I Get Caned in School Because My Teachers Thought I Was Lazy… But I Was Battling Partial Blindness

02 Jun 2013

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Grace Adejunmobi

At different times in life struggles, two governors came to her aid when all hope was lost. But Mrs. Adenike Grace Adejunmobi, Director in the Oyo State Ministry of Education, did not only achieve her dreams, she surpassed them and broke record as the first physically-challenged to reach the very top in the history of the ministry, writes Funke Olaode

Sitting calmly with the aura of fulfillment around her at her old Bodija, Oyo State home, Mrs. Adenike Grace Adejunmobi couldn’t have asked for a better birthday. On May 1, 2013, she turned 56 and was recently promoted director in the Ministry of Education of Oyo State. To many, this may not be a big deal but to those who have followed her story, hers is a story of tenacity and perseverance. She was born into the family of Okunola of Ejigbo in Osun State, where she started her early education. But as the year rolled by, her future appeared bleak when she was discovered to be partially blind.

Signs of Partial Blindness
Going down memory lane, Adejumobi said: “Early childhood was not pleasant because I was born with partial blindness. And that time, there was no school for people with low vision. At the age of 12 after attending some regular primary schools among regular sighted children, I found out that I couldn’t cope.  My parents didn’t know what was happening to me. Occasionally, the teachers would write on the black board and asked me to read it out but I couldn’t. I get caned most of the time because they thought I was being lazy”
Ignorance on the side of the parents nearly truncated her destiny, as parents didn’t pay much to her predicament. And of course, mobility became a problem.  “I was asked to stop coming to school.  Each time I got home I would be crying but my parents didn’t pay much attention to me because we were so many. And as I was growing, mobility became difficult because I didn’t have the special mobility skills. So I was always bumping into things. They also realized that my eye movement was different from the other children and it became a matter of concern to them. My parents took me to some eye doctors and I found that with recommended glasses, I couldn’t cope. After being treated at Eye Clinic in Kano my problem persisted.  By the time it dawned on my parents that I would need special skill to survive, my father diverted his attention to other children and it wasn’t easy for me to get financial assistance from him. He didn’t know how to handle the situation so I wasn’t given the best care in the family,” she recalled.

Facing the Reality of Life...
Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Adejunmobi took life as it came but was determined to succeed.  Through the help of her late grandmother she was enrolled at the Parcelli School for the Blind and Partially- impaired at Surulere, Lagos. “At the age of 12 in 1969 I went to Parcelli School for the Blind in Surulere, Lagos where I picked the skills of reading (Braille) and typing and with some other vocational such as cookery. I finished from Parcelli School for the Blind and moved to Notredame (meaning Our Lady) Girls’ Secondary School, Oro, Kwara State in 1974 as a boarder. Notredame is not a special school or school for the blind. It is a regular school where they had a unit for the blind. I was in regular classes with regular sighted students. While I was in that school, I enjoyed the Kwara State government scholarship because it wasn’t easy for me to pay my school fees.  I was fed up and thought I was going to drop out of school. And during one of the breaks in form two, I just picked up my typewriter without consulting the school principal and wrote the then Military Governor of Kwara State, David Jemibewon. This was in 1975. I wrote directly to his office and sent it through our mail prefect. I wasn’t optimistic about it; I was like let me try my luck if something good would come out of it. At a stage, I perceived the letter may end up in the trash can. Surprisingly, the following week Gov. Jemibewon sent somebody from his office to the principal. They took the list of everything that I needed such as typewriter, Braille, special allowance for travelling and pocket money and paid my school fees from form two in 1975 till I finished from that school in 1979.

Going to America
With Jemibewon to the rescue, Adejunmobi was set to conquer the world and live her dreams as the hands of providence continued.  By the time she finished secondary school, one of the Rev. Sisters who had been following her life went on leave to Scotland and from there went to Boston in America. While in the US, she spoke to the Dean of Continuing Education Center (CEC) at Massachusetts. That move changed her destiny.
She said: “At that time I was in my 20s and couldn’t start regular degree class. In America 18-22 is the right age for College. I was above 22 and the Rev. Sister obtained the CEC form for me at Emmanuel College, Boston Massachusetts where I did my degree in Rehabilitation Counseling in Psychology from January 1982 to 85. After I had secured the admission, this sister went to Rome and discussed my matter with the authorities that I was financially handicapped and I had disability. The sisters of Notredame in Rome sent two thousand dollars to Emmanuel College on my behalf ahead of me. I also sought for financial assistance from the government of Oyo State and the federal government. I taught briefly after secondary school at the Oyo State School for the Blind in Ogbomoso.  I was on Level four on salary of N154 and saved the money. As providence would have it, I secured a scholarship from the federal government during the International Year of the Disabled in 1981.
“I remember the federal government declared 10 years of financial and scholarship for those who wanted to go for special education then either within or outside Nigeria. I was one of the beneficiaries. I got the scholarship in 1981 but didn’t travel until January 1982 because I was looking for my basic travelling allowance and Visa. I travelled to America in 1982 where I had my first degree. I came back to Nigeria in 1985 and did my National Youth Service Corps at the University College Hospital, Ibadan”.

Searching for Job
At the end of her youth service, Adejunmobi was at home for 21 months looking for a job, sending her curriculum to different organisations but all with negative responses. “I had met my husband and we were always going out together looking for a job. I was sending out my CV and also writing letters of appeal to both the state and federal governments. There was no solution. We tried the Oyo State Ministry of Education there was no positive response. I first wrote a letter to the then Military Governor, Major. Gen. Adetunji Olurin who only minuted on it but didn’t act”.

Getting Governor’s Appointment
“My breakthrough came when the late Gov. Oresanya Sasaeyan took over from Gov. Olurin. God intervened through the late Sasaeyan. In fact, people I knew warned me not to come to their office again that people with sights had not been employed and me that was being led around was looking for employment. God used the late Sasaeyan for me. We took the letter to the Gov’s office that day but the people around said he was busy. Luckily for me, the ADC saw us, took the letter and included it among the mails he was going to take home for the governor. And that was on Thursday and there was going to be a Sallah break. On Monday we went back to the governor’s office and an officer came out of the governor’s office and asked me to go to the Ministry of Education that my letter had been forwarded there. 
“This was November 1988. And when I got there I was told Mr. Governor had given me a governor’s appointment as education officer at the Ministry education unit. I have served in the ministry since 1988 rose through the ranks from level eight at education officer, senior education officer, principal education officer, assistant director, deputy director and now director on level 16. It was a feat because I happened to be the first physically-challenged to reach the top”.

Meeting My Husband
The Adejunmobis are like a sesame street who met by divine providence.  They both met at the Nigerian Embassy in New York. She had gone there to collect her stipend from the scholarship of Oyo State Government. “My husband too came from Texas to collect his own stipend because he was also enjoying the federal government scholarship for a PhD programme in Mass Communication. He later visited me in Boston and the rest is history. We did our traditional wedding in 1988 December in Ejigbo my hometown. We did the marriage blessing after four children at the Chapel of Resurrection, University of Ibadan and our children were our best man, best lady, ring bearer and the flower girl in 2004”.

Running the Homefront
With modesty, Adejunmobi visual disability she says hasn’t affected the running of her home as there is nothing she cannot do in the house.  “The most difficult chore in Nigeria is shopping but my husband does that. I will go with him, stay in the car while he does all the shopping. And as soon as the children grew up they took over. But as soon as the groceries are brought home that is where my own chore starts- cooking, cutting of the vegetable, making stew and soup and preparation of the dishes. I do the washing of the clothes, dishes, cleaning of the house and stuffs like that until recently when I employed people to wash for me. You can hardly know that there is anything wrong with me”.

The Adejunmobi’s are blessed with four children- two boys and two girls. How has it been knowing and relating with the children?  “I know that I have four children of two girls and two boys. I can identify them by the voices. And when they were toddlers God was in control from conceiving, delivery and raising them. God has been faithful and my husband has been supportive. I am grateful to God that all of them are responding to training. They all went through Polytechnic where they acquired National Diploma before pursuing a degree. My first daughter, Adetayo who is currently doing her youth service studied public administration at the Polytechnic Ibadan, wrote JAMB and later studied French at the University of Ibadan. My second child also passed through the Polytechnic Ibadan and is currently pursuing a degree in Language and Communication Arts at the University of Ibadan (distance learning programme). My two last boys also paid homage at the Polytechnic Ibadan and my first son is currently at the University of Lagos studying Political Science and the baby of the house is at the Ladoke Akintola University studying Agric-Economic,” she said with a tone of accomplishment.

What I Studied Really Helped
Mrs. Adejunmobi’s travails through life has taught her many lessons: “one of them is adaptability because it took me a long time to accept my situation as I am always wallowing in self-pity. What I studied really helped. For instance, we were taught how to cope with disability. The society can be kind and can be cruel at the same time. I have found that in order to allow the society to accept you, you must display your talent; you must even blow your talents at times. God helped me with the assistance of my husband to rise through the ranks. Each time I went for interview I l always excelled that though I can’t see but I can talk and my brain is sharp”.

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