SPECIAL REPORT: Torturous experiences of students with disabilities in Oyo tertiary institutions - Ripples Nigeria
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SPECIAL REPORT: Torturous experiences of students with disabilities in Oyo tertiary institutions



For students with disabilities in Oyo state-owned tertiary institutions, learning is a torturous and distressing experience, considering the building structures and teaching approaches available. OLUWATOBI ODEYINKA writes.

Helen Samuel is a 40-year-old HND 2 student at The Polytechnic, Ibadan. And while her mobility disability couldn’t stop her from pursuing education to the tertiary level, it subjected her academic journey to a snail’s pace from attending a public primary school in Akoko village of Ondo State to The Polytechnic, Ibadan. Driven by a burning passion for education, Ms Samuel persists but describes her academic journey as “hell”.

According to her, her legs have been paralyzed since she was a child and no exact medical condition has been identified as responsible for her condition, but she agrees with her parents that it was due to a spiritual attack. She recalls starting primary school by crawling from her grandmother’s house in Akoko village to a nearby school after the old woman had gone to the farm. “She didn’t want me to go. I used to crawl then, so she was worried that I might not be able to run if it rained or there was any other reason to,” she narrated to this reporter.

Despite her grandmother’s concerns, she finished primary education in one piece and aimed for the next academic level. Attaining secondary education seemed impossible for her at the time. “I couldn’t go to secondary school because the road was bad and I couldn’t crawl to where it was,” she recalls again, but in the words of a late American writer, Joseph Campbell, “passion will move men beyond themselves, beyond their shortcomings, beyond their failures”. She describes her secondary education as divine as she later got a “scholarship from a local politician”.

After secondary education, Ms Samuel spent some years at home before travelling down to Ibadan to enrol in a vocational school for persons with disabilities. There, the headmistress sponsored her for a National Diploma at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, while other “good samaritans” are currently sponsoring her Higher National Diploma (HND).

This reporter visited Ms Samuel at the Polytechnic’s Olori (female) hostel on a windy afternoon in November. However, the entrance to the hostel and her room are not easily accessible to her as a wheelchair user. She, therefore, had to rely on other students to push her out of her room and the hostel. Her lecture hall at the Department of Local Government Studies can be accessed through a stair with six high steps. As such, after pleading with students to push her from the hostel to class, she has to beg another set of students to carry her with the wheelchair into the class.

Entrance to lecture hall at dept of LG studies where Samuel takes classes

Thanks to her zeal for learning, Ms Samuel says she never misses a class, and that means she has to endure this ordeal every weekday.

“Most times, I prefer to stay indoors. I don’t miss classes, but after classes, I don’t go out to mingle with people. People are reluctant to carry me, and some of those who do, don’t carry me with caution. But I don’t blame them. They are students and they are often rushing to class. In fact, when some of them see me, they run away so that they don’t have to carry me,” she said.

Entrance of Ms Samuel’s hostel
Photo: Oluwatobi Odeyinka/Ripples Nigeria

The class auditorium area also lacks sanitary facilities, and she narrated how she has to endure excruciating pain holding urine while in class until she returns to her hostel. “Now I have to carry potty to class when I realized I couldn’t continue like this,” she added.

Ms Samuel has never used the library in her school and that is because of lack of accessibility to People With Disabilities (PWDs). Aside from the fact that the road to the library is bumpy, it has no ramp and the stairs are a little high. “The library is not accessible to me at all. I can’t enter. One of my lecturers mandated us to collect a library docket/access card, but I have been to that place once and I have seen the way they built it. I can’t enter.”

Entrance of the Polytechnic, Ibadan library
Photo: Oluwatobi Odeyinka/Ripples Nigeria

In Ms Samuel’s class is another student, identified as Olaide, who is said to have a hearing impairment, but she was not available at the time of the visit by this reporter. A member of her class, who is also the President of the Sustainable Development Club of the school, Amuda Fatimoh, said they have to assist Olaide with note-taking sometimes, as “she could not hear well” in classes.

This reporter moved around various departments and faculties within the polytechnic campus and found that the majority of the buildings are not PWD-friendly. This is surprising because, in September 2023, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) reportedly awarded The Polytechnic, Ibadan, the ‘Second Best Polytechnic in Nigeria’ in the provision of access to higher education to persons with special needs.

Lack of hostel Situation at LAUTECH is Extra Stress for PWDs

LAUTECH, Ogbomoso

At the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, this reporter observed that the buildings are more PWD-friendly compared to those at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, especially the visibly new lecture halls, where at least one entrance is accessible to a wheelchair user. The library also has a ramp for wheelchair users. However, there are still several classrooms, especially the old ones, that are not accessible to PWDs.

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One of the new buildings with ramps
Photo: Oluwatobi Odeyinka/Ripples Nigeria

Despite ranking as one of the top ten universities in Nigeria and with a student population of over 30,000, the University has no hostel facilities save for one provided for medical students. Favour Adegoke, a 300-level student in the faculty of Agriculture with a mobility disability explains that she spends at least N1,000 on transportation to school every day.

“My major challenge is the amount I spend on transportation because I come from my parent’s house in the Adoo area [of Ogbomoso]. I am starting practicals next semester and I’d be staying longer in school, so I am considering renting a room in a private hostel nearby.”

The Students Affairs building of the University where various kinds of registrations are undergone by students is also not accessible to PWDs.

The Student Affairs Building, LAUTECH
Photo: Oluwatobi Odeyinka/Ripples Nigeria

Lack of Inclusiveness at The Oke-Ogun Polytechnic, Saki

Like LAUTECH, the Oke-Ogun Polytechnic has no hostel facilities, and most buildings appear to have been constructed with no consideration for PWDs, save for a few new buildings.

Library and lecture rooms at The Oke-Ogun Polytechnic, Saki
Photos: Oluwatobi Odeyinka/Ripples Nigeria

Mr Olabode Olatunde, the Deputy Registrar, Students Affairs Office, in a chat with this reporter, said although the school does not discriminate against PWDs, “the school does not provide special aids for them (students with special needs); they provide it for themselves.” He added that all students are treated equally, whether or not they are disabled. “We don’t segregate here; a student is a student, whether you are handicapped or not.”

When queried on why many of the classrooms and lecture halls are not built with ramps for students with mobility disability, he argued that the new ones have ramps. While this is true, the new buildings are few and yet not fully PWD-friendly. For instance, a 500-seater building which Mr Olatunde boasted of has ramps has a main entrance with a high step, and is therefore inaccessible to a wheelchair user, unless he or she is lifted from the ground.

Even the new buildings are poorly constructed regarding access for PWDs
Photo: Oluwatobi Odeyinka/Ripples Nigeria

Also, the Polytechnic Library which is used by all students has no ramp nor signs for students with mobility disability and visual or hearing impairments.

However, a student with mobility impairment, Israel Oladele, noted that his lecturers are considerate of his condition. “When students are rushing for anything, they just call me and attend to me first. For instance, in the last examination, the invigilator gave me a special seat in the front. The same thing with my project defense. I am grateful to them.”

Flagrant Disregard for Law Against Discrimination of PWDs

The evident lack of efforts to make learning inclusive for students with disabilities in these institutions is a flagrant violation of Nigeria’s Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018.

Sections 3 and 4 of the Act assert that persons with disabilities have the right to access physical environment and buildings on an equal basis with others, and that buildings shall be constructed with the necessary accessibility aids such as lifts (where necessary), and ramps, among other facilities. Section 18 of the Act states that “All public schools, whether primary, secondary or tertiary shall be run to be inclusive of and accessible to persons with disabilities….”

According to section 6, the Act has a transitory period of five years which lapses in January 2024, “within which all public buildings and structures, whether immovable, movable or automobile, which were inaccessible to persons with disabilities shall be modified to be accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities including those on wheelchairs.”

However, it is evident that Oyo State tertiary institutions, especially the polytechnics in Ibadan and Oke Ogun, have not made any efforts since the law was enacted to modify old buildings for accessibility by PWDs.

‘Persons with Disabilities Should Sue Institutions’

An advocate for the rights of PWDs, Ms Oluwatomisin Adeyefa, suggested that persons with disabilities should start initiating lawsuits against corporations and institutions that do not make their buildings accessible to PWDs. She noted that from January 2024, which is the transition deadline stipulated by the Discrimination Against Persons With Disabilities (Prohibition) Act, 2018, PWDs should start going to court for redress. “I am sure that when someone takes the initiative and sues for damages, other persons with disabilities will do the same. Maybe it is time for persons with disabilities to make millions.”

She noted that this reporter’s findings in Oyo State tertiary institutions buttress her belief that PWDs, who fight against all odds to get to tertiary institutions, spend more than their counterparts, “because they have to provide virtually everything that would aid comfort and learning by themselves.”

Lack of Inclusive Education Keeps Nigeria Off-track in Achieving SDG 4

Nigeria is a party to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, but SDG advocates agree that the country is off-track in achieving most of these goals. In particular, the UN recently warned that the country’s low investment in education makes it impossible for it to achieve SDG 4 – ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030.

The findings of this report are a testament that Nigeria will not achieve SDG 4 by 2030, a projection that is equally affirmed by the 2019 Goalkeepers report of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ms Adeyefa also noted that special schools which PWDs are often referred to, are discriminatory, as they do not reflect the UN’s definition of inclusive education.

This report was facilitated by the Africa Centre for Development Journalism (ACDJ) as part of its 2023 Inequalities Reporting Fellowship and supported by the MacArthur Foundation through the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism.

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