Agbura Chinelo Gertrude is a teenage with intellectual disabilities who is 17 years of age but she has not been to school, not because her parents do not want to get her to school but because of the expensive nature of the schools where children with intellectual disabilities are trained.
Looking at the situation of the young girl who is wasting away due to economic situation of her parents, and recently during the COVID-19, she lost her father, leaving only her mother to cater for her, we at The Qualitative Magazine (TQM) as a way of helping out, decided to bring her story to the public domain with the hope getting you out there to contribute towards enrolling her in special school God’s willing in January, 2021 and also get her a wheelchair because she doesn’t go out because someone had to back her before she can go anywhere and now she is becoming so big, so her mother and siblings do leave her alone at home while going out, imagine the psychological trauma she go through but her relations are not to be blamed because they have to go out to sustain the family.
Below is the interview by Mr. Simon Nkemdili Ozioko from Step To Top Leadership Centre conducted with her mother, Mrs. Chika Agbura (the primary caregiver) who has to speak on her behalf because she cannot speak fluently. Her mother shared with us her challenges taking care of Chinelo from her tender age, their challenges that resulted from their inability to take Chinelo to a special school where she can access physiotherapy services and other services that can help make her a better person in future.
TQM: Is there any other health challenges that she suffers apart from the physical disability that we can see?
Yes, if she is having malaria and she is not treated immediately, she will have convulsion but if you are treating her malaria constantly, it will not happen to her. That is the only health challenge that she is having.
TQM: How sever is this convulsion that she does suffer?
It normally last for at least 10 minutes but if you take her down and pour water on her, it will not last up to 10 minutes. If you leave her without doing anything, the convulsion will last for 10 minutes and she would be fine again.
TQM: How did her disability started?
She was not born the way you are seeing her today, the whole thing started in 2006 when she was two years five months, it came in form of convulsion, I didn’t know what it is then, my brother inlaw that was staying with us was telling me that it was cold that she was suffering from, suggesting that I should be throwing her up, but I didn’t know that it was convulsion that my daughter was suffering from. When other people saw her, they told me that it was convulsion not cold. From that point, we took her to hospitals, there was a time we spent more than four months in National Hospital Abuja. At a time, she gave up, but after about 39 minutes 45 seconds, she came back to life, I was thinking I have lost her but when she came back to life, the thing has affected her so much that she was totally disfigured, paralyzed to the extent that when we were discharged from National Hospital, the doctor told my husband that within two, three days she will die, there is no need wasting money. They told us that we should go home and wait for her death.
Before then, they gave us appointment for one month; she lived to see the one month that we were to go back to hospital. When we got to the hospital, the doctor was surprise to see her alive and say that God is wonderful. That time, her neck cannot carry her head. She cannot sit, she was just there like ordinary clothes, infact, I don’t know how to explain what she was looking like. It was when we started physiotherapy treatment that her hands, legs etc dropped that she started looking like a human being. Since that time till date, she cannot walk again, she have walked, talked before this thing happened to her.
TQM: How old is she now?
She became 17 last November.
So she have suffered from this for close to 15 years, is there any other of your relations who have suffered similar thing?
In my lineage, nobody have had such experience, that is why I didn’t know what it was when the thing began, it was intervention of neighbours for me to find out what is wrong with my child.
TQM: As the Primary Caregiver to Chinelo, what is your source of living, how much support have you been getting to take care of Chinelo and her siblings, what is your husband’s source of living, Is he supportive?
For now, I don’t have anybody supporting me since my husband died, it is just me and my children, I don’t have anybody. I am doing nothing for now, I have been looking for a shop to start a business but I could not get a shop but my plan is that by January, I will go into my husband’s business and see how I can manage myself before me and children will die of hunger.
TQM: Since there is nothing tangible that you are doing, how do you take care of Chinelo?
It has been God helping me through some friends and some church members (I am a member of Knight of St. Mulumba) they have been so helpful to me and family. That’s how I have been managing.
TQM: You have been basically surviving on charity?
TQM: What are the specific challenges are you facing taking care of her?
The challenges are enormous; we used to carry her at our backs while going out because she is big now, it is becoming so difficult.
TQM: How does she now go out, she does not have a wheelchair?
We still back her, she doesn’t have a wheelchair and that’s why we don’t take her to church and when we are going out, we leave her in the house, she doesn’t go out with us. She is now too big to back. We can only go out with her if we get a free vehicle to carry us.
TQM: Apart from this challenge, any other challenge?
She cannot do anything for herself, it is either me or her elder sister that normally clean her up and she is of age, she has started menstruating, so we are the ones to ensure that she is properly cleaned up and her pads fixed. We are the ones bathing her, brushing her teeth, take her to toilet etc.
TQM: One serious challenge or problem, we found out is that the girl who is in dire need of presence of caregiver always would be spending four to five hours alone. This is exposing her to danger; we can’t tell you to leave every other thing you have to do to provide for the family. In which capacity do you think that the public can help you to solve this problem?
People have been telling me about school for people like her, if the public can help me enroll her in such school, I will be grateful. To go to school has been her desire, at times, you see her recite alphabets the much she could.
TQM: If she should be enrolled in school, do you prefer boarding school or day school?
I will prefer a school with boarding facilities so that she can be properly taken care of and mix up with others like her and have company always.
TQM: What else do you want to achieve for preferring that she should be in a boarding facility?
I want her to be there so that she can be somebody in life; people who know those schools so well have told me that her life can experience a turnaround in such places. For her to go to school would be of assistance to me and my other children. I want her to stay there because by the time she spent up to a year there, I will see many changes in her because the school someone told me about would be offering her physiotherapy services.
TQM: You have already seen a school that you would love to enroll her if you get money?
Yes, there is a school in Kurudu, Abuja by name Safehost International, somebody took us there and see if Chinelo can be enrolled there. When I was there, I was wishing if my daughter can be there because the school is okay, they have physiotherapists, other professionals including boarding facilities. There would be so many challenges in her if she attends the school by next year January 2021 but the challenge here now is money to enroll her.
TQM: What is the cost implication of enrolling her in that school?
That is why the problem lies now, the school for people like my daughter is very expensive, what the owner of the school gave us, they are paying per term not yearly and the first term to get her started is Three hundred and thirty thousand, six hundred naira( N 330, 600), second term is Two hundred and forty four thousand, six hundred naira (N 245, 600) and third term is Two hundred and fifty thousand, six hundred naira (N 250, 600). The fees did not cover her personal belongings that we are to provide as well. Going by what I am doing, I don’t think I can afford this kind of money. I am begging good people in Nigeria and all over the world to come and help us so that this girl can go to school.
TQM: Basically, what you want the public to do for you on her behalf is to help you enroll her and sustain her in school because it is not a one-off payment?
I am begging the public to assist this girl because staying at home, she is wasting away, she should be in school for her to be a better person. Please I beg in the name of God for your assistance in whichever way you can.
TQM: Madam, we will do our best to amplify this and be hopeful that God will send people to come and assist. I would want you to give out account number where the public can donate to assist her. I hope there is an account in her name?
Yes, there is an account we opened for her because we want all that people would be donating to go for her school. Her education is so important to us so we want all that people would be donating be channeled towards the purpose it meant for. This is for Chinelo, I am only standing in for her as her primary caregiver.
The account details are: Account Name:
Agbura Chinelo Gertrude, account number: 6151374963, Fidelity Bank Plc.