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That Could’ve Been Me… If Not For My Mother Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Shola Amurawaiye, Nigeria Aug 22, 2006
Health , Child & Youth Rights , Human Rights   Short Stories

  

Every morning, as I a drive through the gates to my office, I see Tamedo sitting by the roadside, begging for alms. I give him a smile and wave. On more than a few occasions, I’ve given him money for food or to repair his locally fabricated wheelchair. The thought that crosses my mind each time I see him is: “That could’ve been me!”

He is handicapped, crippled in both legs. Exactly my own physical condition, as I am paralyzed in both legs due to poliomyelitis suffered as a child. But that is all the similarity between us. While he is uneducated, I am a university graduate. While he is unemployed and begs in the street, I am a System Analyst/Programmer working in a Bank. He is unmarried, while I have a lovely wife and a son.

Ninety percent of handicapped people in Nigeria suffer the fate of Tamedo. Indeed, society seems to immediately limit how far a handicapped child can go in life as soon as it becomes obvious that the disability might be permanent. Thus, parents and relatives, in the process of “helping” the handicapped block avenues for normal development and full integration into the larger society. Special schools for the handicapped are usually located in remote locations.

I can still remember vividly when I went with my parents to visit a school for handicapped students located in Ibadan. I was asked if I liked the school. I shook my head. "No." But a child’s answer doesn’t matter so much here in Africa, so I prayed fervently within me that Baba (my dad) wouldn’t force me to go to that school.

All my education was in regular public schools where I interacted with other children, including a few other handicapped children. It wasn’t easy though, as I had to battle with accessibility problems and some prejudices. But all the time, I was encouraged by my mother who believed that I could always achieve the best in life.

However, it was not always so. In our society, having a handicapped child is a great embarrassment, so the child is something to be ashamed of, something to hide. Thus, I started primary school (class one) at the age of eight, the oldest student in that class. I could remember occasions when my parents would point at me sadly and make me their excuse for various things. Who likes being an excuse? So, I read between the lines and withdrew into a shell and felt guilty for the whole thing.

Thankfully, things eventually changed for the best. Once I started school and was excelling, I became a source of pride for the family and a showpiece.

In all these, my mum was a driving force for me. Coming from a polygamous home, Baba definitely couldn’t shower too much attention on any of us children (and we were many). So, my education depended solely on my mother. When the man died, I can still recall an old man calling me aside and telling me to take to begging. That through that means, I will have food to eat daily, that my handicap will be my means of livelihood! But my mum made sure I (and my siblings) went to university… she sold her car, cloths, jewelries and, in the eyes of the world, became a nobody. She sacrificed everything. Some other mothers abandon their handicapped children on the streets, in dustbins, hospitals or orphanages. There are many horrible stories like these every day in our newspapers.

Today, the fruits of the great sacrifices are there for all to see, in me.

So, parents and mothers especially should know that no child is useless. Handicapped children have great potential and if properly nurtured can make their parents proud. Do not make your handicapped children feel guilty of sad. Always encourage them to excel, and surely, they will





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Writer Profile
Shola Amurawaiye


Shola Amurawaiye is physically challenged and thus is passionate about opportunities for the development of people with physical challenges. He supports and mentors young people, most especially the handicapped. He is a programmer and website developer. He is presently the IT Administrator of Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria. He is married to Tunrayo Amurawaiye and they are blessed with three children; Oreofeoluwa, Ireoluwayinka and Itunuoluwa.
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