My hearing problems blessing in disguise – Bauchi undergraduate

A student at Aminu Saleh College of Education, Azare, in Bauchi State, Dayyabu Azare, tells TEMITOPE ADETUNJI how he lost his ability to hear due to meningitis and why he does not see his condition as a limitation

Were you born with hearing impairment?

My name is Dayyabu Azare. I am from Azare in the Katagum Local Government Area of Bauchi State. I am a Muslim. I am 26 years old and I was not born with hearing impairment. I lost my hearing ability after contracting meningitis at the age of 13; that was in 2010. Meningitis is an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes caused by an infection. So, meningitis caused me to be completely deaf, and life has not been easy ever since.

Can you remember how it happened?

It all started in the late hours of the night. I was down with a fever, so my parents took me to a hospital. It took almost a week before I recovered, but the doctor discovered that I could not hear. After being discharged from the hospital, severe earaches left me crying daily over the unbearable pain in my ears. My parents took me to the hospital for a medical checkup and my ear canals were washed by the doctor several times.

Did your parents take any other steps to find a solution?

We often visited herbalists, and I was given a lot of medicine and others that I can’t mention. It’s exactly 13 years since I lost my hearing; it was quite interesting finding myself in the deaf world. However, I found nothing but a blessing because, through my hearing loss, I knew how to read and write English. Although I am proficient in my native language (Hausa), it was not too difficult for me to learn English. I am healthy, and I am proud of being deaf. It was a major, life-changing phenomenon in my life.

How do you handle the challenges that come with the condition?

I have never been mocked for my hearing impairment, but some of my colleagues who have the same condition have faced mockery. My advice to those mocking others for their hearing impairment is to understand that hearing loss is not a curse but a destiny. It can happen to anyone at any time. Such a person could be you, your child, mother, father, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, nephew, relative, or neighbour. Also, parents should learn standard sign language to be able to communicate with their deaf children effectively. It’s disheartening that some parents are not interested in learning how to use sign language or communicate with their deaf children. They leave them to grow up with their local sign language, which is not encouraging.

Therefore, parents and societies need to understand deaf people; they should kindly support them, and motivate them. Believe me, they (deaf people) will be successful, if not very successful in the end, and contribute positively towards the development of their society. They need support against any form of discrimination, be it in the family, community, or society.

How has your family supported you since you lost your ability to hear at the age of 13?

My mother had five children – three males and two females. My mother died in 2016 when I was in boarding secondary school, seven years after I lost my hearing impairment. My parents sent me to school for further education, one year after I lost my hearing. I am greatly indebted to my father and my late mother for their financial and moral support during my upbringing, despite being deaf at a tender age.

What was your experience as a deaf pupil?

One of my memorable experiences as a deaf person was at the Special Education Centre, Bauchi, a boarding school where I had my primary education after losing my hearing ability. I attended the school in 2011. I have to say that it was overwhelming finding myself on the premises and seeing deaf people talking with their hands. It was a wonderful event for a deaf person who joined them because it was my first time experiencing deaf people making use of signs to communicate; it was indeed the real deaf world. It was a joyful and fun experience, however, meeting a lot of deaf people from different backgrounds. That was the day that I truly realised that the deaf world is undoubtedly a melting pot because it doesn’t matter the background you come from.

Did you attend a higher institution of learning?

When I gained admission into Aminu Saleh College of Education, Azare, for my Nigeria Certificate in Education in 2017, many of my colleagues and coursemates at the college who could hear wondered how I, as a deaf person, would deal with my academic work in the school because there were no interpreters. Funnily enough, I am now an NCE graduate.

I vividly remember the first day I attended lecture. I was almost bored, felt lonely, and was isolated because I couldn’t hear the lecturer. I decided to focus on my mobile phone throughout the lecture hours. After the lecture, I gently tapped the shoulder of one of my coursemates who sat near me, gave him a note introducing myself as a deaf person, and also asked him to help inform me of some basic information such as the test, and assignments. He smiled and promised to help me throughout our academic journey.

After graduation, I decided to apply for a degree programme at the University of Maiduguri, Borno State, through the Aminu Saleh College of Education, Azare, which is an affiliate. I am doing well and moving further. It has been God’s grace from the beginning of my academic journey, despite all the challenges that come with hearing loss, because I always believe it requires hard work, prayer, and determination to excel and succeed. The school where I am currently studying offers scholarships to people with special needs from NCE to degree levels.

How did you become a carpenter, and how do you balance it with your academic programme?

Carpentry is my family profession. My father is a carpenter, just like my elder brother, who decided to train me in carpentry work, and I am now a successful carpenter who can make furniture and roof houses. I learnt how to make furniture from my brother at home and also to roof houses with my father. That way, I learnt to be self-reliant, and that has had a significant impact on my life. Sometimes, I get calls from my friends, neighbours, and their friends to work for them.

It’s quite interesting seeing me make furniture with nice designs. One day, my elder brother who is also a carpenter, left me at the workshop and asked me to do a particular furniture job and I did it very well. As I said earlier, carpentry is our family profession. I learned it from my elder brother and father, and it has influenced my professional development because this is a skill I was born with.

What challenges have you faced as a deaf person, and how have you overcome them?

The challenges I faced included the lack of an interpreter – a person who could translate spoken words into sign language in school and documents that the deaf really depend on to study on time. I only got a few of such documents a few days before examinations. However, I tried to overcome such challenges by copying some notes from my coursemates. I am making a plea to all the institutions in Nigeria to try all they can to ensure course materials and documents are available for deaf students in their institutions and to employ interpreters when necessary, as many deaf people’s complaints are about course and writing materials.

Some people think deafness takes away an important part of a person’s life. Do you see it that way?

Being deaf is not the end of life, but a challenge that you need to overcome by believing that you can make it no matter the situation. You can become what God wants you to be; you can be successful by going to school, learning skills, getting married, and exploring to be great. My family supports me but thank God that the school I currently attend offered me a scholarship because I don’t think they (my family) would have been able to give me full academic support due to my poor background.

What are your plans for the future and how do you plan to achieve them?

In teaching, you will learn; in learning, you will teach. Teaching is my primary career. I have no other passion other than teaching. However, carpentry contributes positively by providing shelter to communities, like roofing and furniture through the beds we sleep on, and the chairs and tables we use at home and school. I don’t engage in carpentry all the time. I go to school in the morning and come back in the afternoon. The opportunity carpentry offers to individuals with disabilities is that it can help them to be financially stable as long as they give it a try, rather than begging on the streets.

Are you married or in a relationship?

I am single.

Have you ever been in a relationship?

No, I have never been in a relationship.

What do you think is the perception of people with a hearing disability about life?

I haven’t been in a relationship because I want to focus on my education for now. Life means different things to different people, depending on their unique experiences, cultural backgrounds, personal beliefs, and outlook. Deaf individuals, like anyone else, have diverse perceptions about life. However, my perception of life is that no one is perfect. Each day is often shaped by the unique challenges and opportunities associated with being deaf. Many deaf people have a strong sense of identity and culture within the deaf community, and they may view life as a journey with its own set of experiences and triumphs. Communication and accessibility are crucial factors that can influence their perception of life, as they may face both barriers and strengths related to deafness. It’s important to recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all perception among deaf individuals, as their perspectives are as varied as those of individuals who can hear.

What are the things that have helped you gain confidence in society?

Often, I feel bad when I am discriminated against or whenever I notice that I am excluded. I always believe that this life is full of ups and downs, but I always try to be at the top, no matter how hard it is. At the moment, I need a motorcycle and some carpentry equipment. I need a motorcycle because I want to use it to reduce the burden associated with going to school with a bicycle. I also need carpentry equipment that will help me boost my work.

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