity of his country from internal or external aggression. But his dream of becoming a military officer will never be a reality as he is crippled. The teenager who crawled out of his mother’s room looked sad as he quietly sat on a mat closed to his mother.
Auwal became crippled at the age of one after doctors diagnosed him with polio and since then he hardly joined his peers to play due to his condition. “I don’t go out to play with my peers because I can’t walk or run. My legs peels each time I crawl and I don’t have tricycle to move around because my father is poor,” he said.
Auwal left primary school because he couldn’t cope crawling to and fro school daily due to the distance. “The primary school is far from my house and nobody to take me there. I really love schooling but my parents can’t afford to get me a tricycle,” he explained.
Auwal’s elder sister Firdausi Surajo also got blind at the age of one due to meningitis, they are both disabled and living with their parents in their house at Rigasa, a suburb in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State. She too like Auwal had a dream of becoming a medical dactor but that dream seemed too far from becoming a reality.
 
Soft spoken Firdausi explained that she love schooling but her parents couldn’t enrrolled her and her brother in a special school for disabled children in the state. “My dream is to become a doctor but I know that will be difficult to accompolish due to my condition. Myself and brother love schooling but we have to let it go because there was no school closed to our house and we don’t have anybody to enroll us in any special school.
“Our parents are poor and they don’t have enough to feed us not to talk of paying our school fees. I’m always sad when I listen to people on radio communicating in English language. I can still achieve my dream with support from government or wealthy individuals in the society,” she said with a little smile.
 
Auwal and Firdausi are just few out of hundreds of children living with disabilities across the country with no access to education and no future because many of them are either dropout or have never seen the four walls of a classroom. Many end up roaming major streets as beggers which is against their fundamental human rights as stipulated by Article 26, section one of the Universal Declaration of Rights that says “Everyone has the right to education,”  Everyone here means crippled, blind, deaf or any child with disability. Similarly, Nigerians with Disability Decree of 1993 said it’s the responsibility of the government to ensure the improvement of facilities and equipment in educational institutions to facilitate the education of the disabled.
“The Establishment of a National Institute of Special Education to cope with the increasing research and development in the education of the disabled. The strengthening of cooperation and collaboration among relevant authorities, organs, institutions to ensure early and coordinated education of the disabled. Interaction and exchange between disabled children in special schools and children in ordinary schools. Improvement of university education facilities to ensure maximum benefit of university education for the disabled. Government shall ensure that not less than 10% of all educational expenditures are committed to the education needs of the disabled at all levels,” were all parts of the decree law. The team of investigative journalists further discovered that presently  children with disabilities who were fortunate to enroll in public primary or secondary schools in their communities hardly complete their education due to lack of facilities and equipment to facilitate their education as captured by the 1993 decree.
For instance, Kaduna state has more than 4000 primary schools but a check at few of them within the metropolis and other neigbouring states like Kano, Zamfara, Jigawa, Sokoto and Kebbi showed that none of the public schools made provision for disabled pupils either in the classrooms or within the school premises to ease their studies in such schools. Although, few of the states investigated, Kaduna inclusive have special schools for people with disabilities but they are not enough to accomodate all disabled children in those states, because as it’s now the World Report on Disability published in 2011 said about 25 million Nigerians had at least one disability, while 3.6 million of these had very significant difficulties in functioning, among them children of school age.
However, lack of such provision made Comrade Rilwan Abdullahi, Chairman of Polio Survival of Nigeria to quit school as an Accounting student of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in the 80s.
“I managed to complete my primary and secondary schools despite the hurdles I encountered but when I got to university, there was nobody to assist me to class and I was given a room in fouth floor. Getting to class on time for lectures became a problem and my parents were so poor to provide support to me, so I quits” he stressed. “It was a difficult and painful decision of my life but I had no choice but to leave because I couldn’t manage the lack of mobility, accessibility and economic status of my parents. These three challenges forced me out of school since I had no scholarship.
“It is really sad that Nigeria as a country is yet to realised the need to make our primary, secondary and tertiary institutions friendly to disabled children so as to safeguard their future. As it is now, disabled children; be they polio victims or children born with deformity have no future educationally except those whose parents are well to do,” he said.
According to him, a survey carried out by his group discovered that majority of children with disabilities quit school at primary level while others don’t even attend, pointing out that the future of these children is bleak unless government and other international partners intervene.
But Salisu Ibrahim is a blind trained journalist who despite his challenged as a blind child still went ahead to further his education at Manchester in Britain. Salisu became blind at the age of 7 years as he was been prepared to be enrolled into primary school in Kano State, his state of origin. Due to his condition his parents decided to delay his enrollment until he became 10 to 11 years old.
“I was enrolled into Tudun Maliki Special School before I later moved to Gwale Government Secondary school where I met another blind boy who later dropout because he couldn’t cope.
“While in college it was difficult to get lecture notes which means I had to put more effort to catch up with the rest of the students. Although, I was lucky to have friends who understood my challenge and helped me a lot and I thanked God I overcame those challenges.”
After acquiring a Higher National Diploma from Kaduna Polytechnic he was fortunate to get scholarship from Ford Foundation International for a fellowship program in Britain.
“During my studies in Britain there was no much challenge because everything was made easy for both able and students with disabilities. We were using computers, learning audio CDs to study and that really made studies easy for people like me,” he said.
According to him, there is need for government in developing countries like Nigeria to make access to schools easy and friendly for people with disabilities as being done in western countries. Further checks also revealed that UNESCO confirmed that 98 percent of children with disabilities in developing countries like Nigeria are deprived access to formal education as captured by (Imrie 1996). This make such children dependent on others for monetary assistance. Therefore, governmentat all levels need to find a lasting solution by saving the future of these children with disabilities.

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