Disability Commission Upbeat Partnership with UNIZIK Will Bridge Disability Education Gap                                               

By Kenechukwu Ofomah.

The National Commission for Persons with Disability, Abuja, has agreed to enter into partnership with Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, to bridge the education gap for the disability community of the institution. The Executive Secretary of the commission, Mr. James Lalu, made this announcement during the inauguration of Unizik Centre for Disability and Special Needs Research (CENDASNER) at the University Auditorium.
The executive secretary, who decried the discrimination against persons living with disabilities in the society, called for attitudinal change towards them, remarking that all persons were created equally by God. He urged the university Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Charles Okechukwu Esimone, to consider the disability community in areas of employment, admission, and so on, stressing that they boast of intelligent and smart people. Lalu added that the commission would continue to partner the university in any project mapped out for the disability community, and hailed the university management for establishing such a centre to cater for the welfare of the community.
In a remark, Prof. Esimone, said it was part of his vision to provide equal educational opportunities to the visually-impaired and physically-challenged community of the institution, noting that the centre would go a long way in addressing myriad of issues bedeviling the disability group. Esimone, who initiated the centre in September, 2019, said it was his personal drive and conviction to correct the perceived wrongs against people living with disability, assuring that he would continue to consider them whenever there is opening for employment in the university. He further told the Commission to provide a platform where the Centre members can showcase their talents, while expressing optimism that the centre would contribute in alleviating the suffering and misconceptions about disability community.
“There is ability in disability. These persons are better endowed, very innovative and can contribute significantly to the growth and development of the nation’s economy. “We will continue to support the centre by ensuring we provide them with disability-friendly classrooms, and other educational opportunities. We will want other institutions to borrow a leaf from the activities in this centre,” the Vice-Chancellor said.

In a lecture presentation, the guest speaker and Vice-Chancellor, University of Calabar, Prof. Florence Banku Obi, advised that the university waive school fees for students with disability, while calling for retooling of lecturers on special education to increase efficiency in service delivery. Obi, a professor of special education, who was represented by Dr. Adaka Tefa, said there was a need to redefine curriculum content, as well as to develop special instructional pedagogy for the disability community.
In an address, CENDASNER Director, Prof. Williams Emeka Obiozor said the event was an integral part of the ‘Project 200’ vision of the university, remarking that the centre would cater for students and staff with visual impairments and other physical challenges, which, according to him, is in line with the federal and state government’s disabilities law.
Obiozor, while appealing for support, said persons with disabilities can only learn and acquire work skills and graduate with honours, if they are allowed to exercise academic, social and leadership rights on campus, homes and community.
 “We need disability-friendly buildings, strong vehicles for administrative and student mobility, larger offices and lavatories, therapeutic and relaxation cum play grounds for our students.
“We need to equip our resource room with braille machines, computers and other modern ICT gadgets to aid staff research and students studies; we need full inclusion in the theatres, general studies classrooms, sporting arena, cultural and other entertainment programmes on and off campus”, Obiozor, a professor of Adult and Special Education said.
Earlier, the Chairman of the occasion and Chairman/CEO, Chicason Group of Companies, Chief Dr. Alexander Okafor, represented by Chief Linus Ilozue, said he was passionate about the welfare of the less privileged and disability community, assuring that he would continue to partner with CENDASNER in all its programmes.

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