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15 Aug 2017

Physically Challenged Lady Opens Up On Her Ordeal As a Youth Corper

A physically-challenged female participant of the National Youth Corp programme has opened up on her ordeal taking part in the exercise as well as surviving the adverse economic conditions in Nigeria.

Sherifat Odemo
Crippled in a road accident, 23-year-old Sherifat Odemo defied the odds and recently became a graduate of Political Science from Adeleke University, Ede.

In this interview with Folasade Adebayo of the Punch newspaper, she shares the story of her struggles

Political Science is often seen as a turf for the male folk, what informed your decision to go for it?

I initially wanted to study Mass Communication. I wanted to become a broadcaster. But I did not pass Literature so I changed my course. I later discovered that Political Science is even more interesting because it empowers you to change the ills in the society. I did not see it as something for the men alone. It is a course t hat empowers you to make a difference. I intend to seek a political office and maybe I will start as a councilor. I also want to become the first female President of Nigeria.

You were a special-need student who graduated with a Second Class Upper Division Honours degree. How challenging was it for you to achieve the feat?

I thought I would make first class, but I still thank God for my life. I did not sleep any time I had an examination to write. Moving around was not easy because I had to ascend and descend buildings. There were times when I felt like fainting before I was awarded scholarship by the Springtime Development Foundation, owned by the Pro-Chancellor of the Adeleke University, Dr. Adedeji Adeleke. He did not only sponsor my education; he got me a motorised chair to aid my movement on campus. That helped a lot and, after some time, a special classroom was arranged for me to receive my lectures downstairs. The relocation to the temporary site of the university where the buildings were mainly bungalows also made it easier. On some occasions I had to crawl upstairs, carrying my laptop either to take lectures or do one thing or the other before a special arrangement was made by the university authority to allow me receive lectures downstairs.

But I still faced challenges because there were things I could not do without support. I saw my classmates jumping about and I felt odd. The scholarship covered only the tuition. I lacked other things. I did not have a corporate dress. Even during the convocation, I just put on what I had. I lived on campus and there were days when I was sent only N1,500 as upkeep for a whole month. But I was determined not to be broken because I knew it was only for a while.

Tell us the reaction of your parents to the scholarship and the motorised chair. 

My parents were overjoyed. I thank God that I am a graduate of Political Science from a private university. I don’t think I would have been able to complete my education. It was tough when I was in my first year. My parents could hardly afford to sponsor my education. My father is a road transport worker and my mother runs a canteen in Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State. I am the fourth child in the family and my father is a polygamist. It was not easy at all. Although my older siblings attended various higher institutions of learning, I am the first university graduate in my family.

Did you have a nickname on campus and were you into any relationship?

I was called a clown in my department because I do not like a boring environment. Also, I got involved in a relationship two times but they were nothing to write home about. I quickly realised that I had to take a step at a time.

What is next for you after graduation?

I have been offered employment by the university. I don’t know specifically what I will be doing, but I have been told that I would work in the Office of the Vice Chancellor. Dr. Adeleke also wants me to spend my service year at the university.

Do you think that physically challenged Nigerians are treated fairly by government and the society?

There is hope for physically challenged Nigerians and my advice is that if others let you down, do not let yourself down. Go to school if you have the opportunity and do not see your condition as a death sentence. Even if I decide to go into any business, I will do it better with education.

I was not born this way. I cannot stand upright now as a result of the injuries I sustained in a car accident on my way from Ado Ekiti to Lagos with my uncle when I was younger. But, even if movement is not easy and people look down on you, once you still have life there is still hope.

I sat for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination immediately after my secondary school education at the Mount Carmel Girls Secondary School, Ikare-Akoko, Ondo State. I chose Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba, Ondo State, but I did not make the cut-off mark. I was still undecided on what to do when my mother received a text message from the Adeleke University offering me admission. I was sad because I knew my parents could not afford the fees of a private university.

But my parents, especially my mother, encouraged me to accept the offer. According to her, although I cannot walk, education will enable me to stand tall among my equals.

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