March 4, 2021

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People With Disabilities Should Be Treated Like Human Beings -Deaf Activist

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El-dad Monu has been fighting to ensure that People With Disabilities are given equal rights in the society. He was instrumental in reviving the department of special education, University of Calabar.. He spoke with CHIEMEKA ADINDU, in Calabar.

Excerpts:
Let us know you.
I am El-dad Monu from Abia State.  I am concurrently serving as the Founder and CEO of El-New Hope Foundation; a General Director of Chidi Topaz Olujie Foundation; an Education Officer at the Special Education Unit, Abia State Ministry of Education, Nigeria; the Assistant Director to the Seventh-Day Adventist Church Possibility Ministry, Eastern Nigeria Union Conference, and; the Chairman of Abia State Deaf Association.

You recently paid a visit to the vice chancellor of the University of Calabar. What was it all about?
Well, I personally came to pay my homage to the vice chancellor of University of Calabar who is my mentor. However my team of El-New Hope Foundation and I had decided to present her an award of excellence in recognition of her distinction as being the first female vice chancellor of University of Calabar and being a virtuous woman and great value in the service of humanity in Cross River State and beyond. We also discussed the forthcoming Abia State special empowerment and entrepreneurial exhibition based on the 2020-2030 disability development strategy which will take place in Abia State by God’s grace if the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic will not affect it.

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What is this empowerment programme all about?
Well, the forthcoming programme is a combination of summit and exhibition as we plan to educate our government and the general public to correct the myopic and narrow mindedness on the importance of including our people with disabilities along in the government development plan towards sustainable development. Our meeting with the vice chancellor is part of the SDGs #17 by making partnership with her to help us with her wealth of experience and power of knowledge in promoting our 2021-2030 Abia State disability development strategy. Abia State is a commercial city and our state governor who is an alumnus of UNICAL loves to see that our people are carried along. We are going to empower some of our PWDs to achieve Made-in-Aba.

During your service year as a corps member, you won the state governor’s award as a result of your contributions to the Department of Special Needs, University of Calabar. Tell us about this project.
There was inaccessibility, inadequate facilities, inadequate lecturers, no sign language interpreters, and among others. During that time many from South East and South South regions will go to University of Ilorin, University of Ibadan, Jos or other universities far away to further their education.

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So were you able to bring a solution to these challenges? And how were you able to achieve the feat?
Yes, we were able to solve all these challenges by proffering the solutions to the then Vice Chancellor of University of Calabar Professor James Epoke. My then NYSC Cross River State Coordinator, Engr. Nkereke, the PRO and Head of Human Resources followed me to have a great audience with the then Vice Chancellor, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) and other top officials where we brainstormed to solve these problems and it was fruitful and successful. I was directed to meet and welcom by Professor Florence Obi who was the then best Dean of Faculty of Education to work together to set things up. Today you can see we have adequate special education lecturers, up to four sign language interpreters. More students with disabilities were given admission into different departments of their choice, enough facilities in the department of special education such as teaching materials, etc; establishment of Nigerian University Deaf Students Association (NUDESA, now NADSA) and lots more to mention because right now, the university is an inclusive education for all.

What were your motivations?
My motivation was to help University of Calabar to be one of the best universities that time to offer inclusive education for all persons with disabilities in accordance with the Nigeria national policy on education and that of the Article 24 of the United Nations’ Conventions on the Right of Persons with disabilities (CRPD) and sustainable development goals. I believe that opening the opportunistic doors for persons with disabilities will empower them with great knowledge thereby enhancing them for greater exploits by contributing their quota to the development of our country. Also my motivation is to see that our brothers and sisters from South East and South South regions can save their money, energy and time by coming to nearby university instead of a faraway places.

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What is the current state of that department?
Everything has changed about special education. I can boast that the department at UNICAL is now one of the best among other Nigerian Universities. Just yesterday, Dr Irokoba Godwin, a deaf lecturer of that department has been appointed as the deputy director of external relations, UNICAL.

What are your expectations from the current vice chancellor to the department and to the university community at large?
I wish her the very best of luck in her new assignment. In fact she is very capable and intelligent of performing the duty which has impressed many. I am hoping that she will continue to do her human best from where she stopped to build University of Calabar into a best University in Nigeria.

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How about the department of special needs? What are your expectations?
I am expecting more improvements. However, there is one thing about sign language interpreters’ loyalty, integrity and commitment to duty. For instance, some of them were not meant to work as sign language interpreters but instead they would take this opportunity to apply for. After getting a job and not long, they would later want to change to lecturer or other position as their initial plan which is unbecoming and uncalled for. This attitude will lead to inadequate human resources for the Deaf students in terms of accessibility to information and communication. Some of them are not fluent in sign language. Hence, I want the school authority to look into this and make the law or protocol to end this attitude which has already happened in recent times. They should not take the deaf students for their own advantage.

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