Aishat Ize Jatua’s story is that of ability in the face of disability. Ashat, who lost her sight in her second year at Federal University of Technology, Minna (FUT, Minna), where she studied Industrial Technology, did not allow this mishap to rule or ruin her. Determined to make a difference she initiated Ize Therapy Vocational Centre to help parents cope with children who have challenges like autism, Down Syndrome, dyslexia, and cerebral palsy, sight and hearing impediments among others. JOHN OBA writes
Aishat Ize Jatau is a graduate of Industrial Technology from Federal University of Technology, Minna (FUT, Minna). She lost her sight six years ago and her desire to regain her vision was futile in spite of the best medical interventions in Nigeria, India, USA and Thailand.
However, with support from her family support, she set up Ize Therapy Vocational Centre, located in the Gwarinpa area of the FCT. The Centre is aimed at helping people with special needs improve their lives and see their disability as ability hence seek and acquire more knowledge.
Recounting her experience during a seminar organised by the centre to assist parents understand and cope with special needs children, she said: “One day, six years ago, I woke up with severe headache. I thought the pain would go away. But it did not and I had to go to the hospital. The pain still did not subside.
“Two weeks into the complaint, my vision started to deteriorate. I went to Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Lokoja, for medical intervention. When I got there, the ophthalmologist referred me to the National Hospital, Abuja, where I was admitted for over a month, but the vision did not improve prompting my family to take me to India, where I had a surgery. But the vision really did not improve.
“One month later, I went to the U.S. and later Bangkok, but the vision did not improve. I felt devastated losing my sight, but I had to speak to myself that I must move on with my life.”
Speaking further, she said: “My family got me a teacher and that was how I met Mrs Mildred Abimbola, who is the administrator of the centre. She took me through series of therapy and vocational venture.
“As I was acquiring all these skills I was also thinking of the next step to better my life. Initially, when I was thinking of what to do I was looking for a centre like this to go to, to meet people in Abuja but there was no centre like this so I thought of opening an establishment like this to help the people with special needs to meet their needs and improve their lives. So, we came up with the idea of the vocational centre.”
Aishat, who disclosed that the centre, which has boarding facilities is to cater for individuals with various forms of challenges, added: “Our objectives is to meet the emotional and psychological, and social environmental challenges of the children through follow up physiotherapy, giving them vocational skills, bringing consultants that will access them and treat them, creating an enabling environment to cater for them.”
While stating that Foundation will take children who are aged 10 years and above in its boarding facility, she made case for more advocacy relating to children with special needs, stating that parents should be made conscious of the importance of paying more attention to physically challenged children.
She encouraged other people with special needs to be confident in themselves and seek ways to improve their lives, pointing out that: “When I lost my sight I was devastated, I lost hope, but with the help of my family, I was able to bounce back and be confident in myself. I want them to see their disability as ability to seek more and acquire more knowledge. I want them to believe if they think of anything that they can actually achieve what they want to do.
“So, at Ize Therapy and Vocational Centre, we cater for their basic necessity, feeding, clothing and education as well as create a serene environment for leaning, to create productive individuals through vocational and skills acquisition. We also help facilitate their own establishment and improvement.
“We don’t just want to keep our eggs in one basket and say we are vocational, we want them to learn. People who lose their vision or impairment can learn how to brail, how to type. I can brail and type.
“I also want the government to help the individuals with special need to create a good environment for us to live in and how to live better. We also appeal to the ministry of education and others in the sector, for assistance because when schools only pay attention on people that can see and don’t have impediments the others would be left behind. The teachers too should not stigmatise children with special needs.”
She called on Nigerians in general to stop stigmatisation and discrimination against people living with disability, noting that those living with disabilities are human and did not make themselves like that.
“I just want to tell those people that stigmatise individuals that have special needs that we are same in this world. I don’t want them to stigmatise us because what they can do we can do even better.
They should help them without giving them a reason to lose hope,” she said.
Similarly, she appealed to corporate bodies and NGOs to help support the centre become bigger and better for the people with special needs.
Also, sharing his experience during Aishat’s ordeal, her father, Engr. Jatau Badams, appealed to parents who have children with special needs not to give up on them.
Badmus, who is a director in the ministry of agriculture and rural development, said: “I am determined to give her the best in life. At the end of the day this disability will not incapacitate her. She will be able to live a normal life and she is trying to do so now.
“So, I use this opportunity to appeal to parents who have kids that are challenged to be courageous and do their best because the kind of encouragement we give them will encourage them to be integrated in the society.”