By Victory Oduneye
One of the fundamental rights of every human is the right to education. But for people with disabilities, this right is often denied or frustrated by their parents and the government.
In this interview with TheNewsBeam, a special educator in a government organization reveals how the government and parents make it challenging to teach people living with hearing impairment.
My name is Rosemary John, I’m from Edo State.
What Did You Study in School and from which University?
I studied English Education and Studies for Hearing Impairment (SHI) at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, but in affiliation with Oyo State College of Education Special University.
I am a special educator in a school for children with hearing Impairment. I help children with hearing problems learn and acquire adequate knowledge.
What motivated you to go into this line of education?
Hmmm, what motivated me to go into this line as a career is a friend of mine who is hearing impaired. I met him during one of the registrations at the University of Nigeria (UNN) as a diploma student for a course I didn’t like, but was assured of getting admission for mass communication after completing the course I was doing at diploma.
During the registration, I noticed this guy (my friend now) was struggling with registration and all of that, and I decided to help out, it was during the course of helping out that I discovered he was hearing impaired. Afterwards, I took it upon myself to help him throughout the registration process. We became friends and stayed in touch.
Later on, someone told him about this special school, because he was struggling in school, no special attention was given to him by any lecturer which is normal because the regular school wasn’t meant for him. So he was informed about this special school and asked if I was interested.
I did my findings about the school to see if they offered mass communication as a course, but they weren’t, but offered English Language as a course. I was advised that if I did English language it was going to be easy to study mass communication later on, so I decided to go for it, especially because as I was about completing my study in UNN as a diploma student and when I asked if I could switch to mass communications, they said it wasn’t going to be possible again giving reasons. So that solidified my reason to go for the special school learning.
What are the peculiar challenges associated with this line of teaching?
The teaching syllabus is a challenge, because in Lagos State, the curriculum, result scheme, marking scheme are the same as the regular school. They use the same timing for us. The same thing as the regular school and it makes it difficult.
It is difficult because the regular child or student is advantaged, they can learn through media, occurrences around them, what they listen to regularly, etc. But a special child isn’t that advantaged.
For example, if I teach a special child ‘Good Morning’, by tomorrow he or she has forgotten because he or she isn’t privileged to hear it over again from his environment and so it cannot stick.
It takes them time to learn, so the same marking scheme to learn the same thing under the same period of time is a big challenge and I want the government to review that.
What special method do you use to transfer knowledge to these students?
Demonstrations, drama, explanation, less use of big words, etc.
Would you say these students are accepted by society?
Hmmm, I believe it’s better. Thank God for the government that is really trying for special people. But it’s just a little better from where it was.
The society is still struggling to accept them, in fact the families of the special children find it difficult to accept them not to talk about the society.
Some parents still live in denial, as they hide their children with disabilities, or send them to a regular school.
All these shows the society is still struggling to accept them.
Would you say these students have equal access to opportunities as other students in Nigeria and beyond?
Hmmm, I can only say for Lagos State, because that’s where I’m aware of. I can say that the government in Lagos is actually putting a lot of effort into helping people with disabilities, they are putting things in place to ensure they have equal access to opportunities as the regular students. So it might not be equal but we are getting better by the day.
For example, the government of Lagos State wants to make a law that would cause all organizations in the state to provide facilities for people with disabilities or facilities that can help them.
And the little I know about Nigeria is that the government is creating that opportunity.
For example, a current governor in Nigeria is hearing impaired because I was opportuned to interpret for him at a conference. So if a person like that can become a governor, then it shows the nation is giving opportunities to people living with disabilities.
What would be your advice to parents of these children who hide their wards? how can you encourage them
Parents who hide their children with disabilities actually need to see a counselor, the child is like that already, nothing can be done, so it’s better they come to this reality and see how they can make their child better with that disability than hide them.
Parents who hide these children deny them (the children) of their fundamental right. You are hiding your children from neighbors, or other people who are sending their own children to school to become better, why not send yours too and make them better.
Talking about empowering the special children, what do you think is yet to be done by the education sector, parents, schools, teachers and/or government?
The government and organizations are really trying like I have said concerning the government before, and I believe they are doing their best for people living with disabilities.
However, parents or relatives of people with disabilities should cooperate with the government and release their children to learn and access the things government has provided, encourage them (people/children with disabilities) whenever they learn something and also encourage them to be a better person.
So the major work now falls on the parents or relatives of these special people. Parents should start seeing these children as their own and responsibility.
If you were to have your way, what are the things you would do differently as it concerns the empowerment of these students?
I am doing my best, because I actually love these people, so aside from teaching, I have experience in skills like hair making, bead making and the likes. So I teach them, especially those who I know aren’t too interested in schooling, I teach them all for free, so that they don’t become a burden to society and can feed themselves on the long run.
How do you think the government can help these children and their learning process?
Like I said earlier, the government should review the school syllabus of children with disabilities.
Secondly, the government should employ more special personnel, not just regular teachers in special schools. Employing regular teachers might frustrate the teachers and the students may not get anything because they cannot learn and understand like a regular student because they are slow in learning.
Employing trained personnel or special educators will really help these children learn and become better people in the society.