INVESTIGATION: THE UNHEARD PAINS AND GROANS OF SPECIAL STUDENTS IN THE UNIVERSITY OF IBADAN (PART 2 OF 3)

BY– HALEEM OLATUNJI

DOES UI HAVE THE STATISTICS OF SPECIAL STUDENTS?
It is a popular saying that he who fails to plan has planned to fail. In planning, facts and figures (data) are key, for the best way to entertain guests is to know the number of guests one is expecting. Just as you cannot plan a proper dinner without knowing the number of those coming to dine, the University of Ibadan cannot cater for those whose statistics they do not possess. The World report on disability, published in 2011, stated that about 25 million Nigerians had at least one disability, while 3.6 million of these had very significant difficulties in functioning. However, while Nigeria has a clue on the number of special persons in the country, same cannot be said for the University of Ibadan.

While working with Special Persons’ Club (SPC), it was gathered that the University seems not to possess the data of special persons in the institution. Key officials of the SPC informed the Journalist about how they made several attempts to get these statistics from the school in order to plan their activities and look after the welfare of their members, but the University used the weapon of bureaucracy in covering its inadequacies.

“On countless occasions we have tried to get the statistics of students with disability in UI and I must say that it is rather shocking that the Management Information System (MIS) of the University could not provide that,” Idowu Adeyemi, SPC president said.

“At our first trial, I was specifically told to write a letter to the Deputy Director, which I did in the name of the club, requesting that we need the details of students with disability in UI and we were asked to wait for about a couple of weeks. After two weeks, we went back there and we were told to wait for another week and after that one week, we were told to go to Jaja (University Health Services). Meanwhile, we have sought for this same detail in Jaja before, where Jaja referred us to the MIS. So we don’t know where to go, whether it is to go to Jaja or to go the MIS. So it seems more like the University does not really have a data to that effect or if they do, we do not know why we don’t have access to them,” SPC President said.

The General Secretary of Club, Mr. Mitchell also validated the information given by the President of the Club.

HALLS OF RESIDENCE, OFFICIALS AND THE CONFUSION THEREIN
There is an existing confusion within the administration of the University of Ibadan especially as it relates to issues of special students and their halls of residence. The University of Ibadan has a total of 12 halls of residence, 10 of which are for undergraduates while 2 are for postgraduates. Of the 10 undergraduate halls, 6 are occupied by males, 3 by females and 1 by both (located in UCH). However, there is a question of whether or not there is/are official hall(s) for special students. It was noted that for the special female students, Queen Elizabeth II hall has been made the official hall as a result of its proximity to the school area, but it appears that there is a big confusion on which male hall is the official for special male students.

In an interview with Mellanby Hall Warden, Dr. Ademola Atanda, while addressing the reason why a special student had to be relocated from a room in Mellanby Hall to Kuti Hall, after he got a motorized wheelchair, informed the journalist that the student probably left because Mellanby Hall couldn’t give him the environment which he needed for better mobility.

“Maybe that was why he felt he should go and when you have an emergency like that, it is not that time you say now want to change the structure of a particular plant that may take time….. Normally, I think they have a special hall where they put them. I wouldn’t know how they were placed here because I know there is a particular hall where they place physically challenged students but I think Kuti Hall. Maybe the University doesn’t have information, but this can inform the University Management to ensure that our Halls are special needs-compliant,” Mellanby Hall Warden said.

In a bid to confirm the claim made by Dr. Atanda, a phone call was placed to the Kuti Hall Warden, Dr. Adejoro. He explained that he cannot authoritatively respond to the question of whether or not Kuti Hall is the official hall of residence for special male students.

“Once they give us any handicapped student, we make provisions for them and that is number one. Number two, you would be able to get the best answer from the Dean of Student or the Deputy Dean”, Dr. Adejoro explained.

At the moment, it appears that the Management of the University of Ibadan has not been paying needed attention to the needs of special students. While Queen Elizabeth II Hall is said to be the official hall for special female students, we still have special female students in other female halls just like Miss Mercy, a student of Special Education, who was allocated to and lived all her 100 level days in Obafemi Awolowo Hall, during the 2015/2016 session, but currently stays off campus. For the male students, while some part of the school management claims that Kuti Hall is the official Hall for special students, we currently have special male students in Mellanby Hall, Tedder Hall, Bello Hall, among others.

THE ADVOCATES, THE VIOLATORS
It is a common saying that there is no place like home. But what then can we say of a case where home is not homely, where our home does not give us the comfort we deserve and where the knowledge taught contradicts the knowledge implemented in such space?

It is expected that should there be just one place in the University of Ibadan where special students will feel comfortable with, happy to be and a source of leading example to every corner, section and structure within the institution, such place should be the Department of Special Education and the Faculty which houses it but as unexpected as it might seem, the structure of Special Education and that of its faculty is more dangerous to special persons when compared to several other departments and faculties.

There are four entrances to access the Faculty of Education building and all these entrances are guarded by staircases, making it difficult for easy access. Even the Large Lecture Theatre and all other lecture rooms can only be accessed after climbing several staircases. Worse still, the department of Special Education itself is located on the second floor in the building which houses it. This most likely explains the reason why other faculties and departments shall never comply with the standard.

Mr. Oyewole Ebenezer, a Doctoral student (PhD Candidate) who specializes in Learning Disability in the department said: “Starting from the Faculty of Education, the building that occupies the special education department is not a friendly environment to the disabled student, because it is expected that it should not be a storey-building. It has been a problem for students with special needs because it hinders some of them from attending lectures”.

EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE: SURVEY, RESULTS
In a bid to unveil the state of things, generate more facts and collate greater evidence on the issue at hand, a journey was embarked on via empirical study by creating a questionnaire which was distributed and responded to by random special male and female, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students in the University of Ibadan. The results of the survey whose respondents were 13 in number are as follows:

Majority (53.8%) responded that they reside(d) on the ground floor; majority responded that they got accommodation “after much stress”; Majority (53.8%) responded that they are not satisfied with the current state of their Hall, disability-wise; Majority (69.2%) said the road that leads to the reading rooms in their halls of residence is not disability-friendly; Majority (53.8%) responded that they do not have easy access to the Cafeteria; Majority (61.5%) responded that they do not have easy access to water; Majority (69.2%) responded that the structure of their Halls or residence is generally disability-unfriendly; Every respondent (100%)responded that they would be glad if ramps are placed around strategic locations in the Hall to make movement easy.

THE ARGUMENTS OF THE SCHOOL MANAGEMENT AND COUNTER ARGUMENTS
To hear the view of the both sides, reporters had an interview with the Dean of Students’ Affairs (DSA) in his office. The Dean while addressing the state of things explained the position of the University Management, which he summarized on three grounds. First, he gave the grave blame to the Federal Government’s inability to fund the Halls of Residence. Secondly, he explained that while the Halls of residence were built, the condition of special persons was not put into consideration by the colonial masters. And, lastly, he mentioned that the Halls of residence are seen as artefacts, thus, tampering with their state means eroding an important historical link.

“You would agree with me that those halls were built even when I was not born and they were not mindful of all these things and the major problem is that government is not funding hostel accommodation,” the DSA said.

“At a stage, they said they should send students out, but one thing that helps us in Ibadan which those other Universities do not have is that we always share things. So if you demolish all these things, you are eroding one important link.”

Visitation was also done to the Physical Planning Unit of the University, in order to generate more facts as regards the position of the school and to look into how the Unit can bring in the needed change. When the journalist got there, the attendant (a male) said no information will be released to the journalist unless he writes a letter to request for an interview, after which the Director shall comply by requesting a member of the Unit to attend to it.

Having heard this, the Journalist immediately left the Unit, wrote the letter where he added his mobile number (as directed by the Attendant), had it printed and returned to the Unit, all within an hour. The attendant received the letter, confirmed the mobile number and told the Journalist that the Unit shall get back to him. However, it should be noted that the letter was submitted on 9th of August, 2017 at about 3:00pm and till date (November), the Unit is yet to grant the interview.

While the school has attempted to justify their attitude on this matter, there have been counter arguments provided by students and other stakeholders. It is believed that because a hut was built several years ago does not mean that such hut cannot be converted to a mini flat, should the need arise, several decades later. It is believed that since the University of Ibadan aims at becoming a world class institution, it must be willing to provide equal and world class facilities for students, as well make constant provisions for it to flow with the 21st century Ocean of change.

On the argument of lack of funds, Mr. Idowu, the President of Special Persons Club told the Journalist that “If the University lacks fund, what happens to calling the attention of private investors? If the University of Ibadan really cares about students with disability, there is always a way to generate fund to take care of these needs.”

“We have First Bank Building, CBN lecture theatre, the University did not pay for every single thing we have on campus, which is why there are donations and room for private investors. I think should the University decide to seek the aid of private individuals, external investors who are caring and really interested in this, I think things will change for the better. But what I think is the problem is that there is a kind of cavalier attitude towards the issue of disability in UI. It seems more like a second-class issue, which is not prioritized. I think that is the major problem, not funds.”

On the argument tabled by the DSA, as regards the creation of the Halls in absence of the consideration for special students, a survey made in several Halls of residence observed that some provisions were made while some Halls were established, but the current state of these provisions are in a total state of defeat. In Bello Hall, for example, there are provisions for special paths, at least for wheelchairs. However, the purpose of these spaces has been hijacked from that of easy mobility of special students to the planting and growing of flowers.

This is just part 2 of a 3-part story which brings to light the pains and groans of students battling with a form of disability or the other within the University of Ibadan. They have disability but they are no liability to the society.

Part 3 loading…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *