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HomeINTERVIEWSI became deaf after receiving over 30 injections – Gombe graduate

I became deaf after receiving over 30 injections – Gombe graduate

The Zonal Coordinator of the Joint Association of People with Disabilities in Gombe State, Yahaya Yusuf, shares his experience with CHIMA AZUBUIKE

Tell us about your family background.

I have a humble family background. My dad is a farmer and teacher, while my mum is a housewife. However, my parents are becoming old. My dad is blessed with two wives and 12 Children. I’m the fifth child of my mother. I am the only one with a physical disability.

At what age did you lose your hearing ability?

When I was about 10 years old, I fell ill and was hospitalised. After some time, I could no longer hear. I cried. I was sad when I could no longer hear any sound, but I overcame all the sadness and disappointment. I accepted it as fate. I sometimes consider being deaf a blessing in disguise. I’m a 27-year-old Political Science graduate at Gombe State University, with a diploma in Information and Communications Technology.

Why do you think it is a blessing in disguise?

I can no longer hear bad music, gossip, disturbing sounds while sleeping and others. I usually sleep well with peace of mind and if some people gossip about me, I won’t feel hurt if I can’t hear them. So, gossips hurt themselves and take over my sins.

What were you told was responsible for your condition?

My mum told me my hearing impairment was not caused by measles but by meningitis at the hospital. She said I was given more than 30 injections and I can’t remember the number of drips I received. When I got a bit better while trying to regain consciousness I just realised I couldn’t hear anymore. I felt deep silence within me. My mother and other family members asked how I felt but I could not hear them. I only looked at them and smiled. It was at that point that my mum began to wonder what had gone wrong. They called a doctor who confirmed my hearing loss.

What was your mother’s immediate response?

My mother cried, I understood why she was crying so I joined her. We wept bitterly but I decided to accept fate and thank God for his mercy towards me.

What efforts did your parents make to restore your sense of hearing?

They did a lot until they gave up. After the incident occurred, my mum became more determined to ensure I got treated, unknown to her that it’s difficult to regain a lost sense of hearing in Nigeria. After struggling here and there, visiting hospitals and traditional medical homes in vain, we gave up. but I told them to stop wasting time and resources on me and support my education instead. They went from hospital to hospital, traditional medical homes, fake mallams and even one pastor that told them to bring chickens. We did and she gave us some useless herbs. Yes, I now consider them useless because they never worked, and she said if they didn’t work, we should return to her.

Did you?

Yes. When we did, she said we should bring a goat. Can you imagine that, from chickens to a goat? Maybe she would have told us to bring a cow next. My parents soon understood that those people were only ripping us off and capitalising on my predicament.

Were you able to see an expert?

I was later taken to Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano State, where an audiologist carried out a lot of tests and recommended a hearing aid instead. We bought them at exorbitant prices but they never worked. We gave up.

How did you cope with other family members and kids in your neighbourhood?

I felt okay, though I am sometimes introverted and, sometimes, suffer from an inferiority complex based on my disability but I’m trying hard to overcome it. I usually wake up when it is time to pray by myself without hearing the call to prayer. I don’t know why but it often happens to me. This might be a miracle from Allah.

What were the challenges you faced growing up?

I experienced a lot of prejudice, discrimination, marginalisation and segregation based on my disability. I can vividly remember that when I was at a junior secondary school, a conventional school, some pupils mocked me because I am hearing impaired. Some laughed at me and called me names like kurma (which means a deaf person) which I hated the most. I love it when I’m called by the name given to me by my parents when I was born. Calling me a deaf person is derogatory and discriminatory. However, I no longer feel pain whenever someone calls me kurma. I learnt to bear the discrimination and never let any devil try to discourage me in my endeavours to move ahead. I’m determined to take on the challenge irrespective of prejudice, discrimination and segregation by some people. God is helping me to overcome challenges. It’s also due to determination, resilience and dedication.

Did you later attend a school for people with special needs?

Yes. My dad decided to transfer me to a special school in Gombe. It was a school for the deaf, and blind and people living with disabilities. The school had special education teachers and I must admit that I hardly felt discriminated against, marginalised or segregated based on my disability because all the pupils were PLWDs and most of the teachers were special education teachers who understood how to live and communicate with us. However, the school had a lot of challenges, including a shortage of qualified teachers, lack of staff quarters and adequate hostels, and poor erosion control, and I’m calling on the government to please do the needful.

You mentioned several times that you lost hope of finding a cure. Do you believe you could hear again?

Yes, if God so wills.

How will you feel if that happens?

I will be surprised and thankful to God the Almighty. I will make it public and organise a special prayer and thanksgiving.

Information and Communications Technology has been playing an important role in assisting persons living with disabilities to interact better with society. What is your level of competency in ICT?

If I am to rate myself on a scale of one to five, I will give myself three. I have more to learn in ICT as learning never ends. I thank God for the personal computer donated to me by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Sheikh Isa Pantami, when he was director general of the National Information Technology Development. It helped me to learn more. Unfortunately, the computer is faulty now.

What is your relationship status?

I’m in a complicated relationship. I wanted to marry a deaf girl like me, I mean an understanding deaf girl who is educated both Islamically, in Hausa and western education, even if she’s just a secondary school graduate and or beyond. I found one with those qualities who was studying for a national certificate in education. But, unfortunately, the genotype issue separated us. As you know a person with the genotype, AS, should not marry a person with the same genotype or the SS genotype, so I’m trying to get another person with the qualities highlighted above and a matching genotype.

Why are you specific about those qualities?

I want to marry a deaf girl because of communication, understanding and respect for each other, without unnecessary prejudice, discrimination or superiority complex.

Have you taken part in the National Youth Service Corps programme?

Yes. It was challenging but interesting and worth the while. It taught me a lot. While at Imo state orientation camp, I faced the biggest challenge during the registration and other exercises. There was a communication barrier. However, I was able to tackle the challenges by communicating through writing, and in less than a week I was fortunate to meet a sign language interpreter, a fellow corps member.  I introduced him to my platoon officer and camp director who advised that we need to always be together especially during skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development lectures, announcements and other activities so that I too could hear what was going on and we did. Two weeks later, I met another corps member who knew sign language and almost everything went smoothly with little or no communication barrier whenever they were with me. I heard through them. I must thank God for his mercy and guidance.

Did you ever imagine what could have happened if there were no such corps members with such knowledge?

When I asked them how they learnt sign language, thinking they studied Special Education, all of them said they learnt it from their churches. They claimed their pastors encouraged them to learn it from the deaf and help interpret to the deaf worshippers in their churches. I was impressed and wept for the Muslims in the North. It’s something we Muslims ought to do; unfortunately, the reverse is still the case.

In what ways do you think the NYSC can make the programme more inclusive for persons living with disabilities?

There are many steps to make the NYSC scheme more inclusive for us. For the deaf, the biggest challenge we face is information and communication barriers. It was because of this barrier that a soldier in the orientation camp almost harassed my friend, who was also a deaf corps member posted to the Kano state camp, This forced my friend to report the incident to the camp director and state coordinator and requested a sign language interpreter to facilitate communication. The NYSC director-general needs to direct all state coordinators to hire at least two sign language interpreters to accommodate deaf corps members posted to their states. Meanwhile, deaf prospective corps members should be advised to indicate that they are physically challenged during the registration process and it will be important if the NYSC uses the information supplied during the registration process to know the posting of the deaf corps members and direct the state coordinators and camp directors to accommodate them well with sign language interpreters.

In addition, the NYSC DG needs to make a conscious effort to ensure that any programme by the scheme or partner agencies should include at least five per cent of corps members with disabilities to motivate them. Meanwhile, the zonal inspectors and local government inspectors need to make an effort to know whether there are deaf and disabled corps members posted to serve in their areas to assist with accommodation in areas where interpreters can be accessed, especially during community development service meetings, INEC sensitisation and training, clearance and others. The NYSC scheme needs to be more accessible to all persons living with disabilities.

Did you redeploy?

Yes, I redeployed to Bauchi.

Why did you redeploy?

That’s the NYSC for you. People no longer want to stay outside their zones due to so many reasons best known to them. In my case, the state coordinator asked me if I wanted to be relocated anywhere based on my condition. Note that PWDs are free to relocate; that’s why I decided to relocate to Bauchi to serve at Bauchi State Agency for Persons with Disabilities to garner first-hand experiences of how the agency is administered. I pray that the Gombe State Government will establish the same agency for PWDs and if I’m still available in the state, hopefully, I will be allowed to contribute my quota on how to run the agency.

How easy has it been settling down, especially in the area of employment after youth service?

It’s not easy but thankfully, I was immediately hired by two online media organisations to work with them as a reporter and I was later hired by a non-governmental organisation to serve as a part-time data enumerator and advocate. All the jobs are on a part-time basis, but thankfully, I was able to save to set up an agribusiness.

What kind of future do you foresee for PWDs in Nigeria?

It is bright, especially with the establishment of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities by the Federal Government and many states are following the steps of the Federal Government in establishing an agency or commission for PWDs. You can find one in Kogi, Plateau, Ondo, Anambra, Lagos, Bauchi, and others to serve as a link between PWDs and the governments. The agency or commission will also enable the government to get first-hand information and solutions to the challenges facing PWDs. The Federal Government, non-governmental organisations and donor agencies can interact directly with the commission or agency to support PWDS, instead of going to some ministries that could mismanage funds meant for persons with disabilities and abandon them.



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