The Deaf Girl-Child. Interview With Mr Campus

THE DEAF GIRL-CHILD INITIATIVE

Miss Funmilayo Obasa, an elementary school teacher with hearing impairment, is the brain behind The Deaf Girl-Child Initiative, a foundation that promotes the cause of girls with hearing impairment. Miss Obasa who has not allowed her disability to come between her and her destiny continues to make impart in the society via the Deaf Girl-Child Initiative. In this interview with Mr. Campus, she discusses her life as a person with hearing impairment:

Miss Obasa teaching some deaf girls the art of bead-making

MR.CAMPUS:” Can we meet you, Madam?”

Miss Obasa: “My name is Miss Olufunmilayo Obasa. I am a teacher in the School for Children with Special Needs.”

 MR.CAMPUS:  “Can you give us an insight into your background?”

Miss Obasa:” My background was so rough. I don’t like recollecting it.”

 MR.CAMPUS:When and how did you develop hearing impairment?”

Miss Obasa: “I was in SS3 about to write my WAEC when I fell seriously ill. I was given a wrong medication which affected my hearing and rendered me deaf after recovery. That was in 1997.”

MR.CAMPUS: “Would you share with us the nature of that sickness and the name of that wrong medication you were given? It may save a life.”

Miss Obasa: “It was High Fever, but because I seldom fell sick, my mother didn’t take it seriously. She just continued giving me home remedies. I wasn’t taken to the hospital. The High Fever later took a turn for the worse. I was young and naïve, so I didn’t ask for the name of the medication they gave me. Moreover, my parents were illiterate, so they didn’t take it seriously. My deafness also compounded as a result of poverty.”

MR.CAMPUS: “What was going to school like as a person with hearing impairment?”

Miss Obasa: “It wasn’t easy at all. Like I said, I was preparing for my WAEC when I became deaf. It affected my learning and I was totally lost. I stayed back home for 7 years before I could proceed. Learning Sign Language and lip-reading helped a lot during my NCE days.”

MR.CAMPUS:” Within the seven years you quitted school, what were you doing?”

Miss Obasa: “I learnt vocations. I enrolled as an apprentice with a fine artist. I also learnt computer.”

MR.CAMPUS; “What motivated you to go back to school?”

Miss Obasa; “I wasn’t motivated, but I was forced by the father of my kids to enroll for NCE, though he wished that I studied Law in Unilorin.”

MR.CAMPUS; “Were you at any point in your life depressed as a result of your hearing impairment?”

Miss Obasa; “I have been depressed several times, but God’s grace has kept me going.”

MR.CAMPUS: “Is there a person(s) in your life that is encouraging you?”

Miss Obasa; “Yes, the father of my kid was always encouraging me; he was always inspiring me, always pushing me to go on. Now, it’s my second son that is encouraging me.”

MR.CAMPUS; “What are the challenges facing people with disability who decide to have education?”

Miss Obasa; “There is really no challenge in a situation where competent special educators are available to nurture them.”

MR.CAMPUS; ” What measures do you think can be put in place to reduce the rate of disability in Nigeria?”

Miss Obasa; “Disability as I have observed can happen naturally, though some people often claim that it is the work of the evil and fetish people who cast spells on them or jinx them. In most cases, that is not true. There is the case of a Nigerian soldier based in U.S.A who became deaf through the effect of snow. In other hand, deafness can be properly managed if detected early. Women, especially pregnant mothers should be enlightened during antenatal classes. But mind you, disability can happen to anyone at any stage in their life.”

MR.CAMPUS; “What is your social life like as a person with hearing impairment?”

Miss Obasa; “At the early stage of becoming deaf, relating with others was a war. It was like everyone was against me, but when I became a mother, my children often mediate between me and the society. I began to relate well. Today, I am an inspiration to both hearing and deaf.”

MR.CAMPUS; “Can you tell us about the Deaf Girl-Child Initiative, its achievements and its challenges?”

Miss Obasa; “The Deaf Girl-Child Initiative was born out of my passion to rescue the young deaf girls, because I can empathize with them, I have gone through the stage they are going through. Presently, the initiative is sponsoring the education of two deaf girls and we are reaching out to the illiterate ones. I have also started an adult class for people to learn Sign Language. Financing constitutes a major challenge. Another challenge is the nonchalant attitude of the society and even parents towards the education of deaf children.”

MR.CAMPUS; “Does it mean that you are financing the initiative from your personal purse?”

Miss Obasa; “Yes, to the glory of God.”

MR.CAMPUS; “To what extent do you think the school system in Nigeria is practicing inclusive education?”

Miss Obasa; “School system in Nigeria is not practicing inclusive education, because there are very few special educators in the system. Most of the deaf children brought to my school have been withdrawn from regular schools because regular schools do not make provisions for children with special need. Hence these children have poor academic performance.”

MR.CAMPUS; “What suggestions will you make so that more people with disability can access education?”

Miss Obasa; ” Competent special educators should be employed to train children with disability. Scholarships should be given to children with disability who are ready to learn. Moreover the culture of hostility to people with disability should be discouraged. The society should extend her hands of friendship to us. We need empathy not sympathy.”

MR.CAMPUS; “Do you think disability is a barrier to success?”

Miss Obasa; “Not at all. We have deaf doctors, lawyers, lecturers, e.t.c. Disability is not a barrier to success. What hearing can do, deaf can do better.”

MRCAMPUS; “Apart from the Deaf-Girl Child Initiative, are there any other bodies promoting the cause of people with disability?”

Miss Obasa; “There are several. I know of Impact Plus Initiative, F.F.F Advocacy and many others.”

MR.CAMPUS; “What challenges did you face as a person with hearing impairment when you were raising your children?”

Miss Obasa; ” Honestly, the love I have for kids made it easier when I was raising my children. They are very submissive and so clever. God made them my friends.”

MR.CAMPUS; “What advice would you give PWD who have not accessed or are not accessing education?’

Miss Obasa; ” Awareness is key. We need to create more awareness to make parents respond positively to the need to educate children with disability. Presently, awareness is not enough.”

MR.CAMPUS; “Do you think you could have gone farther in life if you did not become deaf?”

Miss Obasa; “Destiny cannot be changed. Even if I’m still hearing, I might not have gotten to where I am today.”

MR.CAMPUS;” How supportive would you say the government has been to the cause of people with disability?”

Miss Obasa; “Truth is, before we can expect any support from the government, people with disability need to form a formidable body to present our case to the government. We need people who can represent us well at national level. As deaf people, presently, we are trying to make more people in the society understand Sign Language so as to bridge the communication gap between us and others. We are collaborating with FDF in this regards.”

MR.CAMPUS; “I learnt that President Buhari recently signed the disability bill, can you tell us what the bill is all about?”

Miss Obasa; “The bill is to stop every form of discrimination against people with disability.  According to the bill, discrimination on the ground of disability attracts a fine of #1, 000,000 for corporate bodies and #100,000 for individuals or a term of six month imprisonment for violation. Also the bill will ensure that public buildings are constructed in such a way that they will be usable by people with disability. Furthermore the bill is to guarantee that people with disability have the same rights as people without disability. These rights include rights to education, healthcare, priority in accommodation and emergencies. Also, it states that all public organizations are to reserve at least 5% of employment opportunities for person with disability.”

MR.CAMPUS;” So, there is a hope of a better tomorrow for Nigerian PWD?”

Miss Obasa; “Hopefully, we pray for the implementation of the bill.”

MR.CAMPUS; “Thank you for your time, Madam.”

Miss Obasa; “You are most welcome and i did appreciate reaching out with this interview.”

Miss Obasa Reaching out during yuletide celebrations

Miss Obasa Teaching deaf girls in sign Language


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