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A DEAF EX CORP MEMBER PROFFERS HOW TO MAKE THE SCHEME MORE INCLUSIVE TO THE DEAF AND PWDS

BY Comr. Yusuf Kumo

POSTING AND ORIENTATION CAMP.

When I graduated from the prestigious, Gombe State University it didn’t take up to two months our names were released for NYSC service and I was finally posted to Nkwere Imo State for my NYSC Orientation.

I must admit that it was stressful most especially for people like me. I was even like “Wow, so I can’t even rest from this final year’s stress eh. I must leave home again and Obey the Clarion Call. such is life I thought.

On that fateful day we were Leaving with my fellow Gombawa Imo posted corpers, we spent day and night on the roads until the next day. On the roads I was busy thinking and praying…my mind is filled with a lot of thoughts… How will I go through the camp as a Deaf, will they get me a sign language interpreter or I should hire one? Where can I get one there? Can the people there tolerate to communicate and inform me what’s going on in the camp by writing in case there’s no interpreter? A lot of questions filled my mind.

That very moment we arrived, I feel very glad and said Alhamdulilahi for the safety that I can now rest and sleep a little bit then start my registration. Oh No… Soldiers shouted at the entrance. bring your bag for security check then follow that line for screening then collect your this and that and go to Ugwumba Hall to proceed your registration. I was like wow… And did everything my fellow was doing…it was until I went to the Hall alone seeing thousands struggling to make up the queue. I decided to introduce myself to army guarding the hall and the queue that I’m Deaf coming from the Northeast, Gombe state. Fortune come my way as the army himself guided me to the screening staffs without following the long queues and I am fortunate again to meet a physically challenged staff who guided me throughout the registration.

Having Completed my registration I had to communicate with most of the staffs and fellow corpers in writing and lip-reading since my platoon officer said that they don’t have any sign language interpreter here in the camp… I decided to take up the challenges since I can read, write and lip-reads as I usually do in school… Within one week Another fortune come my way as I’m able to meet a sign language interpreter (who’s also a Corp member). a week later I meet another Corp member who knows Sign language. I can’t believe it, I thanked Allah for guidance and mercy…

Having introduced each other we became friends and I introduced one of them to my platoon officer who advised us to always be together most especially during SAED Lecturers and morning/evening parades/assembly.

 We did and I’m forever grateful to them.

When I asked them how did they learned Sign language? (thinking it’s because they studied Special education, Oh No…) they both said they learned it from their Churches as encouraged by their pastors to help/interpret for the Deaf worshippers. I was impressed and weep for the Muslim North ….

Living in the camp was fun, most of the people in the camp were caring and accommodative especially when they realize you’re deaf coming from far North East. The weather is so sweet but rains are so much.

I must admit, I love the warm breeze of Imo State.

Before the end of the camp I was fortunate to meet the state coordinator who we even snapped pics together and said that I should not worry and that if I wish I can be relocated anywhere I wanted (on the basis of my conditions) since my parents put pressure on me to relocate back to Gombe and there was plan for me to serve under one of my Boss, I don’t want to disappoint my parents, I applied for relocation and submitted to those in charge of relocations.. they asked me where is my medical report I showed them my certificate of fitness but they said they need my medical report instead. Unfortunately, I left it at home thinking only the certificate of fitness is needed, I just don’t know/was uninformed. Since I didn’t bring my medical report, they decided to relocate me to Bauchi instead. I’m grateful for that either.

POST CAMP: RELOCATION AND REPORTING.

When I finally reported to Bauchi state NYSC Secretariat, I was first posted to one secondary school but when I told them that I’m a Deaf and don’t know much about teaching since I studied administrative related course instead of education, they asked me where do I wanted to serve? That I should go and bring notification letter from any organization I wanna to serve at.

I was fortunate that the organization I wanted to serve (I.e Bauchi State Agency for PWDs) is Inclusive because there’s both Deaf, disabled and Normal people working there together including sign language interpreters. Since there’s sign language interpreter, the issues of communication won’t be my problems.

One of the Deaf staff, Malam Tasiu introduced me to the Deputy Director of the Agency Mr. Muktar Umar, who welcomed me warmly and instead of giving me the letter alone he went with me to the NYSC Secretariat and told them that they wanted me to serve under their organization. See simplicity, humility and gentility.

That fateful day I started my PPA, the Deputy Director of the Agency told me that they have four (4) Administrative Structures and that I need to select one, they are 1. Administrative, Accounting, Rehabilitation and blind workshop.

I selected administrative, something related to my discipline and was put under the registry department… I also sometimes helped in typing and printing when the need arises.

I must admit, most of the staff are so simple, humble and gentle. The Director of the Agency is but a woman of simplicity, humility, human and public relations. Serving under her and the organization is a pleasure.

CDS/INEC SENSITIZATION…

I, like many Corp members usually attend CDs general or group meeting once a week but unfortunately, as a deaf without sign language interpreter I hardly understand all what’s going on. I sometimes try to lip-read, sometime requested others to help me write in brief what’s being discussed…

It was until the INEC sensitization/training (which I decided to participate, not only because of the money but also to contribute my quota to National Development) that I decided to bring a sign language interpreter to enable me understand what’s going on well.

Having introduced him to the NYSC officials, they urged him to help interpret everything and work with me during the election day so as to facilitate communications… When we asked them who will pay the interpreter’s service (Knowing fully that interpreters are not doing it free) they said it’s not their responsibility but the INEC… INEC ke…. for where!

Since it’s clear that the INEC is unwilling to pay for my interpreter’s service I decided to pay the interpreter’s service and transports throughout the election. (In fact, interpreters are expensive)

The fun part of this INEC tinx is that when I was posted to one Polling Unit of two Voting points together with other ad-hoc staffs mostly students, at the collation center many of them including the other two Corp members wondered and even asked how can a Deaf do it here? They doubt if I can but my interpreter’s assured them that I can do it since I’m educated…

On that very day of the election when we arrived to our PU/VPs, to my surprise, all of them including the Corp members don’t know how to start and use the card readers. They told my interpreter to asks me if I know how to use the card reader. Since I read and understand how to use the card reader through the INEC manual distributed to us during the training, I said Yes and showed them how to use it.(funny is not it?) They requested that I be the one in charge of card reader’s verification and statistics instead of PO. I don’t argue. That’s when they started respecting the Deaf they early doubted 😆🤣. (Don’t be too early to judge)

Thankfully, the election went smooth!

Meanwhile after the elections, I learned that the INEC in collaboration with EU will be distributing the materials used by the EU election observes to interested Corp members who participated in the election. The materials include mobile phones, laptops, printers, PC etc. And that interested Corp members should post a pic of himself on Twitter or Instagram and tag them telling the reasons why he/she participated. I did, I even introduced myself as a deaf and urged them to make it inclusive by considering at least 5% of Disabled Corp members who participated because I know many of them. Unfortunately, none of us disabled Corp members who participated and applied benefited from it.

Even this INEC automatic employment to Corp members who participated in the 2019 general election I don’t think if they can make it inclusive to PWDs..in a country like Nigeria, it’s unfortunately that it’s only who you know no matter who you are. There’s God O.

Throughout my stay in Bauchi, the Good People of Bauchi are so simple, humble and gentle. They respect and honor you a lot especially if they realize that you are Corp member. That’s why I said “Bauchi is truly the home of religion, respect and hospitality”

HOW TO MAKE THE SCHEME MORE INCLUSIVE TO THE DEAF AND PWDs…

Permit me to say that, there’s many steps to make the NYSC scheme more inclusive to us, for the Deaf, the biggest challenges we face is information and communication barriers. It’s as a result of this barriers that a camp army almost harass my friend a Deaf Corp member posted to Kano camp which forced him to report that to the camp director/state coordinator and requested for a sign language interpreter to facilitate communications. For details see the links below (https://inclusivenews.com.ng/2019/09/02/deaf-corper-narrates-his-harrowing-ordeal-with-uninformed-soldiers-in-nysc-camp-in-kano-state/)

If I may suggest, The NYSC Director General (DG) need to direct all state Coordinators to hire at least two sign language interpreters to accommodate Deaf Corp members posted to their states. Meanwhile the Deaf prospective Corp members are advised to put their physically challenged status during the NYSC registration and it will be important if the NYSC NHQ will use the information supplied during the registration to know where and where Deaf Corp members are posted so as to direct the state Coordinators/camp directors to accommodate them well with sign language interpreters.

More so, the NYSC DG need to make a conscious effort to ensure that any any benefiting program by the scheme or partner agencies should include at least 5% Corp members with disabilities so as to motivate and encourage them.

Meanwhile the Z.I /LGI also need to make an effort to know whether there are Deaf and disabled Corp members posted to serve in their states/LGs so as to accommodate them well with interpreters most especially during CDs meetings, INEC sensitization and training, clearances among others.

Last but not least, the scheme needs to be more accessible to PWDs.

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