Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu
By Damilola Oyedele
A Non-Governmental Organisation, The Zamarr Institute (TZI) has unfolded plans to build a N250m world-class learning centre for mentally-challenged people in the country, as part of efforts to help them attain their maximum potentials.
The Founder/Chief Executive Officer of the Institute, Mrs. Khadijah Oluronke Katagum, speaking to the media in Abuja recently, lamented that while people with various forms of disability are being assisted by the government and NGOs already, mentally disabled people do not receive enough help to cope with their disability.
She added that TZI, which was found five years ago, has been working with some development partners and sponsors to help the mentally-challenged - especially autistic children - to work on their social and learning abilities to help them integrate into the larger society.
“Sadly, Nigeria does not have a statistics of children with autism, but the global statistics is that one out of every 110,000 has the disability; this however does not mean the end of their life. Through early intervention, such children can become engineers, pianists, etc”, she said.
The centre would provide access for diagnostic and quality education for the mentally disabled and would enhance their rights towards quality education. It would also provide counselling to parents or guardians of the mentally-challenged on how they can cope with and help their affected wards.
Katagum disclosed that the Federal Ministry of Health is currently working to undertake research into the statistics of autistic Nigerians due to the interest of the First lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, which was piqued by a recent meeting at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York.
“There is no known cause or known cure for autism, but it can be managed and the child can be assisted to live a normal life, or at least a better life from what he or she would have lived if there is not help. Early intervention makes a whole lot of difference for the affected ones,” she said.
The fund raising event was billed in early December in Abuja and would feature various artistes who have chosen to identify with the noble cause.