BAYO ALADE made a journey into the world of people living with hearing impairment, noting that governments at different levels, parents and the society at large still have a lot to do to bring into the mainstream this category of people who need special attention.
IYANUOLUWA Veronica Folarin is a 21-year-old lady and a student of Guidance and Counseling at the Faculty of Education, University of Ibadan, Oyo State. At a first glance, nobody would know she was living with hearing impairment. Seeing her for the first time, she looked just like any other student on industrial attachment at Tribune House, but after she was introduced, perception changed and she told her story through a back and forth exchange of papers in which questions and answers were written.
She could talk a little but she could not hear at all. As a four-year-old girl, she lost her hearing. Her parents had told her that one day, she was probably playing around the house and eventually got a small object stuck in her ear. After showing some discomfort, she was taken to hospital to have the object removed. Removing the object did not help matters as she was left deaf. Since then, she has been living with hearing impairment.
As a child, Iyanuoluwa was not immediately aware that there was a problem. In fact, she continued to attend the normal school and she was coping well or so her parents thought, since they probably could not figure out what to do immediately.
Later on, her parents were able to put her in a school for the deaf when she got to Primary 3. That gave her the pedestal to begin to catch up with lost grounds in her education.
It was not as if things have been rosy for her educationally since then. For example, one of her greatest fears was that she might not do well on gaining admission to the university because she learnt that any student who didn’t do well there will be sent packing. But somehow, she has been coping since then.
She interacts very well with some of her friends in school who do not have hearing problems. Since she could talk, she converses with friends by reading their lips. Those who could use sign language also flow with her effortlessly.
Does she have male admirers? Hardly so, she said, except a few boys in her church fellowship who chat with her and one of them even serves as her interpreter whenever she converses with people without hearing impairment.
On how she hopes to be effective as a counselor since she is living with hearing impairment, Iyanuoluwa said she was not worried as she could be of help to those who are living with hearing impairment.
“Though I did not choose to study Guidance and Counseling, I find it interesting. Truly I had some problems with it initially due to the different methods being used to teach the course.
“Having problems with hearing does not mean I cannot be effective studying Guidance and Counseling. So I believe that studying the course may be of help not only to me, but also to some of my people with hearing impairment,” she said.
Iyanuoluwa has been lucky to have the love of her parents and siblings. They communicate with her verbally and she reads their lips but whenever there are difficult words that she could not understand, they write them down for her.
“My parents relate to me at home by speaking to me since I too can speak. So when they are speaking to me, even though I can’t hear them, what I do is to read their lips, same goes for my siblings. They communicate by speaking to me and I also speak to them and I lip-read them,” she said.
In future would she want to get married to somebody without hearing impairment or somebody like herself? Iyanuoluwa said she would not mind marrying somebody living with hearing impairment. She is also not against marrying someone with normal speech and hearing.
Sunday Tribune also spoke with the chairman and secretary of Oyo State branch of the National Association of the Deaf, Akinfenwa Isaac Morakinyo and Kareem Taofeek Abidemi respectively, on various issues affecting people living with hearing impairment. Both of them were agreed on some of the problems which include inadequate number of special education teachers, classrooms, dormitories, including lack of funding which together contribute to high rate of dropping out of school among the people living with hearing impairment and subsequently lack of employment.
«We always do our possible best to appeal to politicians in the past but all our efforts were in vain. Most of the politicians use us. After winning elections we were often sidelined and our members left out in the cold. However, we hope things will change, especially for those of us in Oyo State going by the promises made by the new governor,” Morakinyo said.
Is the association making efforts to have more people living with hearing impairment enrol in school and retain them, the Secretary, Mr Abidemi responded in the affirmative highlighting some of the problems often encountered.
“Over the years, we have been enlightening our people, but most of the challenges they face are lack of funds, parents’ negligence among others,” Abidemi added.
Both men were also emphatic in their responses that the rate of employment for students who manage to graduate is abysmally low and the fact that Abidemi›s’s wife is still unemployed years after graduation is a testimony to that.
Love is a universal language as the saying goes, and obviously those living with hearing impairment also fall in love. Abidemi›s’s wife is also living with hearing impairment. Sunday Tribune asked him how they met.
“Initially, we were just friends and communicating through WhatsApp and Facebook. I love you was always the way we ended our conversations. Before long, we ended up getting married. My wife is an Igbo lady from Imo State also living with hearing impairment but she could speak a little and she is living with their two children in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, where she is doing part-time teaching in a private school,” Abidemi said.
Morakinyo’s wife could speak normally. He met his wife in one of the churches in Okeho, Oyo State, while working there and they started their relationship as friends before it got deeper. He could speak a little, so he was able to converse with his wife’s family members. The relationship lasted six years before they got married.
“My wife is a graduate and she is working in one of the government-owned secondary schools in Oyo town. It is my great joy to see my wife and our child trying to communicate in sign language with me and other friends. It is so funny to see how they are coping with me,” Morakinyo said of his young family.
Adebukola Ayodele Abakpa, 41, is also a person living with hearing impairment. According to her mother, Mrs Esther Odusina, who spoke with Sunday Tribune, when she was born, she was responding to sound around her but after her mother in-law took her to Orun Ekiti when she was just nine months old, things changed.
From time to time, Mrs Odusina was visiting Ekiti to see her daughter but after some time, she noticed that Abakpa was not responding to sound around her like other children, more so that she was over a year old at that time.
It was after sometime that Mrs Odusina learnt that AAbakpa was sick at a time and was unconscious for about three days. The girl was however brought back to Ibadan where she was enrolled at the School for the Deaf, Ijokodo, Ibadan and later proceded to Methodist Grammar School (Special), Bodija, Ibadan, Oyo State. She would later attend College of Education (Special), Oyo, Oyo State.
Abakpa is an only child, raised by her mother alone but today, she is a wonder to those who thought she could not amount to anything in life. Even her father was surprised.
“When she got married some months ago, all her friends came for the wedding from far and wide. Those living with hearing impairment love one another, they all came to support. Even some of her friends are my social media friends,” Mrs Odusina said, reflecting on how things have turned out positively for her daughter.
The wedding was also a surprise to her mother. Abakpa, who attends Deeper Life Church, was already in love with a man also living with hearing impairment. So when officials came from the church wanting her parental consent to the relationship between her and her lover, Abakpa, from Benue State, she was surprised.
Today, Mrs Odusina is an advocate for people living with hearing disabilities, advising parents on how to accept the special nature of their children living with hearing impairment and that with faith in God, they would turn out well.