‘I al­ways top my class de­spite be­ing blind’

Weekly Trust - - Front Page - Hope Chi­zoba Nwankwo

Lucky Pas­tor lost his sight at age 12, but that didn’t stop him from achiev­ing his set goals. He com­pleted his sec­ondary school ed­u­ca­tion in a pub­lic school as the only blind stu­dent in a class of 200 sighted chil­dren and emerged the best. In the univer­sity, he was also the only blind stu­dent in his class but still emerged as the sec­ond-best stu­dent. Lucky, who never al­lowed his sit­u­a­tion to de­ter him from achiev­ing his goals, shares his ex­pe­ri­ence and how he hopes to be suc­cess­ful in life. Ex­cerpts:

Daily Trust: What was your ex­pe­ri­ence like in school with the sighted? Lucky Pas­tor:

De­ter­mi­na­tion! First, I en­rolled for a re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­gramme in the FCT School for the Blind Chil­dren. There, I had all the at­ten­tion I needed be­cause we were only three in my class. If I wasn’t get­ting it right, my in­struc­tor would put me through. By the time I fin­ished from there, I was ready to min­gle with the sighted world and I con­tin­ued school at the Gov­ern­ment Sec­ondary School (GSS) Kwali.

While there, I was in the arts class and we were over 200 in the class. No­body had my time; I had to do ex­tra work to be able to fit in. I was de­ter­mined, and I grad­u­ated as the best stu­dent.

I gained ad­mis­sion to study English Ed­u­ca­tion at the Univer­sity of Nige­ria Nsukka (UNN). Going to a pub­lic school wasn’t easy. I stayed in a hos­tel and shared the same toi­let with ev­ery­one else. When there was wa­ter scarcity, I would rush along­side oth­ers to fetch wa­ter, some­times when I want to use the toi­let, ev­ery­where would be messed up and I would just have to ma­neu­ver, to do my thing and leave. Some­times, I would find my­self in a gut­ter be­cause the drainage sys­tem was very poor. Dur­ing lec­tures, at times, classes would be filled to the brim and I would have to stand out­side to lis­ten to the lec­turer but in all, God kept me and de­ter­mi­na­tion pro­pelled me.

In my class, I was the only vis­ually im­paired per­son. In my first year, peo­ple saw me as “that boy who needs help”, but from my 200 Level on­wards, “they were run­ning to me for help”. In­ter­est­ingly, I taught my col­leagues. This was pos­si­ble for me be­cause I al­ready knew that I do not have sight, so, I needed to be ex­tra­or­di­nary and do twice as much as they could. By God’s grace, I grad­u­ated in 2019 as the sec­ond-best stu­dent.

DT: How did you study and write ex­ams in school? Lucky: In the univer­sity, when a lec­turer comes to the class, some­times they give hard­copy ma­te­ri­als, and at other times they send soft copy. With no spe­cial pref­er­ence given to me, I was not dis­cour­aged. I told my­self that I would not use ‘braille’ meant for the blind. I be­gan to use an ap­pli­ca­tion that Vis­ually Im­paired Per­sons read with; it is called JAWS, which means Jobs Ac­cess with Speech. With this pro­gram, you have a nar­ra­tor that reads ev­ery­thing you have on your screen. I read my hand­outs and text­books with it when hand­outs are given in hard copy, I would have to scan first and copy to my lap­top, which turns it to a soft copy for me to be able to read. I can also browse, fill forms, and do any­thing on­line.

Dur­ing ex­am­i­na­tion, some lec­tur­ers per­mit the vis­ually im­paired to use their lap­tops, while oth­ers do not per­mit prob­a­bly be­cause they feel the VIP will use some short­cuts to cheat dur­ing ex­ams. In my case, I de­cided not to use my lap­top. I do not like peo­ple doubt­ing my abil­ity. If I had used my lap­top dur­ing ex­ams in the univer­sity, they may think I made my As through short cuts in my lap­top. I made use of a man­ual type­writer all through my univer­sity days to write my ex­ams. While oth­ers wrote with their pen, I typed on my type­writer.

DT: Is there any dif­fer­ence in how you per­ceived the world when you were a child and now?

Lucky: If I were to judge the world by what I saw back then, I would not have much to say about the world. How­ever, if I am to judge the world by what I can see with my in­ner eyes right now, I would say, I know life is not a bed of roses, you have to keep push­ing. For me, the world is an im­bal­anced sphere where you just have to live right. I wasn’t born with a sil­ver spoon, but I have a strong con­vic­tion that I would break through all these ob­sta­cles; I will be a great man even though I don’t know how, when or where.

DT: What were some of your frus­tra­tions at some mo­ments?

Lucky: When I go to church and every­body takes turns to read Bi­ble verses, I would be skipped be­cause I’m blind. I kept ask­ing my­self, ‘how do I get in­cluded’? I trained my­self on how to read from my lap­top with the JAWS pro­gram and I got in­cluded in the Bi­ble read­ing ses­sion. My frus­tra­tions turned to ful­fill­ment. DT: What are your as­pi­ra­tions?

Lucky: I pas­sion­ately de­sire to be a lec­turer. Since I am based in Abuja, I hope to lec­ture at the Univer­sity of Abuja. Se­condly, I hope to train Vis­ually Im­paired Per­sons on how to read from a com­puter so they can be in­cluded in the so­ci­ety, even if they want to be broad­cast­ers, lack of sight wouldn’t be a lim­i­ta­tion.

I live for peo­ple; to put a smile on faces and to im­pact lives. I un­der­stand that apart from be­ing blind, deaf or crip­pled, there are myr­i­ads of chal­lenges peo­ple face. I run a pro­gram on Face­book ti­tled ‘Brav­ing the Storm’. I write episodes when the in­spi­ra­tion comes so oth­ers can get in­spired.

DT: What lessons have you learnt from be­ing vis­ually im­paired?

Lucky: One strik­ing ex­pe­ri­ence I have learnt from be­ing blind is ‘Fo­cus’. This might sound con­tra­dic­tory but I can give you an ex­am­ple. When I was in school, I had a fe­male friend and we go to the mar­ket to­gether. Be­fore going to the mar­ket, we write a list of items to buy. But when we get to the mar­ket, other items not on our list will al­ways at­tract my friend. She would ask for prices of at least three stuff be­fore we com­mence shop­ping. I kept telling her ‘Ada be fo­cused’! I don’t get dis­tracted but Ada does be­cause she can see. I tell her, ‘Eyes are dis­trac­tions’. Blind­ness has taught me to be fo­cused even in the face of chal­lenges, be­cause I know there is a goal to be achieved. I have also learnt not to put blames on my vis­ual im­pair­ment; I don’t let peo­ple pity me if I try some­thing and fail. It’s not be­cause I can’t see, it sim­ply be­cause I don’t know how to do it. I al­ways ad­vise ev­ery­one to face dif­fi­cul­ties as they come, en­joy the good times as they come, and be good to peo­ple.

Lucky us­ing his com­puter with the aid of JAWS

Lucky’s braille print out

Lucky’s Braille ma­chine

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