For little Sadiq Usman, it appeared the end had come. And to many residents of Joshi, a small village in Kaduna State, who caught a glimpse of the boy on that fateful day in 2016, it was an unimaginable sight.
The three-year-old boy was the victim of evil men who plucked out his eyes before tossing him in the bush, leaving him for dead.
It was an incident that rankled many minds across the country when it was reported four years ago.
The barely conscious Sadiq was discovered by passers-by on the outskirts of the community, and he was rushed to St. Luke’s Anglican Hospital in Wasasu, a nearby community.
When that hospital could not handle his case, Sadiq was transferred to the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Zaria, where the medical personnel helped him back to life. Eventually, Sadiq made a full recovery.
But that was just the beginning of more challenges for the boy, his indigent parents and his siblings. With the little boy virtually handicapped at such an early age, money would be needed to achieve many things.
There was a ray of hope for the family when Professors International Group of Schools, Zaria, offered to give the boy free education. But then, the school did not possess all the requirements to turn the boy’s life around.
Ibrahim Yusuf Morah, an orientation and mobility specialist and head of the special education unit at the school, was picked as Sadiq’s lead tutor. He was recruited from the Federal College of Education, Zaria.
“Although we were able to acquire some of the equipment we could afford, what we had still wasn’t enough,” Morah said.
Morah stated that there were other challenges for Sadiq. His terrible experience had a negative effect of him. The early days of Sadiq’s programme were some of the most frustrating since the school decided to admit the boy.
“He could not stand being around people,” said Morah. “He cried continuously. It was very difficult. The school had to offer his brother a scholarship just so he could have someone around with whom he was familiar. Even after that, things remained quite difficult. I had to work towards earning his trust over a long period of time.”
It was gathered that the school made efforts to upgrade its facilities so that providing the needed therapy and training for Sadiq would be achieved. But it was a herculean task. Most of those that had made promises to Sadiq and the school became elusive.
But when the school and Sadiq’s family thought all hope was lost, Airtel, one of Nigeria’s leading telecommunication giants, came to the rescue. Some officials of the firm heard of the boy’s near-death experience and brought his story to Airtel. Through the company’s Employees Volunteer Scheme, Airtel’s staff raised N400,000 to cover Sadiq’s tuition. Then they shipped several sophisticated training tools, including a Perkins Brailler, a laptop computer, a Braille Coacher, a Crammer-style abacus, and a Taylor frame. The company handed all these to Professors International Group of Schools and has continued to fund the boy’s education since 2016.
According to Morah, the support from Airtel brought succour to all the parties. While the teachers now have access to world-class teaching aids. Sadiq got the chance to show the world how brilliant he has always been.
Four years after the incident, Sadiq is in Primary 2. He has become a multilingual lad, communicating fluently in Hausa, French, Arabic, and English. He has mastered the Perkins Braille machine, the computer and typewriter. Because of his brilliance and smartness, he has been nicknamed The Professor.
Morah said the school and everyone involved is immensely grateful to Airtel.
“Really, not only have Airtel’s contributions significantly helped him, they have further propelled me to tutor him better than I ever could have. He is very zealous when it comes to his education and particularly likes using the laptop Airtel got him. The laptop came with a computer programme called JAWS, which allows the visually impaired to read and operate a computer using text-to-speech. He uses the typewriter when there is no power on his laptop, which is a remarkable feat, considering the fact that most visually impaired children do not operate Perkins Brailler efficiently until they are about 10 years of age. He started to type efficiently when he was only in Primary 1.”
Airtel’s humanitarian efforts have also been emulated by folks in the community, state and across the country. As news of Sadiq’s progress spread, many individuals have been offering a helping hand.
“Some have donated clothing materials, among other things, for his upkeep. One person even donated a car to help with his transportation. The car conveys him to and fro the school every day, which has eased his family’s burden in terms of transportation and security. I think it boils down to empathy because, in the beginning, we got a lot of promises that yielded nothing. but ever since Airtel came along and actually acted upon their promises, more people have reached out,” Morah said.