By Bianca Iboma-Emefu
Over 200 undergraduate of the social works department, University of Lagos, Akoka, Lagos State and some students from Babcock University Ilision, Ogun State have been trained in the art and rudiments of understanding disabilities, as part of what the Center for Youth Studies, (CYS) advocates.
This non governmental organization held a capacity building seminar for social works students tagged, ‘understanding of disabilities’, stressing the advocacy agenda of the NGO which is basically to enhance the learning ability, treatment, well-being and stereotype associated with special needs persons.
The training programme equally emphasized on the need to equip the students on how to relate with persons with physical challenges, in order to reduce their sufferings.
“In Nigeria, Persons With Disability (PWD) still suffer different forms of discrimination in the society.They are supposed to be given quality education, adequate health care and priority in accommodation and emergencies, among others.
“Public institutions are expected to reserve at least five per cent of employment opportunities for them, but these people are still being left behind,” executive director of the organization, Seyi Sanjo-Bankole, said.
She explained that the essence of the event was to bridge knowledge gap and help equip students with relevant skills to interact with PWD.
“The seminar is also expected to provide capacity building for social works department on how to handle children with disabilities,” she said.
Sanjo-Bankole added that the event provided trainings, aids and impacted the students with techniques design to stand up for PWD in order to develop and harness their potential.
“We will keep campaigning, sensitizing and creating awareness to the general public about the fact that PWD are normal 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 because “there is ability in every disability.” She urged the students to champion the course and educate Nigerians not to discriminate against the PWD but to support them to make life more meaningful for them.
“Therefore, there is no need to discriminate or stigmatize against them as a society. We need to end stigma and discrimination against PWDs.”
Sanjo-Bankole recommended that for persons with disability to be economically empowered, they should be encouraged to come together and form associations and increase their bargaining for higher income and protection.
The head of department, social works, Prof. Chinwe Nwanna, decried the challenges faced by the PWDs, particularly their inability to access some buildings, secure jobs as well as the discrimination due to their challenges.
She said: “We realized that PWD have peculiar challenges which most people don’t understand, and that has led some PWD into depression and created a feeling of hopelessness.
“Another mobility challenge is the difficulty PWDs face in accessing buildings and other public and private facilities, especially those who lost their legs.”
Nwanna added that government and well meaningful Nigerians need to fund PWD because their welfare is very poor and the caregivers earn less down the minimum wage. She said if government can take up the responsibility of investing on PWD, coupled with the students, they will be able to do more, if their salary is reviewed.
The Senior Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos State on PWD, Adenike Lawal, said there are special schools in the state that can help children with special needs and beyond, adding that all the infrastructural development springing up in the state are in consideration for those with disabilities.
Lawal stated that they encourage parents to bring kids with special needs down to these schools because they can actually become better in life.
She called on other states in Nigeria to emulate Lagos. She said: “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.”
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 institutional materials that are technologically oriented that promote exclusivity in our schools.”
Vice chairman of Joint Association Persons Living with Disabilities Lagos State Chapter and convener of Lagos Albinism Awareness Foundation, Josephine Omolola, said the myth associated with albinism are false. According to her, it doesn’t have anything to do with what they eat but a medical condition where melanie 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 living 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 preconception 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 that are albinos should act. “They need to protect them from the sun by wearing them protective clothes as well 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 PWD 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, there is need we continue to close gaps where government resources might not be enough, as our organization is doing. We equally need the support of individuals and co-operate organization to continue to impact.”
He, therefore, appealed to the government and relevant stakeholders to support all PWDs and ensure full implementation of the Disabilities Act.