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Teacher recounts how Airtel’s intervention transforms life of toddler blinded by ritualists

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VP Corporation Communications at Airtel, Emeka Oparah carrying Sadiq Usman

Due to an early intervention by Airtel, Nigeria’s leading telecom company, Sadiq Usman, the little boy who was kidnapped and blinded by unknown persons in 2016, now lives a surprisingly more productive life as a young student, his teachers have said.

Ibrahim Yusuf Morah, Sadiq’s lead tutor and head of the Special Education Unit at Professors International Group of Schools in Tudun Wadan, Zaria, said the cash and equipment donations from Airtel and its employees made it possible for the school to reintegrate the boy.

Today, Morah said, “Sadiq is in Primary 2 and one of our best students in the school –we have a nickname for him; we call him Professor.”

As a three-year-old, Sadiq Usman was seized from his neighbourhood in the Jushi area of Zaria by suspected organ thieves still at large.

The assailants gouged out the pre-schooler’s eyes and abandoned him in a remote part of the town. The horrific incident devastated the boy’s family of eight and threw the village into a panic.

After passers-by found Sadiq and took him for treatment at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Professors International Group of Schools, Zaria offered to assist his indigent family by training him for free.

However, said Morah, “We weren’t equipped with all the standard materials and apparatus needed to facilitate his learning. Although we were able to acquire the ones we could afford, what we had still wasn’t enough to fully help the boy with the academic support he really needed.”

Via the company’s Employees Volunteer Scheme, Airtel’s staff raised N400,000.00 for Sadiq’s tuition and donated several sophisticated training equipment to the school. Some of the items presented included a Perkins Brailler, a laptop computer, a Braille Coacher, a Crammer-style abacus, and a Taylor frame, among others.

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Since this intervention three years ago, Morah confirmed that Airtel has continued to completely pay for Sadiq’s education.

Morah added: “After Airtel started paying [Sadiq’s] tuition fees, more people have reached out to us, asking to help, too. Some have donated clothing materials, among other things, for his upkeep. One person even donated a car to help with his transportation.”

Airtel’s donations towards Sadiq’s rehabilitation have been beneficial, not only to the boy but also to his teachers, according to Morah.  “Really, not only has Airtel’s contributions significantly helped him; it has further propelled me to tutor him better than I ever could,” he said.

Remarkably, he noted, the pupil has taken well to all the equipment provided by Airtel. “He particularly likes using the laptop Airtel got him as it came with a computer program called JAWS, which allows the visually impaired to read and operate a computer, using text-to-speech.”

Sadiq is also said to have developed the needed capacity to use a typewriter when there is no power on his laptop. 

This “is a remarkable feat, considering the fact that most visually impaired children do not operate Perkins Brailler efficiently until they are about ten years of age. He started to type efficiently when he was only in primary 1. Another remarkable achievement is that Sadiq is now multilingual as he speaks four languages fluently, including French, Arabic and, of course, English and Hausa,” Morah noted.

Airtel

VP Corporation Communications and CSR at Airtel, Emeka Oparah with Sadiq Usman

When Sadiq learnt of how the telecom company had saved him, Morah said the school staff observed his gratitude. “It gave him hope and we saw him go from being withdrawn to jovial and cheerful. Today, he feels loved and he understands what compassion means,” the teacher said.

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