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by Festus Iyorah
Benedicta is impaired, not impeded
In Nigeria, tertiary education is not meant for able-bodied students alone, visually impaired students have not been left behind in the acquisition of degree in different field in the University.
Statistics from Jamb show the number of visually impaired students seeking admission at different tertiary institutions has increased.
Benedicta is part of the visually impaired student who chose going to the university over street begging. Despite being handicapped financially, she decided she would go to the university.
Ogbonna applied for Jamb, passed her exams and was offered admission to Study Public Administration and Local Government at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. The euphoria that comes with being admitted into UNN had not subsided when she encountered another challenge of paying her school fees.
She borrowed to pay through a loan, while her church sponsored her second and third year school fees.
“Once I’m done with school and I work for a month, I will be able to pay back the loan.”
“Begging will not help”
“I don’t support begging,” she says, adding that there are other options a visually impaired person can explore instead of begging
“I know all hands are not equal. I know some people are very poor but instead of going to the streets to beg you can write a letter to your church. Tell the person I want to further my education or start a business. It’s better than begging.”
“You’re blind doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. I don’t like it; it limits you. I prefer soliciting for fund for a cause (to start a business or pay school fees) rather than begging,”
Benedicta: an industrious, visionary lady.
In 2013 after she secured a loan to pay her school fees, Benedicta started baking just to keep body and soul moving. Juggling school work and baking, Benedicta finessed her way into baking pastries. She would stay up in the wee hours of the day to bake cup cakes, egg roll she would sell in the lecture room. She would mix sugar, butter and flour with her senses, “it’s only my eyes that is blind, other organs are functioning,” she told Ynaija,
She does it every day even without an electric oven; she deploys aluminum pot and stove as her own makeshift oven. She does the mixing of sugar and butter part herself, including the addition of other ingredient, while the icing is done by someone else.
Oluebube Okafor, her friend and hostel mate who helps her with the icing said she’s never seen any visually impaired student that is as industrious as Benedicta.
Citing an instance, Okafor told me how Benedicta baked eight cakes on Matriculation day in UNN.
“Because of the stress involved in baking, I choose not to bake much on matric day but Benedicta baked six cakes at first and baked extra two,” she told Ynaija.
Beyond her industriousness, Benedicta told me she wants to work at the woman affairs. Why?
She wants to champion the course of change for visually impaired people. “I want to empower those (visually impaired people), change their mind set, she said, smiling”
“I want to work there to empower some of the visually impaired people; some of them don’t have the zeal to go to school. Then we will know what to do to bring them together. Mobilized them and empower them,” she said with a strong, firm tone characterized by seriousness.
As the interview reaches its crescendo, Benedicta, who’s talking more like an activist for visually impaired students said she doesn’t subscribe to the claim that a blind person can’t do business except for begging.
“Instead of begging, they should acquire skills. They should acquire skills like baking, how to make liquid soap, disinfectants.”
Brave Women is YNaija.com’s citizenship series for the month of March. Find more stories in the series here.