Over 30 visually-impaired varsity students empowered with learning devices

Group under the aegis of Disability Rights Protection Initiative in collaboration with the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, has empowered no fewer than 30 visually-impaired students drawn from various universities across the country with learning aids and devices.

Speaking during the presentation at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, the Executive Director, Disability Rights Protection Initiative, Chikwado Chukwu, said the devices were provided to assist them participate on equal basis with their sighted counterparts in the classroom.

Chukwu lamented that visually impaired students face a lot of discrimination and non-inclusion in the university and this, according to him, contribute largely in reducing their potential.

He said: “This is a project fully sponsored by the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited. We are providing them with these learning aids and devices to enable them participate on equal basis with their sighted counterparts during lectures. It will attend to their special needs.

“This is an initiative I started with the aim to empower visually-impaired students attain their full potential. I am also a blind person and while studying at the University of Lagos, some years ago, I passed through lots of difficulties, challenges and discrimination as a blind student in the university.

“After what I passed through at the University as a visually-impaired person, I came up with this initiative on how we could provide certain learning accessories for blind students to assist them to participate on equal basis with other students without disabilities in the class.

“The beneficiaries were basically Niger Delta students. Our partner wanted us to focus on the Niger Delta areas for the time being and also visually-impaired students who have been excelling very well in their academic activities were also captured. The beneficiaries were actually selected from universities across Nigeria and we put them together and they are the ones that received the devices in this outreach today.

“UNIZIK was chosen as a venue to present the devices because we found out that the institution has the highest number of blind students from the Niger Delta.

“These visually-impaired students face a lot of discrimination and non-inclusion and it is regrettable that we have the disability law and the disability Act 2018, but it is not being implemented and we are not satisfied as a community of persons living with disabilities. In Nigeria, we are over 27 million, and our means of participating in activities with other people are very expensive.”

He, however, called on the government and other relevant agencies to provide certain assistive learning devices for visually-students.

“These devices are very expensive, that is why government and relevant agencies must come in to offer assistance. We also need them to come up with policies in terms of welfare programmes because the students with disabilities are very far behind and not equally measuring up with other students.

“Governments at all levels have not done well for people with disabilities in terms of protecting our rights and also helping us to attain our potential in the society.

“Therefore, our advise for the beneficiaries of this device is to use them properly for their academic activities and as well also use it to serve as an advocate for equal right and opportunity in their own capacity because the issue of discrimination is not a one man business. We urge them to drive inclusion as a student, even myself as a student, I drove this advocacy.”

Also speaking during the presentation, the Director, Centre for Disability and Special Needs Research, UNIZIK, Prof. William Egbuoze, commended the initiative, saying that the devices would help the students participate fully well in the classrooms.

“These students can now record their lectures and other things they may require and as well as do some research. So, we are very happy about this as it will also help the students interact with other students and doing the right thing.

“It is unfortunate that the laws protecting people who have disabilities are not working. The government and national assembly should come up with a programme where well meaning individuals and corporate bodies can put up their earnings into helping people with disabilities,” Egbuoze added.

In a vote of thanks, a student from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Victor Izuchukwu, said: “I feel delighted because the learning devices are going to help us in our lectures in class. We appeal to relevant agencies to come to our aid because these devices are very expensive and not within our reach, that is why we are thanking those who made this possible for us.

“The process of jotting down notes in class and recording lectures have been simplified for us, it will also help us compete with our other sighted counterparts in the classroom,” Izuchukwu added.

Two devices such as an Android phone and a Hable-One device were presented to each of the students.

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