Encouraging & Enabling Physically Challenged ChildrenSpecial Bash for Disabled Kids
[With ex-first lady as host]
23rd April '08
For Christians across the world, the Easter season is usually a time to reflect on the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and the liberation his resurrection brought to mankind. Though regarded as a period for deep sober reflection, it is a special season that rekindles the spirit of fun and happiness in the lives of disabled children in Lagos State.
For the helpless kids, the day is usually one to look forward to because of the dotting love showered on them by well meaning individuals in the society.
This year’s celebration was no different, as children from different physically challenged homes and schools across the state were treated to a lavish, fun-filled party hosted by the former first lady of Lagos State, Mrs. Foluke Mudashiru, in conjunction with the Soroptimst International Lagos.
The get-together, an annual event for disabled children every Easter Monday, was held at the Wesley School for the Hearing Impaired Children in Surulere area of the state. The occasion provided a convivial atmosphere for kids to make merry and meet new friends. With much to eat and drink, and creative games to mentally engage the children, guests were duly entertained by the kids who were out to make truth of the aphorism that "there is ability in every disability."
The children whose ages range between five and17 displayed a high sense of maturity as they smiled and responded with non verbal clues to comments made by guests at the event. In a well articulated choreography that would make any gymnast green with envy, the physically challenged children gave a grand performance that earned them a standing ovation from everyone present.
Mrs. Mudashiru disclosed that she initiated the Easter Picnic 24 years ago as a pet project and has since been able to sustain it as an annual tradition. To the ex-first lady, Nigerians need to focus more on the needs of physically challenged children in the society. In that way, she stressed, everyone could tap from their rich potentialities.
She revealed that her undiluted passion for the plight of less fortunate kids in the country has sustained the project, despite challenges threatening its continuity. Mudashiru equally decried the rate at which children with disabilities were neglected by their parents, noting that the trend puts the kids at the risk of imbibing deviant habits.
"The sight of physically challenged children begging in the streets and filling stations gives me heartache and sleepless nights," she said. "Parents should dissuade the children from begging and encourage them to engage in gainful ventures, like sewing, shoemaking and other money earning jobs. These children are gifted and people would be surprised at what they can achieve with their hands. This call is a test for parents and the society in general to show how much they love these gifted kids", she said.
Highlighting the ills of begging and the negative effects it has on the country’s image, the former first lady restated her commitment to the course of giving the less privileged an opportunity to be great in life, even as she urged government and private organizations to map out programmes that could make them self dependent.
"Begging is an unprofitable and demeaning habit," she said, adding: "When these children beg and are not given anything, they steal and end up as very violent deviants. The female veer into prostitution and find their way into brothels. The very unlucky ones get infected with tuberculosis, sexually transmitted diseases and worse still, HIV/AIDS. These are very expensive ailments to treat and the kids might not get necessary medical attention. We must all kick against this shameful act to protect the image of this country".
The former first lady is not done. Said she: "Physically challenged children are specially gifted, and if given the necessary encouragement, can become independent and contribute to the development of the country. The society is not doing enough for physically challenged people. Very few people would think of giving them scholarships to further their education. Even with the knowledge they have acquired in other skills, many still feel reluctant to employ them. These children might be physically handicapped, but they have abilities which can be tapped for their overall development."
The Lagos State coordinator for the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Mrs. Olugbemiga Benson, in her goodwill message, noted that every Nigerian child, irrespective of their physical status, is entitled to basic educational training. She disclosed that the Lagos State government was working frantically to make special provisions for disabled children in the state.
The SUBEB boss commended the efforts of the Soroptimist International for extending their goodwill to the children during the season. She also appealed to members of the public to close ranks with the authority to make the state conducive for everybody.
"Members of the public should equip challenged individuals with necessary tools to empower them. It is not their making that they are handicapped. Nature made them what they are and there is nothing anybody can do about it. The public needs to complement the effort of the ministry of education to make these children achieve their dreams", she appealed.
Before leaving for their various homes, with gifts and health foods specially packaged by the former first lady, the children were led to the dance floor by the guests. And for many on-lookers, it was fun watching the kids trying to match the adults step-by-step, momentarily forgetting their physical disabilities.