George Melikam, the first Chairman of Anambra State Association of the Deaf, ANSAD in this interview with Douglas Izuu tells his journey through life; how he became deaf, his educational background and how he has impacted on ANSAD. Excerpts:
Pls sir, tell us about yourself
I’m Mr. Geogre Melikam, a native of Nando in Anambra East LGA of Anambra State. I’m an architect.
How did you become deaf?
I was born in 1960 with my hearing ability intact. After the horrific Biafran war, I fell sick in 1973 which led to my hearing loss. My parents understandably became depressed when they noticed their first son was now deaf.
Pls, could you shed some light on your educational qualifications?
It was by the grace of God that I attended the Special Education Center Ogbete, Coal Camp Enugu State, through the help of my dear Uncle Pius, who was the former deputy accountant general of Anambra State. I finished my primary education in 1978. Thereafter, I enrolled in Government Technical College (GTC) present-day Federal Science and Technical College, Awka.
How was life at Government Technical College?
Life was and is not easy as we all know. I was on my own then and there was no single interpreter. I was put in the building & construction department.
I thank God because there were lots of qualified teachers in my department at that time. I consider myself lucky because everything being done there was practical, as opposed to theoretical like in our present day. We did a lot of practicals at different sites and regularly went to fieldwork. It was a workaholic department I’ll say.
Having gone through all these rigorous practicals made me determined and I started dreaming of becoming an architect.
What did you start doing after your education at GTC?
Well, I started preparing myself to fully face the rough journey called life. I made sure to provide for myself what my dear parents couldn’t provide for me.
Only God knows the future and what it holds. I continued practicing what I learned in school. I built a small house in my village.
In 1984, when the military governor of the then old Anambra State Mr. Alison Madueke announced employment opportunities for persons with disabilities, I immediately applied for the employment and was fortunate to be among the first batch of persons with disabilities to become employed.
I started working with the Enugu State local government in the workforce department and I am grateful to have been put in my area of enterprise. That was where I was opportuned to fully start practicing what I learned at GTC, which was building & construction.
Whenever the state government wanted to build an estate, office, hospital, etc. I was always among the workforce. There was a lot of learning and unlearning. From there I gained practical knowledge in the field of architecture. I did and still do a lot of building contracts.
Wow! How did you meet your beautiful wife?
That’s the Lord’s wonderful doing. My wife is deaf just like me. She was my classmate back in primary school ajjt Enugu State. We didn’t plan anything then till we passed out.
When it was time for marriage, God reminded me of Bibian (my wife). We later met again as a matter of God’s will, started a relationship, and then got married. We’re blessed with three amazing children.
Great! We know that you were the first official chairman of ANSAD, so could we please know how ANSAD was formed and what you achieved at its head.
Well, the story is very long, but I’ll summarize it. There was a deaf association which I formed at Enugu State. This was actually before Enugu was split into two states.
Before old Anambra officially became a state in 1982, I was the one who gathered as many deafies as I could, and we fought to establish an association. It was very chaotic forming an association like that. I derived our name from the then National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and called it Anambra State Association of the Deaf.
Talking about achievements, I’m not good at that. I think the deafies know themselves and can better tell you what I have achieved as ANSAD chairman.
I’ve helped many deaf graduates understand themselves and helped them with getting employment.
Also, ANSAD got its chairmanship certificate from the state government which should be passed down to the new chairman after every four years in office. When I was the southeast zonal coordinator, I organized the first Nigerian National Association of the Deaf, South East (NNAD, SE) annual general meeting, which was held in Abia State.
This is amazing! Sir, what advice would you give the deaf youths out there?
Well, Fear God & be prayerful. Also, attending technical college and gaining practical knowledge should be very important to deaf youths as it is to all in general.
Youths should learn skills that they can use to help themselves in the future because the government is not here to provide for all their needs. Thank you!