Cyril Ojembe, a 48-year-old man, was a Further Mathematics teacher at the Olasore International School, Iloko-Ijesha Osun State before he lost his sight and resigned from the job as a result of various levels of barriers, discrimination, and stigmatization he experienced at work.
After 5 years of struggling with rejection and subjecting himself to rehabilitation, Mr. Ojembe got a job at Ikeja Junior School where he is teaching Deaf Students mathematics.
Doctors’ Strike Contributed to Total loss of my Sight – Ojembe
“I was diagnosed of glaucoma in 2012 at the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile Ife and I was placed on a weekly check-up and cross-examination, which I complied with”, Ojembe narrated.
Continuing, Ojembe said, “in 2014, the eyes became worse and I could not see clearly, and I was told to act fast to ensure that I do not lose the sight completely. However, there was strike action by the Resident doctors between January to June 2014, and I could not access adequate treatment for my eyes.
“During this period, I was roaming up and down looking for which doctor I need to see or hospital I need to go to because I had nobody to go to, after trying for a while my vision was depleting that it became worst which I was told no more remedy.
“As a result of that, my sight deteriorated to the extent I had to resign from work.”
Ojembe continued, “in October 2015, six months after I resigned at my place of work, I went for an operation which went well at first, and the doctor advised me to come for examination throughout October 2015.
“During one of my visitation, the doctor said the right eye was having an issue which had then spread to the left eye and was already complicated.
“So, I was billed for surgery and I had to go for the Operation in Lagos Eye Foundation at GRA Ikeja, which went well. However, six months later, I had another problem and started having serious pain in my eyes, by the time I returned back to the hospital I was told that there was nothing they could do to fix the eye, that there was contamination, and by June 2016 I lost my sight totally.
Losing My Sight, Beginning of A New World – Ojembe
“It was a very challenging and frustrating experience for me when I lost my sight completely, I could no longer socialize as I used to do and I took the frustration and transfer of aggression on my immediate family; my wife and children at first,” Mr. Ojembe recounted.
He however revealed that “with love and patience accompany with a lot of endurance that my immediate family showed me, it began to calm down gradually, though it was not easy.”
Continuing, Mr. Ojembe said, “I was depressed and it seems like the whole world had just crashed on me, my life depended on others and I felt miserable. After a while, a friend of mine advised me to go for rehabilitation.
“In 2018, I traveled down to Lagos and enrolled for rehabilitation at the Federal Nigeria Society for the Blind, CAPPA, Oshodi, by 2019. It was during my rehabilitation that I got exposed to how to use technology devices and assistive aids.
“So getting exposed to that equipment helped to relieve my burden and concern of being too dependent on my wife and children for every assistance. This was the reason I was able to rejig my career.”
He revealed that the rehabilitation enhanced him to function effectively as a teacher.
My Experience Teaching Deaf Students
Switching from a regular teacher to a special teacher is not an easy task, according to Mr. Ojembe, but “with the passion I had, I was able to fit into the system.”
“Teaching mathematics requires detailed explanation and imagine that I am Blind and teaching Deaf students mathematics. This has however been smooth as the sign language interpreter has been helping to translate my teachings,” he added.
Despite some of the barriers he faced, Mr. Ojembe said, “I’ll say nothing spoilt my interest in teaching, in fact, teaching to me is a calling.
“I love teaching, it has been over a decade-plus, I’ll say fifteen to sixteen years of active service with a little bit of glitch in terms of active teaching between 2015 and 2020, there was a glitch in that aspect. I’ll say I went on sabbatical leave because of the eye situation.”
Improving Inclusive Education in Nigeria
Mr. Ojembe noted that his experience has made him realize that society needs to be inclusive at various levels and that the world shouldn’t come to an end because someone acquires one form of disability or the other.
Mr. Ojembe thereafter urged the Nigerian government to look into the Education Policy, and see how best things can be done to revitalize the educational standards for people with disabilities.
To achieve this, Mr. Ojembe said, the possibility of having more inclusive schools and special teachers should be explored.
He explained that there should be “provision of right infrastructures, equipment, and educational materials such as smart boards which would portray or relay information to students in pictorial formats.
He also called for a public-private partnership to address the key challenges within the Education sector.
“The private sector and other relevant stakeholders should liaise with government on how they can help to solve pressing issues with the knowledge of their expertise.”