Over 200 undergraduate students of the Social Work department, University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos State and some students from Babcock University Ilisan, Ogun State were trained in the art and rudiments of understanding disabilities, as part of what the Center for Youth Studies, (CYS) advocates.
The Non-Governmental Organization held a capacity building seminar for social work students tagged, ‘understanding of disabilities’, stressing the advocacy agenda of the NGO which is basically to demystify disabilities and better equip Social Workers to be advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities; and for the review of the Social Work curriculum to include the study and understanding of disabilities.
The training programme equally emphasized on the need to equip the students on how to relate with persons with disabilities- see the person first, before the disability.
In Nigeria, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) still suffer different forms of discrimination in the society. They deserve access to quality education, adequate health care and priority in accommodation and emergencies, among others.
The Executive Director of Center for Youth Studies, Seyi Sanjo-Bankole said “Public institutions are expected to reserve at least five per cent of employment opportunities for them, but these people are still being left behind.
She noted that the essence of the event was to bridge the knowledge gap and help equip the students with relevant skills to interact with PWDs.
“The seminar is also a stepping stone to the goal of the project which is the proposal to the National Universities Commission (NUC) for the review of the social work curriculum to include the study and understanding of disabilities,” she said.
Sanjo-Bankole added that the event provided a training handbook and learning from the parley with Disability Rights Advocates to equip participants with first-hand knowledge of how persons with disabilities are like everyone else in their aspirations and quest to be the best to their ability.
“We will keep campaigning, sensitizing and creating awareness to the general public about the fact that PWDs are also human beings with intellect, talents, gifts, special abilities and value to give to the society,” she added.
She said that disability should not be equated with inability and urged the students to champion the cause and educate Nigerians not to discriminate against PWDs but to support them to make life more meaningful for them and for all of us.
“Therefore, there is no need to discriminate or stigmatize against them as a society. We need to end stigma and discrimination against PWDs.”
The head of department, Social Work, University of Lagos, Prof. Chinwe Nwanna, expressed the need for the Social Work curriculum to be reviewed to include the study and understanding of disabilities as Social Workers play a major role in alleviating the challenges faced by persons with disabilities. She also decried the challenges faced by PWDs, particularly their inability to access some buildings, secure jobs as well as the discrimination due to their disabilities.
She said: “PWDs have peculiar challenges which most people don’t understand, and that has led some into depression and created a feeling of hopelessness.
Nwanna added that government and well-meaning Nigerians need to fund PWDs because their welfare is very poor and the caregivers earn less than the minimum wage. She said if government can take up the responsibility of investing in PWDs, coupled with the students, they will be able to do more, if their salary is reviewed.
The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor of Lagos State on Disability Affairs, Mrs. Adenike Oyetunde-Lawal, said that all the infrastructural development springing up in the state are in consideration for those with disabilities.
Oyetunde-Lawal called on other states in Nigeria to emulate Lagos. Adding that “the state is handling stigmatisation, that is the reason why it has established the inclusive units where they could co-exist with other children in our schools.”
“Special schools and inclusive units, allows them to cross fertilize ideas and equally help them know they are normal children and there is no ground for them to be discriminated against.”
Oyetunde-Lawal emphasized that they would continue to partner with the private sector to deepen technological innovation that would aid learning for them. “Lagos State is really doing a lot in the aspect of innovation with more focus on capacity building for their teachers.
“When you change the mindset of teachers then you will have new innovations coming to play. We are also trying to see ways we can collaborate with the private sector to have more instructional materials that are technologically oriented that promote inclusivity in our schools.”
Vice chairman of Joint Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD) Lagos State Chapter and convener of Lagos Albinism Awareness Foundation, Josephine Omolola, said the myths associated with albinism are false. According to her, it doesn’t have anything to do with what they eat but a medical condition where melanin was absent during the babies formation.
Omolola said the idea that the consumption of salt by people with albinism is the cause of the burns they get on their skin is a myth. She said the only reason people living with albinism will have skin burns is because of exposure to the sun.
She said: “Those with albinism will also need to take extra care in the sun. Without melanin, ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight can easily damage their skin (sunburn) and increase their risk of developing skin cancer. So, it is very important that they are shielded from the sun.
“People with Albinism should avoid going out when it is very hot and the sun is at its strongest. The society also has to deal with albinos like people first rather than as people with disabilities.
“Contact with others with albinism or who have albinism in their families or communities is most helpful.
It is true that a lot of individuals living with albinism are withdrawn because of the way they are dealt with in the society. They have had so much rebuffs and faced so much negative preconceptions that they tend to slide into a shell, lock the door and throw away the key. They are victims of rude comments and scorn.”
She gave useful tips on how parents who have kids with albinism should act. “They need to protect them from the sun by wearing them protective clothes as well as use cream that protect them from the sun so they don’t get burnt or attract skin cancer. This has to do with the kids health so parents should take note.”
The creative director of the group, Dayo David, said quite a number of PWDs are not able to secure jobs because of stigma and discrimination by employers.’
“Nigerian adults with disability are literate, while more than 90 per cent of children with disabilities have no access to elementary education. Therefore they need help and support,” he said.
David stated that “to overcome the challenges of accessing basic social services and economic opportunities, among others, we need to continue to close gaps where government resources might not be enough, as our organization is doing. We equally need the support of individuals and corporate organizations to continue to make impact.”
He, therefore, appealed to the government and relevant stakeholders to support all PWDs and ensure full implementation of the Disabilities Act.
Panellists at the event were Mr. Isaiah Daniel, Mrs. Josephine Omolola, Barr. Daniel Onwe, Mrs. Abigail Olowoshoke, Mr. Adewale Adeyanju, Dr. Adebayo Adebukola and Mr. Afolabi Fajemilo, while the Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences, Prof Olufunlayo Bammeke; President of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), Mr. Joachim Mumba; President of IFSW Africa Region, Dr Noel Muridzo; National President, Nigeria Association of Social Workers (NASoW) Alhaji Mashood Mustapha and the NASoW Lagos State Chairperson Ms. Olubunmi Lamilisa made their presentations virtually.