I have a dream of meeting the needs of the visually impaired through education

MOGADISHU – Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdullahi was born in the rural area of ​​the Mudug region, Puntland, Somalia, in 1992, into a family of pastoralists.

At birth, he usually had vision.

He was brought to the city of Galkayo at the age of five to study at religious and secular schools, but after completing grade four at a local school in 2001, his life changed.

“I was suffering from an eye disease and I was immediately taken to an ophthalmologist for treatment – the doctor performed an eye operation on me, but I lost my sight,” Abdullahi recalls.

Search for education

The loss of his sight threw Mr. Abdullahi out in depression. He felt that he could no longer continue his education as at that time in Somalia there was no system for teaching the visually impaired.

For the next few years, he stayed at home with his family.

Then, in 2008, his life changed again. He enrolled at the newly established Bazaar Institute for the Blind in Garowe in Somalia’s northeastern federal state of Puntland. The institution offers primary school education with qualified teachers trained from various institutions for the blind, as well as other activities for children and adults with impaired vision.

According to its social media accounts, the institute’s programs are designed to restore “self-confidence and enable people who are blind and partially sighted to perform familiar tasks in a new way and understand their rights in society.”

“I shed tears of joy when I returned to middle school three years later at the Bazaar Institute, wearing a student uniform. It was a special day for me and I shared my joy with my peers,” Abdullahi recalls.

But when he began his studies at Omar Samatar High School in Galkayo in 2009, Mr Abdullahi again encountered obstacles.

He studied there with students who were not visually impaired, and as a result, he felt that his studies suffered as there were no facilities that catered for visually impaired students, such as Braille teaching equipment and teachers trained in mentoring students with disabilities. vision.

“Since I could not see in the classroom, I used to ask my classmates to help me and write the lessons down for me. But unfortunately, when they did this, the board was often deleted, so I had to go home with my classmate. The students for to catch up on what was in the lessons, ”he says.

“I had a lot of problems when it came to exams. I was tested orally and I did not have time to think or answer the questions that I would like and my exams used to take place in offices that were always noisy. Some teachers also did not think about asking me questions in class because they assumed I did not understand the lessons well. “

But he sought for himself and was able to overcome these obstacles with the support of his fellow students – he completed high school with excellent results. The next step was higher education.

His search for higher education led him to Mogadishu.

“I was enrolled at Somaville University in Mogadishu in 2014 to study for a bachelor’s degree in international relations. But during my university studies, I faced the same challenges that I did in high school,” says Mr. Abdullahi.

“My biggest was finding teachers who could understand my special needs as they were not trained to teach students like me,” he adds. “But with the help of some of my colleagues and technology, I persevered – I wanted to upload teachers’ presentations and audio lessons on my phone, get some of my classmates to revise them again and again after each lesson, compare them to what “stood on the board and then listened to them at home so I was able to overcome the challenges. Fortunately, I graduated and celebrated it with my friends and family in 2018.”

To become a teacher

Early on, Mr. Abdullahi’s experiences as a student made him act. When he wanted to help others in a similar situation, he had already started teaching at the Center for the Disabled in Galkayo, Puntland, before even graduating from high school.

“In 2010, I started working at the center, which taught people with special needs, such as the visually impaired and deaf. I was hired to be a specialist teacher in the Somali language and mathematics. I worked there for a year; that was the first time I worked as a teacher, ”he says.

In parallel with his own education, Mr. Abdullahi’s teaching career continued to develop. In 2014, while enrolled at the university, he began working at one of the country’s most prominent schools for the visually impaired – the Al-Nur School for the Blind – in the country’s capital, Mogadishu.

When the 31-year-old had completed his formal education, his experiences as a student – and teacher – crystallized to such an extent that he decided on an educational career with the aim of helping them in a similar situation.

“I now teach subjects like math and Somali language as a full time teacher and I enjoy teaching these subjects and teaching Somali boys and girls as I know the hardships that can occur and I do not want them to go through the same ordeal., “he says, adding,” I have always understood the needs of these students, as I have studied under similar circumstances. “

But while Mr Abdullahi is busy as an educator, his time as a student is far from over. He plans to undertake postgraduate studies for people with special needs, with the long-term goal of helping build a system where full education is readily available to any visually impaired Somali – for their benefit and for Somalia as a whole.

“I am convinced that the education of people with disabilities can contribute to the development of this country. Recognizing that many people with disabilities like me need the country to do more for us, I am convinced that it will not be in vain to educate and support people with disabilities. “, says Mr. Abdullahi.

Common misunderstandings

Abdullahi believes that Somalia still has a long way to go in terms of realizing educational needs and human rights for people with special needs.

“Many people think that people with special needs can not do everything like the rest of society. It is wrong and it is not based on reality,” he says. “That kind of thinking leads parents to believe that their children with special needs can not learn and that is not true. The time has come for us to face reality: Communities must make a greater effort to educate the young people with special needs who need schooling now more than ever. “

In addition to his teaching, Mr Abdullahi also works part-time as a journalist, a role in which he tries to change misunderstandings and advocates for the rights of people with special needs.

“I have worked for several local media, including Goobjoog FM, Mandeeq FM, Star FM and Rugsan from 2014 to early 2021 – this includes producing reports and programs that talk about people with special needs – and I have reached the level for program editor, ”he says.

“I enjoy working with the media and as a teacher: teaching and journalism can go a long way as they are similar and compatible,” he adds, noting that his struggle to recognize the needs of people with special needs goes even further.

Mr. Abdiullahi also uses his artistic talent to serve his goals. He has composed songs and poems that have been widely used in some of the country’s media, such as Somali National Television and Goobjoog Radio.

“I have always loved literature. I am aware of its significance, and I have written many poems and awareness songs – mostly about people with special needs. I want to make their voice heard, as well as promote the important role of art. In society,” he says. .

Number of visually impaired

Although there are no official statistics on the number of people living with blindness, Dr. Mustafa Kalaycı, an ophthalmologist at Mogadishu-Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan Training and Research Hospital, in an article for the Turkish Journal of Ophthalmology published on October 30, 2020, stated that “total blindness was found to be 9.8 percent in the adult Somali people. “

The doctor’s findings come from a hospital-based study aimed at evaluating the causes and frequency of blindness among the adult Somali population according to the criteria of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO). Out of 2,605 patients – 1,251 women and 1,354 men – 256 patients were determined to have blindness in one or both eyes and were included in the study. According to the study, trauma is the leading cause of blindness due to the security conditions in the country.

The UN marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities annually on 3 December. The purpose of the observation is to promote the understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of people with disabilities. It also seeks to raise awareness of the gains that can be made by integrating people with disabilities into all aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life.

(UNSOM)

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