Fifteen years ago, in the heart of Ikotun, a significant event altered the course of my life. Expressing my gratitude in words may never fully convey the depth of my emotions during those trying times.
I was just a young teenager when glaucoma mercilessly robbed me of my vision, leaving me shattered and defeated. The future appeared bleak, and I had resigned myself to my fate. In my isolation, I felt like the only young person grappling with visual impairment, surrounded by older individuals I encountered in various hospitals.
A turning point came when I realized that despite my condition, I could still recognize my peers as my friends, but sadly, they no longer saw me in the same light. Even my family home felt like just a house. My anguish deepened as the neighborhood, including children, subjected me to hurtful words and taunting songs. The weight of it all was crushing, and I began to lose hope. Even my constant companion, tears, seemed to have abandoned me.
On a fateful day, I reached a breaking point. I questioned the purpose of my fight for survival when life felt like an endless battle. In despair, I consumed two bottles of Ota PiaPia insecticide, and darkness descended. Fortunately, one of our observant neighbors found me lying on the floor and alerted others.
A few years later, following the dramatic night when I attempted to end my life, I relocated to Ile-Ife, my hometown, to continue battling my despondency. I despised every aspect of life and my situation, which didn’t improve in Ife; in fact, it worsened, and I became a target of ridicule.
One day, my mother informed me that since it had been confirmed that I wouldn’t regain my sight medically, she decided to establish a business center for me. This center would provide phone call services and recharge cards. I was utterly devastated, pondering how my life had become such a waste, shedding tears of bitterness alongside my mother, who was equally inconsolable.
I continued to grapple with stigmatization until one fateful morning when my mother informed me that she had found a school for the blind in Cappa, Oshodi, where I could learn. My joy was boundless that day, and I urged my mother to expedite the process. Fortunately, I was admitted to the training center about a week later.
I felt on top of the world as the Center’s Student Affairs Officer, Mrs. Victoria Aregbe, escorted me to the hostel. However, our joy was short-lived as Mrs. Aregbe discovered an unfortunate incident involving two male students. One had used a razor blade to harm the other, resulting in profuse bleeding. The injured student received immediate attention, and I was eventually settled into the hostel.
I adapted quickly and dedicated myself to my rehabilitation. I spent two years at the center, mastering braille reading and writing, typewriting, computer literacy, and more. By December 2011, I was named the overall best student in these skills.
With my rehabilitation complete, my hope was rekindled, and I pursued further education. I sat for the General Council Examination in 2012, and to my delight, I achieved six credits. Despite facing admission denials three times at the University of Lagos and the University of Abuja, I persevered and was eventually admitted to study English Language at the prestigious Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife.
This marked a significant turning point in my life. Despite the challenges I faced as an undergraduate, I graduated with a second class lower in 2021 and served at the Ministry of Education in Ibadan.
The events that followed are now part of history, but today, I reflect with profound gratitude.
I extend my heartfelt thanks to God for guiding people to stand by me and help me find my path to greatness.
Damilola Olawoyin is a visually impaired writer and advocate of social inclusion.