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On Wednesday, November 17, 2021, Bibia and Okoli, a visually impaired scholar from Ibadan State University of Ibadan, spoke about her struggles and victories with Alexander Okere.

Photos of your recent doctorate degree from Ibadan State University are available on social media. When were you awarded a doctorate and in what field of study?

I defended my doctorate on January 15, 2020, but because of Covidy-19, the meeting did not take place. Therefore, yesterday, November 17, 2021, the ceremony took place. I have a doctorate in special education, I have a specialization in visual acuity.

Many Nigerians are celebrating your recent success. How did you feel when you completed the academic requirements for your doctorate?

I was happy to be able to overcome disability because there is talent in every disability. I give all the glory that God has given me.

What challenges did you have during your academic career?

There were many. When I started my university studies, we did not have books in Braille, so we had to buy copies and send them to Lagos. This doubled the cost of our study materials. Also, before I went to university, my family did not want me to go to Ibadan because of the distance. The Common Core and Matriculation Board did not transmit my test questions to Braille and this was another test. It was in my third attempt at the combined matriculation exam that God passed me a high point. It was then that my family understood why I chose to study at Ibadan University. I lost my father before I took my first UTME. I also lost my first child, my younger brother. I am the first child and daughter of my parents. My father showed me the love I needed. I never thought he would leave that before.

Something else happened that I will never forget. A.D. On January 13, 2013, I was allowed to examine my doctorate when I was traveling from Anambra to Ibadan, where I was robbed of my Beninese bass by some militants. After the robbery, they set fire to our vehicle. The driver was shot but not enough; They later cut off his head. The other passengers found their way out but I was the only one left with the dead driver and the burnt bus.

Did you know that passengers and robbers have vision problems?

He could not easily recognize that I had a visual impairment because I was not born healthy.

How did you get to your destination?

God sent an ‘angel’ because I had lost all hope, prayed my last prayer, and asked God to take my life. This happened two weeks after I lost my brother on Christmas Day (2012). I wondered what would have happened to my mother if I had not made her alive. But God sent a man; I heard a voice say, ‘Sister, give me your hand,’ and I waved my hand in that direction. The man pulled me out of the burning car window and I escaped. That experience prompted me to write a research paper entitled ‘Security Crisis in Nigeria with Visually Impaired People’. I presented it at a conference in Kenya.

How did you lose your eyesight?

My eye problems started when I was eight years old. I did not understand, but my mother said. In our home, it was common for every child to present their work to my parents. On that fateful day, my mother noticed that I was writing over the margins of my workbook. I could not even see her trying to focus on her. That’s when she realized there was a problem with my vision. When my father returned from the trip, she explained, and they took me to the hospital, where I was given eye drops, but my vision deteriorated rather than improved. The glasses I was given did not help. Other ophthalmologists we have visited in Eng, Eboni, and Kaduna states have not been able to diagnose the problem. They told me to rule and live – man said but God said the last.

Do your parents think that the problem is more serious than physical?

No, they did not. My mother is educated and knows that the best thing is to take her to the hospital.

Was it easy for your peers to see you?

It was not easy. When I started school, I was ostracized because I was in school. I barely manage. All my friends at school, even those whom I taught in class, left me. Many were hiding when I saw them coming, but I did not know why. I became a mockery of them. I was 14 at the time.

Do you think that some of your former classmates who ridiculed you know your recent academic achievement?

They are just a few for now; It is on social networks. They are shocked by my success.

They reportedly dropped out of school. Did your parents make a decision?

It was not their decision. Something happened. I was taking the Senior High School Certificate Examination at Abakaliki Girls’ High School and on the day I was supposed to take the best subject of geography, my colleagues praised me for knowing my potential. But unfortunately, when I started to scratch the computer screen, I thought I was hovering outside the box until I noticed that the main inverter, which was circling the hall, was crawling out of the box. But instead of turning my attention to him, he knocked my head off. I was so sad, my tears flowed and I asked him what I had done. He took action before I said what I did wrong. I could not continue. It was a sad day for me. I had to leave the hall and return to the hostel. When my classmate returned to the hostel, they expected me to tell them how I answered the questions. But I told them what had happened, and they cried when they saw me crying. The matter was reported to my parents and I was expelled from school.

Were you later taken to a special school because your vision was impairing your ability to learn?

Yes. I was taken to St. Joseph’s Center for the Visually Impaired, Obodu, Cross River State, but that was many years later because it made my family sad. None of us had any knowledge of special needs education, so we were left in a state of shock until we found a respected sister who could tell us about the center.

Was it easy for you to adapt?

It was a completely different world; It was a transition from a world of light to a world of blindness. But God has given me the grace to receive it in prayer.

Did you receive your undergraduate degree from the UI?

Yes, he was in special education. But in my first year I was given guidance and counsel. It was only after the first year that I switched to special education, which opened the door for many more opportunities.

Did you get a job after your first degree?

No.

Have you tried?

At first I told God I would never work for my degree; As I reach my highest level of academic study. That was my decision. God gave me the desire of my heart.

Many people find it difficult to enroll in higher education for a variety of reasons. What was the reason for your decision to pursue a master’s and doctorate degree?

In my family, we love education. One of the things our parents promised us was education. As a kid, I used to love schooling and interact with educated people. When I started the St. Joseph Visually Impaired Rehabilitation and Demonstration Program, I worked in kindergarten but my experience with my boss was not pleasant.

Did your supervisor call you by name?

She did not name me, but her attitude toward me was negative. I stand for teachers who do not belong to me, but because I am not a qualified teacher, the five years I have worked with her have deprived me of the benefits of teachers.

How did you get your degree programs?

My family and friends have supported me and I have had amazing success. During the first three years of my doctoral degree program, I received a scholarship from the University. I received an award from the International Association of Special Education at a conference in Poland. I am a member of that association. I have traveled to many countries for meetings. I have traveled to Kenya, Ghana, Cameroon and Canada. It gave me some visual impairments. He opened the doors for me.

I was a member of the Ohio State, Volunteer Volunteer Initiative and also a member of the National Association of Women with Disabilities. Through the Willing Hands Initiative, Oyo State Violence Against Women Act was enacted to facilitate domestic work. I was a member of a committee that pushed for a law that would protect the rights of people with special needs in the region.

What do you think being blind can teach you about life?

I have learned many lessons. First, if a person is not able to endure life, it will be difficult. A person who does not have a good relationship with God regrets that there are many obstacles along the way. When a person has faith and trust in God, he shows them the way. It should be noted that one cannot be loved by all.

What is your next goal with a bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degree in your pocket?

I plan to become a university lecturer and teach others.

Have you received any job offers in this regard?

No, I intend to start a nonprofit organization to help people with special needs.

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