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Meet Student Who Lost Her Sight While Solving Mathematics Questions

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A visually impaired student at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Precious Mbajiorgu was recently recognized by the West African Examination Council(WAEC) as the top candidate in the physical disability category for the 2002 Senior School Certificate Examination.

Meanwhile, in an interview with PUNCH reporter, IKENNA OBIANERI, she shares how losing her sight at 11 influenced her journey.

 

Meet Student Who Lost Her Sight While Solving Mathematics Questions

 

Read Below;

Can you remember how you lost your sight?

My name is Precious Mbajiorgu. I am from Oborisiala in the Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State. I am 28 years old. I am currently a 100-level student at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka.

I was not born blind. I used to see perfectly when I was a child until I turned 11. It happened between 2007 and 2008, but I cannot remember the exact day. I just went to school that fateful day. Back then, I was a pupil at Awada Primary School, Obosi, near Onitsha. It was in that school that I became visually impaired. My classmates and I were in the classroom solving mathematics on the board. I had answered the first maths question and was about to go to the next question when suddenly, I discovered that I could not see the board anymore and could no longer see other things. Everywhere became dark.

Did you have any challenges with your sight before then?

But before then, I did not feel any symptoms or pain in my eyes. It was like a mystery that I have yet to understand to date.

What did you do afterwards?

I called the attention of my class teacher and when she came, she said something might have entered my eyes. She helped me wash my eyes with water while my other classmates were just there waiting for me to open my eyes and see again, but I could not see anymore.

I visited many hospitals, and after diagnosis, the doctors told me that there was nothing wrong with my sight and that they did not see any defect, yet I could not see with my eyes. That was how I managed the situation till I got to SS2 in 2012 and could not go further. So, I stopped going to school until 2018 when a group of evangelists came to my place and told me about Oji River Special Education Centre. They took me there where I took remedial courses using learning equipment such as typewriters and other technological tools and after that, I enrolled at St John of God Secondary School in Awka where I started from SS1 to complete my secondary education.

Can you describe what went through your mind when you realised that you had gone blind?

Inside me, I said, “No, this is not me.” It was like a mystery to me, just like someone being in the light and suddenly finding themselves in darkness for no apparent reason. I was just like someone in a void, in another space. I was just wondering, a lot was going on in my mind, because in our lineage, there is no history of eye problems, even the oldest person in my family, who is over 100 years, sees clearly.

How did you adapt to the new development?

By the grace of God, I adapted to the new situation and I accepted my fate. I moved on and continued my life. This was after a lot of concerns and thinking. Here I am today still carrying on.

How many hospitals did you visit and what were the specific things that the doctors said could be responsible for the blindness?

We went to many hospitals, so I cannot remember how many hospitals we went to. One of the hospitals we went to was in Bonny Camp, Lagos, where the doctors after examining my eyes, told me that they did not see anything wrong with my eyes. So, they gave me some drugs and I went home. But despite that, there was no change. Later, a reverend father in my community took me to a specialist eye clinic in Owerri, (Imo State) and after everything, they said that there was nothing wrong with my eyes. But some years later, some foreign doctors who came to our community to examine eye patients, after examining my eyes, said I had glaucoma.

Did that come to you as a surprise?

I wondered why I would have glaucoma because there was nothing like that in my family; we don’t even have cataracts in my family. At that point, one of my uncles asked them what the remedy was or whether we could go for eye surgery, but the doctors said no. The doctors said I didn’t need eye surgery and that if they did it, I would still not see with my eyes and that the surgery would create another problem. That was how we quit the idea of eye surgery and I have been managing it since then by using drugs each time I feel pain. In the early stage, I used to buy the drugs for about N3,500, but now, it is very expensive and scarce and I cannot get it any more due to financial constraints. I am just dealing with the pain each time it comes.

Do you still go for a medical checkup?

I no longer do that because there is no money for it anymore. My father died suddenly and his death contributed to stopping my routine medical checkups as my mother cannot afford it.

Did you feel depressed at any point and how did you manage it?

Yes, and on those occasions, I go to God in prayers and sometimes, I sit down and meditate deeply. When I remembered my peers who were not in the condition I am and what they were doing, it worried me. I came out of the depression the day I entered into prayer and asked God, “Am I going to be useless in life?” I said no, I don’t want to be useless, so, from that day, I started proclaiming that I am not going to be useless in life and it became my slogan till today and by the grace of God, here am I. Growing up, I used to think that only the aged went blind. So, when I became visually impaired, I saw myself as the only young person in that condition, so when God gave me the grace to come out of my shell to see other visually impaired people who are doing well in their various fields of endeavour, I told myself that I could also be successful despite my condition. So, I picked myself up, dusted my clothes, stepped out and moved on.

Did you receive any special training when you lost your sight?

No special training apart from the remedial courses I went for where I learnt the use of typewriters, braille and other tools for learning and writing. I also learnt how to socialise with people and move around with people without anybody aiding me. In my locality, I can move around, with nobody holding me. I can make use of the learning equipment and I can communicate with people with boldness and no fear. I also learnt good behaviour and discipline, including how to cohabit with people with disabilities and how to live my life without obstacles or whatever. Those were the things I was taught in the remedial school.

When did you receive an offer of admission from UNIZIK?

I was offered admission in March 2023 to study Guidance and Counselling.

Was that what you chose or was it just given to you?

It was the course I chose for myself. At one point, I said I would study Law to fight all the people who forcefully took over my father’s landed property and that I was going to take them to court to collect my father’s land, but when I wanted to enter into the university, I discovered that it was not my calling. I discovered that my calling was counselling. So, I needed to retrace my steps. That was how I dropped the idea of studying Law. I had Guidance and Counselling on my mind right from my SS1 and that was what I chose while filling in my Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board form.
Did you find it easy moving around the school and familiarising yourself with its environment?

One thing is that I am a social person; I socialise a lot. So, it was not that hard for me. As soon as I got to UNIZIK, I made some friends who have been helpful to me.

How are you coping with studying in a university as a blind student?

I will say it has not been easy. I can’t see, but there are many eyes around me and they are always there for me whenever I find things difficult. In the financial aspect, there are challenges. If it costs sighted students N100,000 to get something done, it costs visually impaired students N500,000 because whatever we do, as visually impaired students costs money; our learning aids are costly. I don’t have a recorder and I need to get one to record notes while a lecturer teaches in class. I need to record it and be able to listen to it on my own. I don’t have a recorder and I seriously need one but I don’t have the money to buy one and some other important valuable things that can help me in my learning. I also need a sponsor. At the moment, paying rent, school fees, and covering my transportation has been extremely challenging for me. For instance, I used to pay N150 from my lodge to the classrooms, but now, I pay as much as N300 every day. I spend over N700 on transportation alone.

What is your daily routine like as a visually impaired student?

I wake up in the morning and I pray to my God. I have always determination, focus and perseverance, at the back of my mind.

Have you ever faced any stigmatisation, abuse or molestation from people at school?

Not really. The thing is that everybody is not going to be good and everybody is not going to be bad. Some people misbehave sometimes; they know that a person is visually impaired but they still deliberately bump against them and ask them whether they can’t see. We face a lot of ill-treatment daily and that is why perseverance is one of my watchwords daily because, in such a situation, one needs to persevere. But I have not faced physical harassment, though I have received insults from fellow schoolmates, especially the younger ones. One day, one of them asked me, What are you doing here? You cannot see. Why are you in school? What will you do with the (degree) certificate?” That kind of utterance can demoralise a person and that is where focus and perseverance come in for me.

Are you the eldest child of your parents?

I have three siblings and I am the first child. I have two brothers and a sister. I am the only one in school at the moment.

Why?

My other siblings are learning a vocation as there is no money to fund their education. My mother is just a petty trader in the village. That is why I call on kind individuals for aid and assistance.

Your record shows that you took the SSCE at 27. Why was it so?

I took the SSCE, National Examination Council exam and the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination last year. My visual impairment delayed me and prompted me to enrol on remedial courses to perfect my use of reading with study aids.

Recently, you were honoured by WAEC as the best physically challenged candidate. Did you see it coming?

I never aspired for the award from WAEC, not even for one day, though I knew that I would do well because my sleepless nights would not be in vain. I used to search YouTube, go to my school library, and go to many educational and learning channels to make sure I got enough lessons for my WAEC, NECO and JAMB examinations. So, every night, I used YouTube to make sure I read. I read textbooks. I read many PDF books to make sure I covered the syllabus. I had a lot of sleepless nights, to the extent that my classmates nicknamed me ogun woriwo, meaning one who reads too much. However, I did not mind because I knew what I was looking for and by the grace of God, I got it.

How did you feel about the award?

I felt happy and excited and each time I think about it, I ask myself whether it is real. Before then, I had already received the 2022 Best Art Student award at St. John of God Secondary School, so when the WAEC award came, it made me very happy and made me feel that my hard work paid off.

How were you contacted?

Four weeks ago, WAEC contacted my school, and my secondary school teacher contacted me on the phone. She asked me for my details and after giving her, I asked her why she needed the information; that was when she told me WAEC was looking for me to give me an award because I performed well in the SSCE. I just put it in prayer. A few weeks ago, they called and told me to attend a convention that was held in Lafia, Nasarawa State, and that was where I went to pick the award. We went by road to Abuja and from there to Lafia.

How did your mother feel about your achievement?

She was very happy. When I was contacted, I did not tell anyone, not even my mother. I just decided that I would go and see whether it was true. It was only my school and my teachers who knew about it. I was afraid because I thought that if I got there, it would be something else, but when I received the award and the certificate in my hands, I confirmed that it was real. Later, I called my family and my mother screamed.

Has the award motivated you in any way?

Yes. I performed brilliantly in all the nine subjects I took in the 2022 SSCE examination. I dedicated my award to the Anambra State Governor, Chukwuma Soludo, for his commitment to quality education and for his effort in empowering physically challenged persons.

Are you optimistic that you will replicate the performance at the university and have you set a target for yourself?

I am optimistic about replicating the feat in the institution and I set that target from the first day I entered the higher institution. I am following the template religiously. I read a lot and make use of PDF materials. My challenge, as I said before, is the lack of some of the learning materials, like a laptop and a recorder, for the visually impaired. If I can get those materials, they will help me a lot and I would be grateful if I see anyone who can provide them for me.

Source: The PUNCH

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