The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) had on the 28th of the December, 2019 organized a one day discussion with people living with Disability (PWDs), representatives of Government Agencies and tertiary institutions to discuss on the findings of the research conducted by the Centre and find ways on how to tackle the challenges People Living with Disabilities are facing in terms of accessing ICTs facilities in the higher institutions of learning in Northern Nigeria. The research which was supported by Association for Progressive Communication (APC) was carried out in Kano, Jigawa, Katsina and Kaduna states in the Universities, College of Educations and Polytechnics in the states.
While briefing the participants about the reason of convening the workshop, CITAD Executive Director, Engineer Y.Z Ya’u stated that it is to: provide baseline information on the status of tertiary institutions with respect to provision of ICTs for learning, documents what facilities and programmes have for people living with disabilities to access and use internet for educational purposes, what challenges people living with disabilities face in accessing and using internet in tertiary institutions and what challenges tertiary institutions face in responding to the needs of people living with disability in terms of ICTs as tool for learning.
It was discovered during the research that People Living with Disability constitute less than 1% of the total population of students of tertiary institution in Northern Nigeria and many of the them denied courses of their choice thereby confined to courses they don’t have interest on by the schools authorities which at the end led to their withdrawal from the institutions as one of the participants narrated. It was also discovered that most of the tertiary institutions don’t have libraries for People Living with Disabilities especially those with Vision and Hearing Impairment which is giving them difficulty when accessing the conventional libraries. None of the Institutions have a Policy on People Living with disabilities which was unanimously agreed at the deliberation that if develop will ease the suffering of PWDs in the higher institutions of learning in the country.
Narrating their ordeals at the hands of their lecturers, fellow students and school managements, a PHD student in one of the institutions who is a blind narrated that during his NCE program he asked his lecturer about a topic that he wants more clarification but the lecturer instead of explaining the topic to him told him that he will not waste his time on a blind person. That incident made him to spend the whole day crying and said whenever he remember that incident he broke into tears. The Director Admission Unit, Bayero University, Kano (BUK) said that some years back while she was invigilating JAMB she discovered there was a blind student among the intakes and there was no provision made for him, when she asked him why he was writing together with normal people instead of at special centre he said he applied three times but he was always rejected, there, she made special arrangement for him and because of that he is now an MSc. student. Many ugly things are happening to People Living with Disabilities either in the process of gaining admission, during lectures, with their lecturers or fellow students, some of the stories were told while others remained untold.
Furthermore, sharing their experience on how they are being denied courses of their choice, another incident was given where a cripple student got admission to study medicine but when the university discovered that he is a cripple they transferred him to computer science department, a course he had no interest on and at the end he got expelled. The story is the same with another cripple student whose admission is currently rusticated by one of the NCE warding institutions in Kano state just because he is physically challenged. Professor Diso also narrated that he was once refused entry into lecture hall by his lecturer because he is blind.
Some of the appeals and recommendations given at the validation meeting were:
- BUK as a matter of public interest to open its People Living with Disabilities Library which has been built by the institution but still not been commissioned
- CITAD to collaborate with other NGOs to provide ICTs Centers for People Living with Disabilities, provide more computers and install software that are friendly to people living with disability
- The research needs to show how available and accessible the ICT facilities are in those institutions
- Discuss with school management directly to find out the exact number of PWDs in their institutions
- There is the need to equip people living with disabilities with computer knowledge so that they can also compete with other normal people
- Personal computers should be provided to the people living with disabilities after the training
- CITAD to collaborate with other NGOs to improve and rehabilitate skills learning centers of people living with disabilities especially at special schools in the country
- CITAD to help people living with vision impairment to get braille imposer machine
- CITAD to look into the issue on how higher institutions of learning are complying with disability policy in their schools
- CITAD to look into the secondary school curriculum to ensure it capture PWDs needs
- Intensify advocacy to ensure the development of disability policy in tertiary institutions in the country.
Remarking at the event, the head of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in Kano appreciated and applauded CITAD for organizing this discussion at the right time, saying that the research aligns with what the agency is doing every day. He urged PWDs and their organizations present to take the advantage of their new office in Kano and request for ICTs equipment which they have been giving to organizations for free. The director also requested CITAD to facilitate and serve as an intermediary between the agency and the PWDs organizations. On her part, the director admission unit, Bayero University, Kano said BUK is doing everything possible to ensure People Living with Disabilities are being giving all the necessary support they needs. Part of it according to her is the reduction and automatic admission to People Living with Disabilities that score 150 and above in their UTME and scholarship for the students.
On his part, while closing the session, the Head of Training Department, Centre for Information Technology and Development Malam Ahmad Yakasai said that CITAD for long has been designing programmes and supporting People Living with Disabilities. He went further to state that as part of the Organization’s inclusion agenda every year for the past 10 years CITAD has never fail to celebrate International Day of People Living with Disabilities.