CROSS RIVER STATE’S FIRST VISUALLY IMPAIRED PH.D HOLDER
IN MASS COMMUNICATION OPENS UP
-“Everybody has some form of disability or the other.”-
Attitude to Palm Wine and Alcohol
I don’t have anything against palm wine. Palm wine, like every other thing created by God is good. It depends on our attitude to it. The fact that my parents used it as a therapy thinking that it was going to work and it didn’t work has not changed my attitude towards palm wine. I take a little bit of palm wine particularly the so called “up wine”. What I don’t like is the “down wine” because of the way that I react to it. So I have no problem with palm wine. I also take some other alcohol in little quantity. Some people think that since they see you looking gentle, you don’t drink. It doesn’t follow. It may not be taken as a kind of medicine, But it is like food; every other food. If you like, you take it.
Advice to Parents on Immunization against Measles
We are in the era of immunization against the six killer diseases. I strongly advise all parents to take advantage of this. It doesn’t cost much for parents to take their children to where they can be immunized against killer diseases, including measles; instead of resorting to pouring of palm wine on children’s bodies when it comes. They should desist from it. Even when it comes, they should take their children to the nearest health centers where they can be given proper medication.
How He Copes with Lecturing Despite His Visual Impairment
Like I said earlier, everything depends on your determination and your plan. It is quite challenging. One of the most difficult things in teaching is marking of scripts. But I remember an Obudu proverb which states that, “A cricket with one leg commences its journey at the seventh month”. It was believed that other crickets could start the journey into maturity at the eighth month, that is in August, but the one legged one would start the same journey in July. With that in mind and with that determination, I always complete my marking even ahead of others. So, I start early and I commit more time to it.
Even teaching itself; I plan well ahead of time. With the technology available, the challenge of my work has been reduced. The computer and its technology, and the screen reader software all makes it possible for me to do so many things. It is possible to even scan a printed material and read it with the help of a software. With that I browse, prepare myself and deliver my lectures normally without hitches.
Current Condition of His Elder Sister who Equally got Blind
She is okay, but she did not proceed beyond primary school. She had her First School Leaving Certificate. She is gainfully employed as a craft teacher in one of the primary schools in Obudu. She is now two years away from retirement.
Message to Physically Challenged People who Resort to Street-Begging
Left for me, I would say that the government should make a law that would ban street-begging. It is an embarrassment to humanity. It is an embarrassment to me. It is an insult because once somebody sees another begging, and he knows that you are in the same category, he would think that you too are one of them. I always tell people. “The fact that you see a mad man or a mad woman on the street does not mean that all human beings are mad”. We cannot be the same. So, I try to discourage them. However, because of the difficulties of today, sometimes I am constrained.
What government should do is to give some allowance to these people and take them away from the streets. I want to urge them to desist from street begging. Some do it because they get encouragement from the so called normal people.
There was a day, when I was about travelling, I met a beggar at the park and I began talking to the person. One lady who heard what I was saying did not like it. She said I should leave him alone because it is not everybody that would be educated. You know, some people who encourage them to beg, benefit from them. It is very embarrassing. I think nobody should take to begging. If you have lost your eyes, your hands are still there. If you have lost your hands, your legs are still there.
When I traveled to Norway for physical training, I found a lady who had lost her two hands and one leg, but she was using the remaining leg to write and to play piano. If somebody can use his or her toes to write, what excuse do people have? If you don’t have your eyes, hands or legs, you can still reason. You can sit down, think and do something with that.
THE WORD ITSELF SAYS “I’M POSSIBLE”
Standard of Education in CRUTECH Compared with Other Universities
The standard of education in CRUTECH is not necessarily worse or better than any other place. I have even seen someone who went abroad and came back to do Post-Graduate Diploma (PGD) with us. He couldn’t perform well. This is somebody who got his first degree in the United Kingdom. So the quality of intelligence depends on an individual. You can have good or bad products from an institution, depending on the background.
“The university is not a place to teach people
how to read and write”
Some of these people who blame CRUTECH are the people who spoil their own relatives who are students. When they come to the university, instead of allowing them to study, during exams, they would call one lecturer or the other and say, “Please my brother, my nephew is there in your class. Help him”. So you see, such people manage to pass and to have certificates, but they cannot defend them because of their background.
The university is not a place to teach people how to read and write. If by the time a student comes to the university, he or she cannot read and write properly, there is not much the university can do. I have seen some of such students even in the University of Calabar (UNICAL). I have also seen some of them even from abroad. So, nobody should blame CRUTECH. We have also produced people who are lecturing in UNICAL and in other world class universities.
Assessment of Government’s Attitude to Education in this Era of “Change”
Personally, I have stopped writing articles and news commentaries. This is because, you cannot hide the truth forever. No matter how you want to say you are trying, we know that things are hard, but there are basic things that the government is supposed to provide for its citizens. The fact that some of us work here; we are not properly paid, not paid on time and somebody is talking about stopping corruption? I do not know how.
Even in the Bible, we are told the story of David and his household, how when they were hungry, they entered the house of God and took the bread and ate; the bread that they were not supposed to eat. So, how do you expect me to be 100% honest? You mean if I am hungry for three months and I cannot feed myself and my family, and one of my students who is from a rich background comes in and says, “My dad sent me with five tubers of yam”, will I say, “Carry your yams away”? I would find it difficult. So sometimes, we are forced to compromise because of our condition.
“I have never allowed anybody
to look down on me.”
I think government should take the issue of regular payment of salaries seriously. If the 26% of budget, as recommended by UNESCO can be put into education even at the state level, CRUTECH would have a chunk of it. If not for the Education Task Fund (ETF), you can be sure that all the structures you are seeing, CRUTECH would have become just a glorified primary school, not even a secondary school.
The government is only paying salaries. It is not paying subventions and the school management is trying to make up. Other costs have increased here because of that. Like the cost of getting your certificate, and cost of getting transcript. Those things are not supposed to be above the average person. Gradually, they are becoming too high because the school management is trying to meet up.
His Message to His Students
My message is that whoever has passed through me and passed through this institution should not allow anybody to look down on him or her. I had my education and my foundation from a state institution. I graduated from University of Cross River State. I have never allowed anybody to look down on me. I have not studied abroad but I have edited papers sent to me from abroad. I have attended conference, mingled with them and I know that they are not better than me. So, none of our students should allow himself or herself to be belittled because of where he or she might have graduated from. They should defend their training here and make sure that they hold themselves very high out there.
BE POSITIVE, GAIN CONFIDENCE AND END FEAR!
I THINK I CAN, I KNOW I CAN!
His Immediate Family
I am married to Lydia. We have six biological children, though we lost one. We have adopted two children from our immediate family. They lost their parents, but they have become part of us. It is a very large family. We love ourselves. In spite of my condition, my wife does not look at me that way. Even if I had not married, even if I want to marry at this age, I would still marry a beautiful woman. I believe that the woman would still appreciate me for who I am.
How He Relaxes
The work here is quite tasking, but once in a while, I go out with colleagues, with my wife and we relax. Also, I am part of community meetings. I see those meetings as periods of recreation. I am presently the chairman of my age grade from my community. I don’t miss that meeting because I see it as an opportunity to relax, laugh and talk about common things which most of the time I am too busy to talk about. I find time to relax, occasionally with friends and with my family.
Attitude to Discrimination Against Him
I have experienced a lot of discrimination against me, but whenever it becomes obvious to me, I fight it with all my strength. I can assure you that I have been here in CRUTECH for 13 years now. Among our regular staff, I was actually the first to have a Ph.D., but I tell you, I have not been appointed Head of Department. I know that has to do with my background, yet I have done my work to convince everybody that I can function at any point in time. Even then, I have not concluded that that job has passed me by. I am still hoping that one day I can occupy that position. I can become even the Vice Chancellor of the university if I am professor.
When that time comes, anybody that would discriminate against me, I will take him even to the Supreme Court. So, I am waiting. When it is my turn and somebody says, “You cannot be because you cannot see”, I would ask him to tell me, to pay damage for that because I have been doing all other things.
I always believe that everybody has some form of disability or the other. It is just that some disabilities are more conspicuous and more visible. Anybody can be handicapped at one stage or the other. For example, people living in Akwa Ibom and who are students in CRUTECH and UNICAL and cannot pass through that road (Uyo-Itu-Calabar) and they cannot fly, to me, at that point, they are handicapped.
Sometimes you may have everything, but you could be lacking in one thing. Sometimes your thinking faculty may not be completely functional. So everybody has one form of handicapped condition or the other. It is just that for some of us, some people look at our own to be more serious. So people should not allow any condition they have to be too much for them. Instead of coming from Port Harcourt by road, if you have your money, won’t you fly? You would take a flight to Calabar from Port Harcourt. Those who don’t have money and come by bad road would spend two days at the bad spot. That is their own disability.
Photo credit: Favour Oli, Student of Mass Communication, CRUTECH