‘I neither need empathy nor alms, but opportunity to work for a living’
February 11, 2018 | 2:27 am| | | Start Conversation
He could ordinarily have taken a ‘sidon look’ attitude to life based on self-pity. He could have decided to blame everything and everybody for his condition, and could have decided as well, out of rebellion, not to submit to God, the Creator, that He allowed him to have a defect at birth, a condition he has been living with for twenty-five years. But he decided to hold on to the positive end of life.
This is the story of Joshua Sopeju; the fourth child in his family, a young man who was born with a congenital disorder of Cerebral Palsy (defined by Wikipedia as a group of permanent movement disorders that appear in early childhood. Signs and symptoms vary among people).
Despite the debilitating challenge, young Sopeju is among the few with such a challenge that have, through sheer determination and doggedness, shamed a negative destiny so to speak.
In his interview with BDSUNDAY, he said he was not comfortable being a liability to anybody, including his parents. He pointedly said that having obtained a university education and can rightly apply what he learnt at school, he did not need anybody to empathise with him or give him alms, but that all he wanted was to work with his hands to meet his own needs.
Undaunted by his condition, Joshua did not only go to school, he studied Computer Science at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).
Joshua, who was full of gratitude for his parents and siblings, who had stood with him through thick and thin, said a point came in his life when he took a decision to do the things many people considered impossible for those with his condition.
Joshua’s story calls to mind that of Peter Lumati, a physically-challenged graduate of Economics of Abia State University, who is currently working with INTELS as the Principal Learning and Development Supervisor in the Human Resources Department of the company and happily married with a son.
Intels and some other organisations have a policy of giving certain percentage of employments to people with physical disabilities. This is therefore, calling the attention of government and such corporate entities to come to the rescue of the physically-challenged graduates, like Joshua.
Below are excerpts from his interview:
By way of introduction, may we know you better?
My name is Sopeju Joshua G.; the son of Pastor and Mrs. Sopeju and the fourth in a family of five children. I was born with cerebral palsy which affected my psychomotor faculty but did not affect my intellectual faculty. I just graduated from the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN).
What did you study?
Why did you choose this course?
I chose the course because I have a passion for operating computer and even as a young boy, I love playing computer games. Also, because of my challenge, my parents advised me to study what I can easily handle.
What challenges did you face in school?
The challenges were numerous but the greatest was the challenge of movement which prevented me from having access to my facilitators. I was not able to ask them questions about things I didn’t understand. I solely depended on my course outlines and my personal research.
Did you face any discrimination and how supportive were your colleagues?
I didn’t face discrimination of any kind. My colleagues were very supportive.
Were there times you felt like giving up in your studies?
No because I was determined to complete my studies at any cost.
How supportive were your parents?
They were very supportive because despite my challenge, they encouraged me and supported me financially and with prayers. I thank them greatly.
What do you intend doing with this course?
With this course, I can write applications as a programmer. I also intend to own a firm where people who want to study computer science can receive practical training on writing programmes as well as other ICT skills acquisition.
Do you have a career plan and what is it?
Yes, I have because I want to be a motivational speaker whereby I can motivate physically-challenged children not to be discouraged despite their condition. Thank God my mum has created a foundation to achieve that.
In which area do you think government can assist those with your kind of challenge in a country with high unemployment level as ours?
First and foremost, the government should not neglect the physically-challenged ones because they are also part of the society. Although the level of unemployment is high in the country, government should find an avenue for creating suitable jobs for them, despite their challenge so that they will not be discouraged and feel disappointed in life, especially the graduates and other vocationally skilled ones among them.
What do you think corporate bodies can do to assist those who have such challenge?
Corporate bodies should not abandon the care for the physically-challenged to the government or their parents alone but they should support by providing facilities and amenities for the special needs people especially those studying.
In the area of employment, they should also consider the physically challenged especially if they are graduates or skilled.
Do you have any specific request from government or organisation you think can be of help in terms of job placement?
I request that the government or organisations should offer us jobs immediately after school and provide disability-friendly aids that will assist the physically-challenged ones effectively and efficiently in the job with little or no stress.
His mother speaks
Joshua’s mother also volunteered some words, urging employers of labour to assist the likes of her son, who despite their obvious challenges, are determined to fend for themselves by applying their intellect in profitable ventures. Mrs. Sopeju was present, alongside her husband, on the day of her son’s graduation from NOUN.
How do you feel about Joshua’s graduation?
I feel so elated and sincerely grateful to God who alone helped me to endure with him till the completion of this onerous task. I feel happy.
What gave you the courage to allow him go to school despite his peculiarity?
Firstly, Joshua’s strong desire to go to school when he was a child would not let me be, and besides, the high intelligence he is endowed with is worth giving a chance.
Finally, my trust in God’s promises and power to make something great out of man’s disability was my staying power. And I thank God He never disappointed us. Praise His Holy name.
I must here acknowledge great men and women of God who supported with their prayers, relations and all friends who showered him with love and empathy. God bless them all.
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