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In Kwara Special School, It’s Battle Between Blind, Deaf Students

Kwara State School of Special Needs houses the visually impaired, deaf and dumb and some mentally retarded students. However, strained relationship between the blind and deaf, especially, has made it difficult for them to cohabit and led to calls for the government to separate them. Daily Trust on Sunday writes on the issue.

Last month, the cat and mouse relationship between the blind students and their deaf and dumb counterparts at the Kwara State School of Special Needs climaxed with a brawl over food during lunch.

According to findings, trouble started when some blind students (names withheld) went to the kitchen to collect their lunch of garri and beans, which led to a misunderstanding.

Narrating the incident, a blind female student said “When we got to the dinning, the kitchen staff were not around but we met a deaf student who wanted to serve us our food. We then requested for additional garri because the quantity he gave us was small but he refused and started abusing us instead. We replied him and he stood up and gave me a slap, I retaliated with a blow and we started fighting. I bit him as my only means of defence. But some of the officials sympathetic to the deaf and dumb students blamed me for defending myself,” the blind student said.

Sexual harassment

The above incident is one of the numerous altercations between the two groups in the school which was established in 1974. The blind students have alleged several challenges they have been made to go through in the school which include sexual harassment, cheating and undue advantage for the deaf students with the support of the school principal, Engr. Abdulganiyu Olododo, who is a deaf.

They said their situation, which requires them depending on the deaf students and others to carry out basic activities, has made them vulnerable to abuse and being taken undue advantage of by the deaf students.

While narrating her experience, a blind female student (name withheld) who claimed to be a sexually abused victim, described the situation as worrisome.

According to her, “I have been sexually harassed by the deaf students on several occasions at the hostels. Sometimes, they come to our hostels anytime they notice we were coming from the bathroom and I was almost raped on one of such occasions. I reported the matter to the school authority but we have not seen any real change so far,” she noted.

She said “the continued cohabitation of the two sets of students has led to discrimination and a superiority complex.”

Call for separation/autonomy

Daily Trust on Sunday learnt that the situation had led to series of letters to past and present governments in the state by the leadership of the association of the blind, calling for the two groups to be separated.

According to some of the letters to Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq sighted by our correspondent and signed by the President and Secretary of the school’s blind old student’s association, Balogun Olushola Olanrewaju and Abdulganiyu Abdulazeez Abiodun, respectively, they requested for autonomy of school for the blind.

“We believe that the separation of educational facilities for the blind from those for the deaf is crucial to ensure the well-being, safety, and quality of education for visually impaired students. This practice of combining both is no longer in line with best national and global practices. It not only hampers their individual growth but also perpetuates numerous challenges and risks like prevalence of bullying, sexual harassment, threats, unsafe environment and the deaf taking undue advantage of the blind. This has led to a severe decline in the number of blind students seeking education in Kwara State. Shockingly, there is currently not a single blind female student in any secondary school across the entire state due to these unfortunate incidents.

“Being together has given the dominant group advantage and due to language barrier, there is ineffective communication leading to quarrel over minor issues like fetching of water, difficulty of the blind students to eat in the dining hall and cheating.

“This wide communication gap between the deaf and the blind can only be best explained by themselves. The blind cannot see what the deaf is using his hand to say while the deaf cannot hear what the blind is trying to speak with his mouth. Where there is no communication, there will always be quarrel. This has caused lots of misunderstanding and there has never been peace among the students,” the letters noted.

When contacted, the secretary of the blind association, Abdulganiyu, who confirmed the letter, said it’s only demarcation with separate administration that can bring peace to the school. He said while the deaf has a population of over 300 students, the blind are just a little above 30 which is causing undue advantage.

“Recently, on a Sunday, one of our blind students was injured by some deaf students. At other times, they take advantage of their inability to see to fondle their breasts, especially when coming from the bathroom,” he added.

During a visit to the school, a deaf student (name withheld) who communicated with Daily Trust on Sunday through writing, said the two groups need one another contrary to the request of the blind students.

Principal speaks 

But the school principal, Engr Abdulganiyu Olododo, while speaking with Daily Trust on Sunday, blamed the leadership of the blind for the suspicion and lack of trust between the two groups.

“Both groups have their own problems which is underscored by deep lack of trust; they will never trust each other. But we have been trying to make them unite like it used to be since we came. The issue is even worse among the deaf students that joined us later. Those that attended primary school here are familiar with the environment but when the deaf tried to help those who joined later, they would think they want to cheat on them, many of them used to miss their way.

“We give preference to the blind on the issue of food. They are the ones to eat first because they are just about 7 percent of the population. After they have eaten, if the remaining food is not enough or doesn’t go round, it is not their problem, it is the deaf students that will be at the receiving end. If there is no water in the kitchen, like we have experienced in the last two weeks, it is the deaf that will go and fetch water.

“The deaf are the ones that will take care of the environment, so tell me how you want them to be happy with the situation but we tried to make them see the issue from the point of view of love and humanity, but the leadership of the blind is the problem.

“When the governor appointed a blind person as SA on Disability, we were all happy over the development then and worked with him. But when the governor gave approval for the deaf to be the principal of the school, they were not happy. I don’t know what their problem is? We have only primary school for the blind here unlike the deaf that has both primary and secondary schools and yet they want to become principal, not headmaster/headmistress, how is that possible? Yet the blind is one of the vice principals and we have been working together,” he noted.

Olododo urged the leaders of the blind to always demonstrate good leadership and give their students good advice and motivation rather than instigating them against the authorities.

“They want a separate secondary and primary school where they can become principal, there is no problem. But that will become another burden on the government. All the assistance that the deaf render to them, who will do it? The government will have to hire people to work for them. This is the only combined school of deaf and blind in the state and many others have come to learn from us how we have been able to do it,” he submitted.

On the issue of sexual harassment, Engr Olododo said “We have house parents that live with the blind boys and girls in the hostel, it’s our responsibility to guard and guide them when they are here, but once they are on holidays, we hand them over to their parents.”

He said there is a need to expand the school dining hall and provision of school bus to ease the movement of the students and take them on excursions to see what is happening in other places.

Aside from the tension between the two groups, there have also been complaints about shortage of classrooms, chairs and tables for the students while some of the students have lamented about leaking roofs when it rains, among others.

Responding to the issue, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Education, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, said she has “written to the governor on the issue but still expecting his reply over the situation.”

Government’s revamping efforts

Since his assumption of office in 2019, Governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq has shown special interest in the development of the school to realise the purpose for which it was built.

The governor, in order to refocus attention on the plight of the students, once hosted the government’s budget review sessions in the school, among other efforts.

As the chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Abdulrazaq also visited the school during the last Democracy Day. Accompanied by school officials, the governor inspected some facilities, including classrooms recently fixed by the administration and those freshly affected by rainstorms with a promise to address the issues affecting the school soonest.

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