Lagos State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola (SAN), accompanied by his wife, Dame Emmanuella Abimbola Fashola, on Saturday, 28th June, 2014 commemorated his 51st birthday with a visit to the School for the Blind Oshodi, saying the visit represents very sobering moments for him and an opportunity to say thank you by adding value to their lives.
The Governor who has kept faith with his tradition of commemorating his birthday since assumption of office with the less privileged while addressing members of the Board of Trustees, management, staff and students at the school said his experience last year with some of the students were constant reminders to him of how unappreciative fully sighted people can be.
He recalled his experience with two of the students he met last year, one was a law graduate who had to defer her admission to the Law School because she suddenly lost her sight and the other was a young business entrepreneur who had to learn adaptive ways to run his business without his sight.
He added that the experience of those two people also speaks of how easily the fully sighted people often take their full sightedness for granted and the fact that they have it disconnects them from those who have lost it.
He stressed that in the business of those who cannot see no one could be described as a customer as anyone can lose his or her sight, adding that for him the opportunity to say thank you by adding value to their lives.
Governor Fashola maintained that last year when he visited, he made some promises and that his visit this year was to check on what he considers an unfinished business which he has at the School for the Blind.
He said though he sent money to the school, the funds would not have achieved its purpose if good use had not been made of it by the good men and women who are administering the school.
He noted that it was indeed a pleasure that the tax payers money earmarked for the facelift for the school has been made use of in a good way, adding that if over N1 billion had been budgeted for scholarships in Lagos, it was profound that the School for the Blind was still remembered.
He said he was always in touch with the school while the construction process was on going and that going by what he has heard from the Board of Trustees, the management, the students, he is satisfied and believes it is a mission accomplished.
He said the decision to provide services through the school was done through the government in order to institutionalize it so that such a hand of fellowship does not end with the term of the government.
He explained that it was not just about providing the money but about providing an opportunity to make use of the money for the school commending the leadership provided by the state Ministry of Education under the Special Adviser to the Governor and the Scholarship Board for the various projects in the school.
On how the school could still benefit from the funds, the Governor urged the school management to always apply every year to the Scholarship Board even when he is no more in office.
He emphasized that the ruling party in Lagos, the All Progressives Congress (APC) supports free education while some parties may not, but that the choice lies before the people to make in helping to keep the free education policy going.
Also in an interview with journalists after the visit, the Governor said the School for the Blind has become a very deep part of him because his very first visit there was a very humbling experience with very established connections.
According to him, having grown up in Surulere, he used to go past the Pacelli School for the Blind but that as an adult, he has come to the shocking realization that even something as simple as sight, no one could ever take for granted.
He explained that this feeling was reinforced with the two people he met in the school last year, the young lady who had to defer her admission into the Nigeria Law School because she suddenly lost her sight and had to learn how to read and write again using a new software and a business man in his middle age who suddenly lost his sight and had to come there to learn how to adapt to life and to get on with his life again.
He expressed happiness that the experience has enabled him to forge a partnership with the trustees and administrators of the school and that he has been able to intervene to build the workshop.
“I am happy that it has facilities that help these people now to prepare to stand on their own and it helps us to answer their charge and call to us that even if they are physically challenged, they are not disabled and that if we give them a little support they can be as competitive as, be as self supportive as and they can be as productive to our society.
“Listening to the music they rendered there, they are doing things that I can’t do, they are playing musical instruments so it shows that if they had the chance, they can be better than even some of us who are not challenged in the way they are. So to learn now that this facility is helping them to prepare for life, to iron their own clothes, to cook their own food even without seeing it, I am grateful for the opportunity of being a part of this partnership with the Trustees”, he added.
Earlier while welcoming the Governor, Chairman of the Management Committee of the Nigeria Society for the Blind which manages the school, Asiwaju Osibo Afolabi thanked the Governor immensely for the support which the school has been enjoying from him.
He also expressed appreciation for the new workshop which the Governor has facilitated its equipping as well as the scholarships offered to the students of the school and called for a gazetting of the support so that it can continue after the tenure of office of the Governor.
Asiwaju Afolabi said the school also boasts of a music room, a recording facility, craft equipments, tie and dye, gymnasium and all facilities to ensure that the children are well trained and happy.
He added that the school has passed out about 35 students among whom are some who are currently studying in various tertiary institutions in the country while some have returned to their various states of origin doing well in their various vocations.
The Governor who was accompanied on the trip by the Special Adviser on Education, Otunba Fatai Olukoga was later presented with a birthday card and a cake by the management of the school before he inspected the state of the art facilities at the workshop and was also entertained by the students who rendered various evergreen tunes at the new state of the art digital music studio.