Prof. Kamoru Usman, Provost, College of Education (Special) Oyo has called for the improvement of educational facilities for persons with disabilities in Higher institutions of learning in Nigeria.
Prof. Usman also called for increased funding for special education in the country and attitudinal change towards persons with disabilities.
In an interview with Punch Newspaper, Prof. Usman decried that, “the problem we are facing in the education sector did not just start today; it is the cumulative effect of how the sector was run in past years.
“But to me, we are not doing badly. When some of our products leave this country, they perform wonders. That is to say, our education sector is still doing fine.
“What I have a problem with is that there are no special funds for scholarships to encourage those that are endowed with special talents,” he added.
Speaking on the inadequate number of Special schools across the country, the Provost also said, “we don’t have enough schools for people with special needs. This is the only school training teachers for people with special needs.
“We have 21 Federal Colleges of Education in Nigeria; eight are technical schools, 12 are conventional schools, while one is a special school and they treat us alike.
“They are not giving us special funding. But, with the support of some foundations and organisations that grant our students scholarships, we are coping but we are not getting enough.
“With the resources available, we are trying our best. We give credit to Tertiary Education Trust Fund; it has been very supportive. We are trying our best with the little that is given to us.
Mr Usman said “we have an average of 5,000 students. About 2,000 of them live with disabilities. Our focus is not only to help people with special needs alone but to help the people who would help them.
“Let’s take the case of Deaf persons, for instance; if we are to train only them alone, who will interpret? So, we train sign language interpreters to help to communicate with people that are hearing impaired.
“At times we need more people without disabilities to help those with special needs. I think it is a ratio of three to two; that is why we have about 3,000 students without physical disabilities and 2,000 students with special needs.
“For instance, we have the highest concentration of people with disabilities – staff and students – in any institution in Nigeria. He added.
“Despite having special schools for people with disabilities, we still have a high number of them begging for alms on the streets; where did the country get it wrong?
“In the past, people locked their loved ones who had disabilities in the house. We are just trying to make them realise that there is ability in disability.
“The number of schools for the physically challenged is not enough. With enough schools for those with special needs at the primary and secondary school levels, it will be easy to get enough students at the tertiary level.
“The mandate of our college is to train teachers that would teach in primary and secondary schools. Invariably, we need enough schools to absorb our products. Unfortunately, most of our products are jobless,” Prof Usman explained.
He lamented about how society still regards people with disabilities as objects of pity.
“Sincerely, this set of people are highly intelligent. Given equal opportunity others have, they would excel. So, they prefer empathy for sympathy.
“They are very interesting. They are better than what many people perceive them to be and that is to say, there is ability in disability,” he added.