Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) are faced with numerous challenges in Nigeria, which obviously require immediate attention. These challenges include limited access to healthcare, lack of education, social stigma, inaccessible infrastructure, economic marginalisation, lack of legal protection, and limited support services among others. Undoubtedly, these have a significant impact on their lives and limit their opportunities for growth and development.
According to the National Population Commission (NPC), an estimated 29 million people have one form of disability or the other in Nigeria. However, this number may be an underestimate as many people with disabilities in Nigeria may not be registered or counted due to stigma, discrimination, and a lack of comprehensive data collection methods.
Yobe is a state in the North East, Nigeria, affected by the decade of Boko Haram insurgency in the country. individuals with disabilities in the state, specifically those who require the use of hand tricycles, face significant barriers to accessing education. This is due to the lack of accessibility in schools and the lack of resources for disabled individuals.
Many schools in Yobe State are not built to accommodate the needs of disabled students, and the lack of hand tricycles exacerbates this problem. This results in the inability of students with disabilities to attend school; hence they are being denied their right to education. This is not only affecting their education but also, their overall daily activities as well as their ability to fully participate in society.
Inarguably, without access to education, they may have limited job opportunities and face social and economic disadvantages. Therefore, addressing the challenges is essential for creating a more inclusive and equitable society for all.
It was consequent to this fact that the North-East Youth Initiative for Development (NEYIF), a non-government organisation, with support from Muslim Velly Singapore and Chikaji Foundation, provided hand tricycles to individuals with disabilities, who require wheelchairs to improve their access to education and greatly enhance their overall quality of life.
Speaking with BONews, the Executive Director of NEYIF, Comrade Dauda Muhammad Gombe, stated that ‘’the project aims to assist persons with disabilities especially those with physical disabilities with means of transportation for school age and adults to enable them to achieve their goals and take them off the street”
“There are hundreds of them on the street that need support from individuals, governments, and other organisations,” he said.
Gombe noted, however, that the foundation worked in other areas as well such as Qurban, Milk for malnourished children, clothing for vulnerable children and others.
‘’The beneficiaries of the intervention are mostly boys and girls of school age and the elderly who do not have the means to afford wheelchairs due to poor backgrounds and other social economic challenges.
“The beneficiaries were drawn from Damaturu, Tarmuwa, and Gujba LGAs, while we are planning to expand to reach more people in need in the second batch. We are calling on the government, individuals, and other partners to support the initiative for an inclusive society. The number of the PWDs that had benefited so far from the support were 50,” said the executive director.
In addition to the provision of wheelchairs to PWDs in the state, the NGO also launched the second batch of a community support initiative through Bundugari Community Association (BCA), where 20 orphans, less-privileged and vulnerable children were selected and went home with a complete set of school uniform, shoe, bag and writing Materials among others.
Similarly, the foundation announced 10 application forms for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) for qualified students with poor backgrounds and 10 women received N10,000 each as startup capital. Additionally, 20 youths are enrolled for vocational training.
To make the job easy, Gombe said the beneficiaries were selected through the Yobe State Chapter of the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD). This association, he said, facilitated the process of identifying the target beneficiaries of the hand tricycle, mostly children of school age and elderly men in their respective local government; and coordinated the distribution of the item, alongside other volunteer community organisations.
With this help, children, who could not go to school, are now happily attending school, moving with their hand tricycle, and interacting with their peers. By accounts, the intervention had reached no fewer than 50 children, elderly men, and women with a disability who required mobility aid.
Some of the Beneficiaries Bear witness
Meanwhile, some of the beneficiaries shared testimonies that the intervention provided them the opportunity to go to school and participate in social activities.
‘’Before the support, I am always at home and feel a sense of exclusion from social, and economic activities because of my inability to walk; you see my leg? But now with this hand tricycle, I can move to my friend’s house, go to school and participate in other activities. I now feel a sense of inclusion. May God bring more of this support to others who do not have the privilege of having one’’ Ahmed Musa said.
Another beneficiary from Damaturu Local Government, Umar Muhammed, expressed his heartfelt commendation to the founder of the organisation and the funders that provide them with the wheelchair. He noted that he was excited to enrol in school.
Fatima Ibrahim, is a beneficiary from the Gujba local government area, a council area devastatingly hit by the Boko Haram crisis, which displaced thousands of people. She said the mobility aid is greatly easing her living.
“I can now move easily to wherever I want to go. As you can see I am coming from school now and I will still go tomorrow,” she said.
Disability Groups applaud the Initiative
Malam Abba Isa is the Head, Gender and Persons with Disabilities of the Yobe State Network of Civil Society Organizations. He applauded the kind gesture of the interventionist organisation and its partner.
‘’The provision of hand tricycles empowers individuals with disabilities to participate in daily activities that were previously inaccessible to them, such as going to work or school, participating in community events and activities, and even visiting family and friends.
“This intervention has increased their independence, self-esteem, and overall sense of inclusion in society,’’ said Isa, who is also the Special Adviser to the Yobe State Governor on PWDs.
He said the state has a large population of PWDs of school age, who are constrained, due to the lack of hand tricycles as some of them wanted to go to schools.
He, afterwards, called on individuals and other organisations, most importantly, the government to do more in providing support to PWDs in the state.
Similarly, Alhaji Usman Bura, the Chairman of JONAPWD in Yobe applauded the effort of the organisation’s support and its funders for the distribution of the tricycles.
‘’This is commendable and we are calling on individuals and organisations to provide more support to any of our clusters to enable them to participate in social life with their peers,” he added.
When BONews inquired about the status of the Disability Bill in the state, he said the bill, which had been passed by the state House of Assembly is awaiting executive assent.
‘’We had tried our best with our partners to ensure the bill scaled through the legislative process, but to our dismay, the executive is yet to assent to the bill. Therefore we are calling on the government to look into the bill again for assent so that our members can have a sense of inclusion,’’ he said.
The intervention still faces some challenges
Notwithstanding the successes of this initiative in Gombe, the NEYIF boss pointed out some factors that are hindering the response to work maximally; one of which he said, is the inability to expand the reach to other communities across the state.
He asserted that limited resources was another factor that is preventing the inclusion of PWDs in other local government areas in the state as the only few people reached were from the Tarmuwa, Damaturu, and Gujba local government councils.
This story has been made possible by Nigeria Health Watch with support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.