‘I always top my class despite being blind’
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