By Oluwasegun Ikugbadi
The University of Lagos wasn’t just a campus for Olalekan Ibrahim.
Rather, the University of the Nations Pride was a Mount Everest to conquer with a blindfold on.
Join us as we hear his inspiring story of defying odds and scaling academic heights following the 54th (2022) Convocation Ceremony at the University of Lagos.
Kindly Introduce Yourself
I am Olalekan Ibrahim, a graduate of the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lagos.
Can You Tell Us About How You Lost Your Sight?
I can’t categorically tell when I got blind because it started gradually. What I can say is that it started with pains and reddening of my left eye. From there, I started noticing that my vision was reducing. This started getting worse and I could not continue to do what I was always doing. I couldn’t cross the road myself which meant I had to stop going to school. Because of this worsening vision, I had to stay at home for 4 years without going to school. Then in 2009 and after surgery, I was told that it was no longer possible for me to see again.
After my blindness was medically confirmed, I was admitted to study in a blind school in Surulere for a Year-long rehabilitation program. After that, I attended FGCL, Ijanikin.
What Motivates You To Come For A Degree After Losing Your Sight?
I heard about many blind people who were well-educated and each time I heard about that, I always told myself that if they could do it, I could do it too.
How Were You Able To Navigate From The Hostel To The Lecture Halls?
When it comes to movement from hostel to class, I have people with whom we often walked together. God blessed me with amazing people. When it comes to studying, I hardly ask for anybody’s help. I do most of it on my own. I take notes in class, I seek material online myself, and I teach people. I do basically almost everything myself.
I have a few gadgets that I use for my studies which ensure that I am independent when it comes to my studies
Did The University Put Any Measures In Place For Special Students?
The only thing we are enjoying from the school is that we don’t ballot for bed space. Ours is to submit our names and make payments. When it comes to academic and other provisions, no no no. You struggle for everything like your sighted counterparts.
How Do Other Sighted Students Relate To You?
Well, I think I got along well with my sighted counterparts, both in the hostel and classrooms. Without their support, studying in UNILAG would have been a lot harder, especially in an environment where the system doesn’t care about your existence. We walk together, study together and play together.
Do You Have Any Recommendations For The School Management For Visually Impaired Students?
Well, I will just advise them to always remember that there are people like us on campus. I mean they should always consider us in anything and everything they are planning for the rest of the students. A lot of the school facilities are inaccessible to us and we cannot move independently. The lecturers also need to be trained on how to carry visually impaired students along in their lectures.
What Is Your Plan For The Future?
For now, what I have in mind next is to go for my master’s.
What Is Your Best Moment During Your Undergraduate?
My best moments in school were those times I had As in my results. I have always seen As as the best reward for those sleepless nights.
How About Your Worst Moment?
My worst moments were the time I had Cs. Another time was when I had missed the wrong score in my result which it took me 12 months to resolve. The other one was the day somebody copied my test script without editing and without informing me, only for both of us to be summoned to his office and the fellow denied it.
How Did He Copy Your Test Without Your Consent?
You know we use laptops to do tests and exams and any time we do the test, we give one of us to go and print for everybody. It was at that point that the fellow did the stuff.
How Did You Resolve The Case With The Lecturer?
Well, we both didn’t have any scores for that test. The following semester, we were called to his office after I lodged a complaint about my missing score. It was at that point I got to know what had happened.
We were given another opportunity to redo the test with a warning not to repeat the nonsense. In doing the test again, we were assigned someone each whom we dictated the answer to.
Do You Have Any Message For PLWD Who Want To Further Their Education?
Well, I will just advise any PWD who wants to further his or her education to keep his or her eyes on the ball and not allow distraction. It takes a lot of determination for any PWD to succeed or finish strong in an environment with little or no provisions.