Saturday, 10 August 2013

'Getting to know' series

I really do hope that my sincere apologies for not writing more often here will be accepted!

From my interactions and experiences with several parents of deaf children in Nigeria, the most prevalent concern about their child is 'how would their child cope particularly in a country in Nigeria?' I can understand their worry about providing their child with a foundation with which to live a successful and independent life. It is certainly challenging to do that in Nigeria but it is by no means, impossible. One thing that I have always wished that I had whilst having my secondary school and undergraduate degree in Nigeria is a mentor- at the very least, someone who understood the challenges, struggles of facing life with hearing loss in a country. Where the majority of people are ignorant of deafness, have different misconceptions, look down on deaf people and all the malarkey that goes with just being uninformed. And also where the government does not have a lot of pro-active policy for deaf people.

One has to bear in mind that every deaf person has dissimilar hearing loss and so will have different experiences, so to speak. Nevertheless, I always think that it is interesting to know how the others cope. I came up with the 'Getting to know' series to educate, enlighten and inspire other deaf people but most importantly, the parents /caregivers of deaf children in Nigeria. There is always something positive about the lives of the deaf people and those associated with them that one can draw upon/from.

The first interesting person whom I would like to kick off the series with is: a young man called Chidi. Please have a look at the interview below!

Can you tell me about yourself; how old were you when you became deaf?

My name is Chidi Topaz Olujie. I am from Abia State but I was born and bred in lagos, I am the youngest out of three (3) children. I am currently attending a masters programme; I am studying Special Education at the University of Ibadan. I love it when someone calls me "Cheeta. It is a nick name and it is a unique name that I believe that no one else has as it makes me feel so different from the rest of mankind. I could hear from birth but I became deaf when I was between 3-4years old, I was sick and was diagnosed with "Mumps" but the doctor treated me for "Malaria" which didn't cure the mumps and then some complications resulted to my being deaf till date.

What challenges have you faced?

I have faced numerous challenges. Most times I can't hear or understand what's being said in the TV or Radio, sometimes when there are public meetings, I can't participate fully and it is really frustrating, it also makes me withdraw a bit (but I am now used to it and it does not bother me anymore). The popular belief in Nigeria today is that those who are Deaf are also DUMB i.e (MUTE/SILENT). Most times I have problems with people I come across on a daily basis especially police men who stop me and when I speak, they believe that I am hearing and if I say that I can't hear, they think that I am pretending. This has caused a lot of problems. Most people always pity me because I can't hear and sometime they think that I am a beggar which so irritates me.

What are your dreams for your life?

I always wanted to be an engineer when I was growing up but the secondary school where I went to, didn't have physics, chemistry etc so it was not possible for me to study engineering in University. As we know 'Man proposes but God disposes', so I studied Special Education/Political Science.  I have always dreamt of running an NGO, to bring changes to the society, to touch mankind and to also create awareness about Deafness.

What would be your advice for parents of deaf children?

My advice that parents of deaf children should not lose hope in them, the most important thing that parents should do is to believe in themselves and their deaf child. Those deaf children are so special, they need special attention, love, care and guidance; the parents should always be around them when it Is required and guard them against danger. Parents should also maintain good relationship with their deaf child. Deaf children can do anything that normal children do; it Is just that they can't hear- that's the only difference.

Your dreams...

One of my greatest desire is to be a PhD holder; others are to touch mankind, create awareness about deafness and also to legalise Nigerian Sign Language as an official language alongside English Language.

A funny anecdote of what is it like being deaf.

Being deaf is like a man in his own island. It is like when you block your ears and you don't hear what's being said around you, you don't hear any noise, you don't hear music etc. You have no idea of what's going on around you. There was a time when a friend was taking his bath and water went into his ears, he tried to get the water out of his ears and he discovered that he didn't hear anything, he screamed, he couldn't bear it and shortly after he could hear, he was panting heavily and said, "you have to be deaf to understand the deaf" **laughing out loud**

Meet Cheeta!


Thank you. Cheeta for your time!