Mitigating Hardship for Physically-challenged in Nasarawa

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Igbawase Ukumba writes that the Nasarawa State Government is mitigating the hardship facing physically-challenged students in tertiary institutions across the state

There is a silent revolution going on that will change the face of education sector and provide unfettered access to qualitative education by children with disability in Nasarawa State under the watch of Governor Abdullahi Sule. Perhaps, the revolution is a consolidation to the foundation already put in place by the erstwhile governor of the state, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura.

Suffice to note that the erstwhile governor had constructed three ultramodern schools for children living with disabilities, which were
commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari as part of efforts to address the education needs of this category of people in the state.

The schools, christened “Comprehensive Special Schools,” are located in the three senatorial districts of the state, with one built in Lafia, the state capital. The special schools were purposely built to cater for the educational needs of children with disabilities including the deaf and dumb, the blind, crippled, the visually impaired and persons with other forms of physical challenges.

These comprehensive special schools, equipped with special facilities to make teaching and learning easy for children with special needs, were also
designed to ensure that children are given equal opportunities to broaden their vision to develop their talents and creativity, as well as to enhance their potential and capacity to compete favourably with other children in all spheres of endeavour.

It was against this revolutionary zeal by Sule to take the revolution to the next level that a team from the office of the Directorate of Strategic Communication and Press Affairs, Office of the Governor, recently undertook a Disability Advocacy Tour to tertiary institutions sited in Nasarawa State.

Speaking at different fora during the advocacy tour of the team to the Nasarawa State Polytechnic, Lafia and the state’s College of Education, Akwanga, leader of the disability advocacy tour team and Personal Assitant to Governor Sule on disabilities/social media, Hamza Mammam Awe, assured the disabled students of the governor’s attention to their plights.

He said: “I want to assure you that the Sule’s administration is giving us a sense of belonging, hence our reason to embark on this advocacy visit to all tertiary institutions in the state, to meet and rub minds with you in order to lessen the hardship you face during your studies.”

“The advocacy tour is to seek for a collaboration between management of the higher institutions and office of the Personal Assitant to the governor on disabilities and social media for an enhanced conducive learning environment for the physically challenged students studying in tertiary institutions sited across the state.”

Expressing concern over the plight of the physically-challenged students in tertiary institutions across the country when the advocacy team stormed the state owned polytechnic for the tour, the Student Union President of the institution, Comrade Godwin Ishaku, lamented that the issue of disabled persons has been a concern of the whole country. However, the SUG president noted with satisfaction that the polytechnic has been doing so well in terms of catering for the physically-challenged students of the school.

“Therefore the foresight by the personal assistant to the governor on disabilities will go a long way at stabilising the disabled students in the state who are studying in various tertiary institutions across the state under harsh condition. This gesture will encourage other disabled persons in the state to enroll themselves into the various state government owned tertiary institutions across the state to become responsible persons in the country,” Ishaku maintained.

Corroborating with the views of the state’s polytechnic SUG president, the Dean of Students Affairs of the institution, Shamma Kpanja, also told the advocacy team that the disabled persons in the institution are considered as first citizens of the polytechnic.

According to Kpanja,” in this polytechnic, because of the special privilege and consideration that the polytechnic given to them, they don’t pay school fees. At the moment, the polytechnic is desired to nurture them to the fullest. They are also considered in all its programmes and activities. So we want to assure the personal assistant that these set of students are our first citizens.”

The polytechnic’s Dean of Students Affairs who was filled with joy to see one of the Institution’s physically-challenged brain child living up to expectation, told the gathering that: “for the purpose of those who don’t know the personal assistant on disabilities/social media, he is one of our students and we are very proud of him. Therefore, he should be an example for those coming behind that there is ability in disability.”

For the rector of the Polytechnic, Augustine Ali Gabu, the management, staff and students of the institution were highly delighted by the presence of the personal assistant. “We are delighted because in the first place he graduated from this institution, and he is made a personal assistant to the governor on the physically-challenged individuals”, the rector said.

Gabu continued that the personal assistant’s coming to the polytechnic’s campus has encouraged the institution’s community because he has identified with those who are physically challenged.

“For those of us who can stand up today and talk like this; we are not better than then anyway. So we are grateful and we will continue to be grateful to the PA. Whenever you (PA) find time to come here, we will not hesitate to welcome you. Because of the worth of the disabled in this institution, we have made a deliberate policy to ensure that none of them pay any school fees in this institution.”

“And for any reason, anyone of them that pays, we will refund immediately. I had a case like this and we refunded the money immediately because it is a policy that has been there. So we will continue to do that. Also for any structure that will be built in this institution, we will ensure that we take into congnisance the physically challenged so that they will be able to work in and out smoothly,” Gabu emphasised.

The rector who said that the entire polytechnic community was encouraged by the governor’s disabilities personal assistant’s visit, added that the Institution’s doors were widely opened for the physically-challenged to interact with it. “Whatever their problems are, if we cannot do that, we will report to you (PA) so that you will help us out”, he told the personal assistant.

To the disabled students, Gabu assured that: ” we will continue to support you so that you will face your studies squarely so that at the end of the day, you will excell. I wish to put it on record that we have never witnessed any misbehavior of our dear disabled brothers in this institution. And we encourage them to continue to behave in that manner so that at the end of the day their academic activities here will be smooth.”

Receiving the Disability Advocacy Tour team at the state’s College of Education in Akwanga, the provost, Dr. Rebecca Isaac Umaru, corroborated with her Nasarawa State Polytechnic counterpart that school fees of disabled students in the institution is free. She even stressed that she has been asking the disabled students to tender receipts of any school fees they might have paid to enable management of the institution refund it back in compliance with the governor’s directive.

Umaru continued that the institution in its support to the benevolence of the state governor, has declared that all excursion activities embarked by the disabled students of the college be free.

“We however appealed to the state government to assist the college with the employment of 11 permanent staff that will be scheduled for taking care of the physically challenged students in the school. I want to assure you, the physically challenged students of this institution, of management’s efforts at providing you with enough hostel accommodation, intra campus mobility and writing materials to ease the difficulties you have been facing on campus,” the college provost promised.

Nevertheless, just like the polytechnic rector said, the registrar of the polytechnic, Muktar Wakeel, re-echoed that management of the institution always have high regard and respect for the physically challenged schooling in the institution. Wakil said emphatically that if there is any phyischally challenged student that has been molested by anybody, let the management know.

“You are our brothers and we love you so much. Our own is to create a conducive environment for you to learn and excel. I want to thank the PA to the governor for deciding to visit the polytechnic with members of his own team. I want to thank the rector of the polytechnic for the support he has been given to the physically challenged students in this institution to ensure that they enjoy the best of time as they school here,” the registrar expressed.