Deaf Nigerian Profile 005: Learning Sign Language Open Doors Of Opportunity – Mohammed Olalekan

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By Oyeleke Bernice

Mohammed Olalekan is a two Masters’ Degree Holder And Soon To Be PhD Holder. He is a civil servant in Ogun state. He is the incumbent chairman of Joint National Association of Person with Disability in Ogun State and a member of several organisations.

He graduated with Second class upper division in Botany prior to his becoming Deaf.

Meet Mohammed Olalekan as he shares inspiring story to encourage others:

“I am Mohammed Olalekan Adeniyi. I was born hearing and had hearing loss after my University education. It all started without any premonition. I obtained my Master’s degree in Forest Resources Management at the University of Ibadan and was later offered admission to study for my PhD.

I was barely few months into the programme when l suffered hearing loss after severe episode of headache. Before l knew what was happening l could not hear with my both ears after the illness. I could not believe what was happening to me. The journey to various prayer homes and medical consultation began, all in efforts to gain back my hearing loss. Honestly, l thought in few weeks or months my hearing would be restored. To my surprise months and years were rolling and the hearing is yet to be restored as expected.

With support from my Mum and brother, l started a poultry business. I reared chicks and sold it out after four weeks and also have pullets that lay eggs when matured. I became passionate but still felt unsatisfied. The income coming in is meagre to make ends meet.

I started searching for job. It was at this point that l realised the attitude of the society towards person with hearing impairment. My ordeal is worth sharing but two instances l remembered vividly was a comment made by a neighbour. She told someone closed to me to advise me to learn shoe making. That she believes l will do better in that area. When l heard what she said. I almost cried but l responded positively if she is aware that l am learned and have Master’s degree. Another occasion while searching for job. A woman told me that those who are whole are still struggling, yet to get job, let alone a deaf person.

In 2008, l got a teaching appointment as a class teacher, though the appointment wasn’t direct. You will serve the Commission and after a year you will be offered permanent appointment based on your performance. We are called grassroot teacher with a monthly allowance of #7500. The allowance doesn’t come as at when due.

After the confirmation of my appointment two years after l decided to go back to school so as to become relevant to my newly found condition and career. I secured admission into the Department of Special Education, university of Ibadan for another masters program.

My journey into the Deaf world was an interesting one and it started the day l faced the reality of deafness and accept my deafness, perceiving it from a positive perspectives rather than condemnation to an inferior life of mediocrity.

I woke up that day and dressed to search for deaf school where l can meet people like me. People who are deaf like me. I visited Cheshire Home, Ibadan and met Mr Lawal Lateef and Uncle Kayode. Both encouraged and advised me to learn sign language. I bought a copy of Joy of Signing and started reading and practising. I was committed to it as if l was preparing for Cambridge examination. Determination and tenacity has a great reward. My learning sign language didn’t only provided me with needed language but also open doors of opportunity and its a catalyst to where l am today.

I was able to go back to sch to bag another Master’s degree and by God’ s grace l will soon be a PhD holder. All these made me to understand that deafness is just a circumstance that can be overcome with positive attitude. Look inward to what you have left and not what you have lost. Nobody can make you sad without your consent. The way of life of deaf people is another beautiful experience of life.

My advise for parents of children with deafness is that you should have high expectations of what your deaf child can do. Believe in him. Give him the right to education germane to his condition. Consult experts in the field of special education. He will be guided and given the necessary support. We are Deaf and not dead. The future is more promising.”

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