By Gilbert Ekezie
It was a day of joy and display of different talents in Lagos recently when the Special Education Collaborative Outreach (SECO) played host to underprivileged children and adults from various special homes, organizations and the public during her annual Social Inclusion Awareness Campaign and Fair Activity that took place at Alausa Ikeja. The epoch- making event provided an ample opportunity for the underprivileged children, with unique abilities to showcase their prowess and talents. They proved that the talents they have can sustain, if given the opportunity. Among children present were those with autism, who sang the national anthem at the commencement and acapella singers who thrilled the audience to an awesome rendition of songs. Also, a girl with cerebral palsy did a melodious performance that added colours and attracted much encomiums to the event of the day. Others were albinos, the blind, spinal cord injury victims, polio victims, deaf and dumb etc.
President and Founder of Special Education Collaborative Outreach (SECO), Mrs. Imuetinyan Okwueze, in her usual manner, could not hide her feelings on the wonderful performances of the Special Children, as she sang and danced along with them.
She appreciated the presence of those who have working relationship with SECO both in the past and present, to support children and adults with different challenges.
Okwueze explained that main purpose of the programme, is to show love and care to those with challenges.
According to her SECO engages in such project to let the world see what those with various physical challenges can do. “We should not always see what those with challenges cannot do, we should also try to see what they can do. That is the reason we offer them the opportunity to display their talents, and having been doing that, it has become obvious that they are not useless the way people percieve.”
Okwueze explained that as a Special Educator for over 20 years, each time she comes home from abroad, it breaks her heart on how the underprivileged are treated, that was why she brought the opportunity up. “Thank God for my husband who agreed to my plans and we started SECO together. That’s the passion. We have been doing this for three years.”
She stressed the need for the society to give the desired attention to persons with special abilities. “Obviously, every human has a disability, all humans have what they can’t do. It could be physically, mentally, intellectually and otherwise. What we need is empathy through empowerment.”
The SECO founder was displeased with the discrimination against the underprivileged in the Nigerian society. “On no account should family members hide the underprivileged among them. They are artists, singers and can do all that we do not expect.
‘The United Nations has given a mandate to create an inclusive world. The only way we can do that is to go to the grassroots to break cultural behaviours that always hide the children or see them as curses. But we have to start early with the children, so that we can bring out the skills in them.”
In his own submission, Project Director of SECO, Mr Jesse Short was of the view that children are not disabled but differently-abled.
He stressed the need to encourage their ability of the underprivileged, and called on the Federal Government to sign the UN mandate. also has her own disability that would see the underprivileged children and adults included in the society.
Short also talked about the plans of SECO and how it will be impacting the children in various ways like intervention in terms of wheelchairs, walking aids, speech support among others.