Oyebimpe Stella Afolayan (Née Afolabi) hailed from Ibadan in Oyo State. She is a teacher in Kwara State School for Special Needs, Ilorin. A Teaching Excellence and Achievements (USA) Alumna. She is the incumbent Chairperson, Kwara State Deaf Women Association and Treasurer JONAPWD (Women Wing) Kwara State Chapter.
Meet Afolayan as she shares her story to encourage others.
JOURNEY INTO DEAFNESS
I returned with my family from a Christmas holiday spent in the village in the year 1986. Upon arrival at home in Ibadan, I took ill. I experienced prolonged catarrh during which I began to experience gradual hearing loss in one of my ears. Because the hearing loss was gradual and unilateral (one ear), it was not detected in time by my parents.
When I began to manifest fluctuating hearing loss symptoms occasioned by the unilateral hearing loss, my parents thought I was pretending with selective hearing (agboya). I tried hard to explain my hearing predicament to my mother but she wouldn’t listen. It was concluded that I was being defiant.
I lived with this situation for a long time into secondary school. It worsened to the extent that I couldn’t cope well with my studies again. The condition often got me into troubles with my teachers. On several occasions I got beaten by my teachers unknown to them that many of my seemingly defiant behaviours were as a result of hearing loss. When I could not bear it again, I told my Dad to change my school. The academic session was closing up at the time and I was in Jss 1. I was enrolled at Ikolaba Grammar school, Ibadan where I commenced JSS2. However, the change of school did not change the situation of things. I was disappointed. The thought of school sent a chill down my spine, it was as bad as that.
At a period, I requested my Dad to visit my school and meet with the school principal and some of my teachers in order for him to explain my hearing predicament to them. My Dad did met with the principal though. When it became glaring to my parents that I probably have a hearing loss, my mum took me to the Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) Department at University College Hospital, Ibadan. She was a non-medical staff of that Department, yet it took her so long to come to term with my hearing loss.
She was so devastated on hearing that one of my ear drum was already damaged by the pencil particles found in my ear after washing it. The reality of the hearing loss finally dawned on her.
After a series of tests, hearing aid was recommended but the anxiety of being labeled as a deaf child in school didn’t allow me to use it. So, I continue to hide my deaf identity, as I had mastered the art of lips reading.
Reading on my own with the help of my friends and my elder sister sailed me throughout my secondary school education period in a general school.
CONTACT WITH SIGN LANGUAGE
After my secondary school, I followed the advice of one of my aunts, Chief (mrs) Aderele Taiwo, who advised me to process admission into FCE (Special) Oyo. At the school, I met a lot of deaf and hearing students using sign Language to communicate. This gave me courage to learn it faster than expected, because I was already tired of a fake life, the pretence to be a hearing person. (Although, prior to this time, it was not as if I had not met with deaf people or known them with sign language. In fact, my daily life then was surrounded with several encounters with Deaf people using sign language. However, I never gave it a thought to be one of them because of the way they normally use their signs as if they are beating one another and many of us were afraid of deaf people then).
Fortunately, I mastered the basic sign Language in a few days with the assistance of my room mate. Life became radiant for me again. I felt a sense of belonging with deaf people. However, I experienced identity crisis, many other Deaf students regarded me as pseudo deaf person. They did not understand that I had and still have only a unilateral hearing loss. Till date, I still experience identification crisis, even, from my children. Occasionally they will say to me “mummy, you are not deaf”. A hard of hearing person sometimes have a good and bad hearing days.
After my NCE programme, I worked with Methodist Grammar school Bodija as a part time teacher. Later, I joined Ijokodo High school as an evening teacher. Eventually, I secured a teaching job with Christian mission for the deaf (CMD) newly established Nursery and primary school, Ibadan as a pioneering staff.
Few years later, I got admission into University of Ilorin for my first degree before I got married and move down to Ilorin to work in Kwara State School for Special Needs till date.
My advice to later deafened people that are still living in denial of the hearing loss, is to come out and accept the reality that all things works together for good for people that trust in God. As being deaf does not limit one from achieving greatness in life.
To parents, my advice is that parents should allow their hard of hearing and deaf children marry any partner they choose themselves, parents should not impose anyone on them because of the belief that, when the couple are deaf they will definitely born deaf children. This is far from the reality or truth. Majority of us, Deaf people, that married equally Deaf partner have hearing children. Funny enough, many Deaf people are product of hearing couples and not Deaf couples. So parents should just support their children with prayers.