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I Slept With My Two Eyes But Woke Up Blind — UNILAG Graduate Tells His Story

Posted by Samuel on Sun 16th Jun, 2024 - tori.ng

In this interview, Sulaimon Jamiu talks about how he suddenly became blind after waking up from sleep.

Sulaimon Jamiu

Sulaimon Jamiu, a visually impaired graduate of the University of Lagos, has told the story about how he went blind.

In this interview, he tells TEMITOPE ADETUNJI how he suddenly became blind after waking up from sleep

Can you share how you became visually impaired?

My name is Sulaimon Jamiu. I am a 33-year-old. I have just completed my postgraduate degree programme at the University of Lagos and currently seeking employment. I was born and raised in Lagos, although originally from Kwara State. I reside in the Opic area of Ogun State.

My journey as a visually impaired person started when I was in SS1, around 2005/2006. I woke up one morning to discover that I could no longer see. At the time, I was staying with my uncle in Apapa when the incident occurred. I had to discontinue my schooling and relocate to my mother’s rented apartment in the Oyingbo area of Lagos. For weeks, I remained indoors, venturing out only when necessary, such as for hospital visits. I sought medical assistance from various hospitals, accompanied by my elder brother. This search for medical help persisted from 2005 to 2008 until I underwent my first operation in 2009 at Epe General Hospital, Lagos.

How old were you when the incident happened?

I was a teenager when the incident occurred in 2005/2006. I became visually impaired around the age of 16. As mentioned earlier, I woke up one day and suddenly couldn’t see. Doctors diagnosed me with retinal detachment, which was caused by a scratch on my eye. Despite undergoing surgery at Epe General Hospital, I did not regain my sight. Later, I learned that something had blocked my lens and detached my retina.

What was the purpose of the surgery?

As I was told, the primary aim of the first surgery I underwent at Epe General Hospital was to restore my sight, but it proved unsuccessful. The doctors had already informed us before the operation that it was a 50/50 situation. They were uncertain but decided to proceed with the attempt.

How did you manage to cope with the situation of waking up blind and adapting to a new way of life?

It wasn’t an easy journey; my mum sent me some Qur’anic audio recordings to encourage and motivate me.

What happened after the operation?

I continued my search for medical intervention and eventually visited the Eye Foundation, a specialist eye treatment hospital in Ikeja. One of the doctors who attended to me, Dr. Becky, advised me to forgo undergoing a second, costly operation, noting that it might not restore my sight. Instead, she urged me to invest in my education. She encouraged me to enroll at a Blind Center. I expressed doubts about how a blind person could attend school, but she assured me that it was possible. I took her advice seriously, and she even assisted me in obtaining the enrollment form for the blind center.

I attended the rehabilitation center to learn how to read and write as a blind person. I spent two years at the Vocational Training Center for the Blind in Oshodi, Lagos, completing my rehabilitation in 2009.

In 2010, I enrolled in a vocational training center for the blind in Oshodi, where I received rehabilitation in mobility and orientation. Over two years, I learned how to read and write in Braille and effectively use the typewriter and computer.

In 2010, I sat for the entrance examination for Unity School, Otto Ijanikin, along the Badagry Expressway, Lagos. The examination was held in June 2010, with Oshodi Grammar School as my examination center. Following the examination, I was admitted to Federal Government College Ijanikin.

In October 2010, I graduated from the Vocational Training Center for the Blind and commenced my senior secondary education at Ijanikin.

In 2015, I excelled in the UTME and gained admission to the University of Lagos (UNILAG) to study sociology. Thus, I pursued sociology from 2015 to 2019, a four-year course. Although my convocation ceremony was initially scheduled for March 2019, it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lockdowns eventually prevented us from holding the ceremony as planned.

Did you participate in the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme?

Yes, I participated. Initially, I was posted to Kwara State, but I redeployed to Lagos because I was more accustomed to the lifestyle there. I served at King’s College in Lagos from 2020 to 2021. After completing my service, I continued working at the school for almost two years. I worked there until 2023.

Subsequently, I worked with the Lagos State Department of Records and Archives in Magodo for nearly a year. In 2021, I applied for a part-time master’s degree programme, which I have now completed. Currently, I am searching for a new job.

My family, especially my mother, who raised me as a single parent, provided tremendous support. I have one elder brother, and we grew up very close. My educational journey as a visually impaired person was filled with challenges, particularly in accessing quality healthcare and educational materials.

You mentioned your ability to read using Braille. Could you elaborate on its effectiveness for you?

It is effective for a blind person in terms of writing. It is one of the assistive devices made by companies like Microsoft. These types of devices are often provided free in other countries through corporate bodies, governments, and NGOs. However, in Nigeria, those who have the statutory rights to import these items often don’t distribute them widely. For example, a stylus, which I used at my rehabilitation center, used to cost just N500 but had risen to 3,000 Naira by 2021, and it’s likely even more expensive now. A stylus is a tool used for writing in Braille, a system of reading and writing for visually impaired people. Braille involves using a map book, which is like a slate with cells, each containing six dots. We also use Braille sheets, which are like thick exercise book paper.

Did you face any discrimination in school?

Yes, I faced discrimination in school, but I have always believed in myself and maintained a positive outlook. I tried to sensitise those who discriminated against me because I understand that such behaviours often stemmed from ignorance. While I was at King’s College, I worked in the National Education Department, teaching subjects like social studies, civic education, security education, and history. I took on extra responsibilities, such as teaching visually impaired students how to use systems and upgrade their recording devices. Additionally, I provided counseling and sensitised sighted students to promote understanding and inclusion. I often gave counseling talks to students on the assembly ground and maintained a positive outlook. I graduated from the University of Lagos (UNILAG) with a degree in Sociology.

Have you ever been in a relationship before?

I’ve never been in a relationship. My education took most of my time, as I love reading. Although I’ve had feelings for someone, my focus on studies kept me from pursuing a relationship. The aim was to focus on my education and do everything I wanted to do before getting married. However, getting married is my next line of action if I get someone.

Do you believe that individuals with disabilities should marry others with disabilities?

For me, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. However, I personally would prefer to choose a person without a disability for the well-being of the children. Two visually impaired people, I would say, should not marry so that the one who can see can assist the other person.

How do you maintain a positive mindset in the face of challenges?

Maintaining a positive mindset through challenges has been crucial. I’m an optimistic person who quickly seeks ways to console myself when faced with difficulties. One technique I learned during my second degree is “distraction,” a psychological mechanism that involves finding something to take your mind off negative experiences.

Could you share some memorable experiences with us?

When I lost my job, I immediately applied for my postgraduate degree to keep busy and avoid negative thoughts. Staying preoccupied with school helped me remain positive and productive. I’ve been out of work for over a year now but completed my Postgraduate Diploma (PGD) at UNILAG and am about to start my master’s degree.

One memorable negative experience was when my new phone, containing all my work and projects, was stolen on November 7, 2019. I had to start my projects from scratch, and it was a challenging time.

On a positive note, I have many fond memories of my family, especially my supportive mom. During my parents’ separation, my mom was responsible for paying my school fees and taking care of my welfare. Now, my parents are back together, which has brought stability to my family life.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to have my doctorate, and I trust that it will come to fruition by the grace of God.

What advice would you offer individuals living with disabilities?

I think my first advice is for them to believe in themselves. They should accept themselves the way they are. So, they should never allow anyone to bring them down.

I also feel like anyone living with a disability should pursue education. Education is important. This is because when you have an education, people will respect you. They should look for what they can do to make themselves happy. It’s very important.

You mentioned that you don’t currently have a job. Have you tried seeking jobs?

Yes, I have tried, and it’s been a year now that I have been job hunting. Some people do not want to employ persons living with disabilities because they believe that due to your disabilities, you won’t be able to perform, and you won’t be productive and efficient. However, I am naturally a hardworking person.

How supportive was your family?

My parents most especially are very supportive. They are still giving me support.

What are you mostly grateful to God for?

Firstly, I am very thankful for the strength and resilience that God has given me. Living with a disability presents many challenges, both physical and social. But each challenge has made me stronger and deepened my faith. God has given me the inner strength to persevere through tough times and maintain a positive outlook. This strength has not only helped me but has also inspired others around me.

Secondly, I am grateful for the support system that God has placed in my life. My family, especially my mother, has been a significant source of support throughout my life. Growing up, my mother’s love and dedication were crucial. Despite the difficulties we faced, especially when my parents were separated, she ensured I received a good education and that my needs were met. My family’s support has always reminded me of God’s love and care.


Source: The PUNCH

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