The Nigerian disposition towards the handi-capable people is to a large extent discriminatory. People with special needs aren’t meant to achieve anything in life, hence, they are not considered as being worthy of any dividends of the Nigerian enterprise. Given these odds, they have been assigned to certain dehumanising roles bringing them to the bottom rung of the society. Conventionally, they are meant to be the ones begging for alms by the roadside. Even at adulthood, they by conventional expectation should rely on more able-relatives for mobility to aid their begging avocation.
By incontrovertible sociological facts, Nigeria does not pay premium on human life as against what obtains in other latitudes of the world. This singular reason is responsible for the disdain we have for these demographic of people. But one cannot help asking if anatomical dysfunctionality should automatically reduce one’s chances in life. Why should one not gifted with outer vision for instance end up roaming the streets of Lagos begging for alms? Why should the one with crutches necessarily end up being a minstrel singing solemn songs with the intent of appealing to people’s pity?
Religion is another factor inextricably linked to this culture. In the North for instance, the Almanjiri culture trains people to be beggars by instilling in them the dogma that they are divinely fated to be. In Christianity as well, the belief in miracles has made parents and relatives of handi-capable people unwilling to seek medical and institutional help. They would rather take them to a “power-packed prayer programme” than to a special school for the challenged. This is maybe hinged on the teaching of Jesus that the reason some people are born challenged is to make the power of God manifest.
However, there are countries who value the human life more and they have benefitted immensely from the category of special people. This is because there’s a systemic respect and recognition for them. There are schools which cater for them meticulously. Nigerian poet Niyi Osundare needed to relocate to the United States because he couldn’t find a befitting school in Nigeria that could cater for his voiceless child. Maybe he didn’t even find any school at all in Nigeria that catered for such people! While other nations are investing in science and technology to meet the needs of these demographic of people, governments here fleece national funds and we engage in excessive religiosity dealing to eventual end a swashbuckling blow on the hopes of these people.
The university community unfortunately is guilty of complicity in this reprehensible discrimination against the challenged both in curriculum and infrastructure. The very lucky few of the special people who make it to the university find it more difficult to exist in the – Nigerian – university. There are cases in which they learn under the same crowded lecture halls with other students without as much care being paid to them. Their accommodation is usually as well poorly considered. This is nothing but insanity displayed within our ivory towers. I urge the citizenry of this country to acknowledge the rights of the people with special needs. They are special people with special needs. The university which is meant to show the society rectitude is unfortunately an accomplice. But we must know that our repeated injustice to these people is an injustice to us all.