Kadir Abdulfatai, Kwara
The Opeoluwa Sotonwa Foundation, in collaboration with the Disability Law and Advocacy Project (DLAP), Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin and the National Association of Nigerian Deaf Students (NANDS), has launched scholarship schemes for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
The Foundation, a non-profit organisation, was established to celebrate academic pursuits of deaf students in tertiary institutions with the aim of rewarding best performing students with scholarship supports.
Speaking at the maiden awards ceremony held on Wednesday at Faculty of Law, University of Ilorin, Dr. Opeoluwa Sotonwa, thanked his wife, Mrs Cassandra Sotonwa for being the brainchild of the foundation. He noted that the scheme was part of giving back to the society.
Travelling down memory lane, Dr Sotonwa who was a student of University of Ilorin, recalled that when he was admitted to the University, many obstacles came his way but with the support of the school community, Centre for Supportive Services for the Deaf, Sign Language interpreters and colleagues and with the special grace of God, he was able to achieve his goal.
“When I did the NCE course at the Federal College of Education (Special) Oyo, I was paying my school fees and other expenses by growing and selling yams, cassava and tomatoes etc.”
“Today I found this wonderful scholarship program as part of giving back to society by not only financially supporting the education of deaf students but also enabling them to do their best. This will ensure that they receive a good education.” He said.
Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Professor Wahab Olasupo Egbewole, said the university embraces the mission of the Foundation and thanks the creator of this initiative.
The Vice-Chancellor, represented by Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Management Services), Prof Suleiman Funso Ambali said “I was surprised when I read Sotonwa’s biography. The talents of people with disabilities are enormous. Dr. Opeoluwa Sotonwa rose to the challenge and issue support to the poor. We are very happy and look forward to our beneficiaries’ improved academic performance”.
Speaking further, professor Ambali noted that the University management will introduce inclusive education to help people with disabilities in their academic pursuits. He also announced that the Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, and the University will work with the Foundation to ensure disabled people have opportunities in the department, expressing hope that they can do better academically. He assured that the university will help in developing potential and careers of students with disabilities in the university.
Earlier, Mrs. Annette Gannaway-Hudson, Executive Vice President of Our Children’s Homestead of America (OCH), in her keynote speech on “An Inclusive Education Model for Academic Excellence.”, emphasized the need for individuals with disabilities to be fully included in the educational environment.
She urged students to embrace their uniqueness, to recognise their value in belonging and to advocate for an educational system that “fully sees you, fully understands you and fully supports you”. As well as charged sponsors to reflect on the immense power and responsibility that comes with their support.
Also speaking, Dean of Faculty of Law, Prof. Nimah Modupe Abdulraheem welcomed first of its kind initiative in the Faculty of the University.
Abdulraheem said “I believe this scholarship will go a long way in helping recipients and setting an example for other students. I am particularly happy that the University of Ilorin received 50% of the total award and I am most happy that a student of our great faculty is a beneficiary.”
Chief Lecturer, Federal College of Education (Special) Oyo, Dr Tola Odusanya, briefly spoke about Opeoluwa Sotonwa. He said “Opeoluwa was from the same local government in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State and that Opeoluwa was a student of State College of Education (Special), Oyo, where he taught him. Odusanya also said that many deaf people can become members of society, and that is what Opeoluwa has become.
“This foundation is a great initiative. We know that many deaf and other disabled people will benefit from us and they will continue to do so” he added.
A beneficiary and President, of the National Association of Nigerian Deaf Students (NANDS), Nehemiah Danjuma, expressed gratitudes to the Foundation for the scholarship. Nehemiah said that when the application for the Opeoluwa Sotonwa Scholarship came, many deaf students from Nigerian tertiary institutions started applying and they were happy that it was a good opportunity for them.
“In addition to the Scholarship, Dr. Opeoluwa Sotonwa has also contributed financially to several programs of the National Association of Nigerian Deaf Students. We thank Opeoluwa for his outstanding contributions to the development of deaf education” Nehemiah said.
Highlights at the event was Opeoluwa Sotonwa Foundation’s donation of One Million Naira to the Faculty of Law as a way of giving back to his alma mater. The foundation also presented an award to lady, Annette for her contribution and commitment to the progress of the foundation. Award certificates were also given to twenty (20) deaf students who received the scholarship. The awardees were inspired by the scholarship fund and promised to use it to continue their education.
INN reports that the Nigerian National Association of Deaf Students (NANDS) presented an award to the Opeoluwa Sotonwa Foundation (OSF) for its continued support towards improving the education of deaf students in Nigeria through scholarships and financial support.
INN also reports that Nehemiah Danjuma was presented with Professor Konyinsola Ajayi Fellowship. The award is given annually to a Law student with a Disability