Lagos, NGO partner on Special Needs Education

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The Lagos State Ministry of Education is collaborating with a non-governmental organisation, MINDS Reform Initiative, toward the development of Special Needs Education.

Both parties are collaborating on an inspiring movie, ÌTÌJÚ, with the rider “hope heals.”

The promoter of MINDS Reform Initiative, Mr Oladapo Akande, said this in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Friday.

He quoted the Lagos State Commissioner for Education, Mrs Sade Adefisayo, as saying that the project highlighted “such an important issue that had largely remained under the radar.

“We look forward to exploring this relationship further — during and beyond this project, as the ministry appreciates the contribution it will certainly make towards the development of Special Needs Education in Lagos State.”

The title, ÌTÌJÚ, is a Yoruba word, which means a feeling of shame, and the movie sets out to remove the stigma attached to people living with various challenges.

According to Akande, the brain behind the movie, the suffocating culture discourages people from speaking up about their personal challenges.

“How will one find solutions to issues that one cannot talk about?” he queried.

Akande said ÌTÌJÚ may be a Yoruba word but dealt with a Nigerian problem.

He said Dyslexia, the learning disorder, which made reading and writing herculean tasks, had been described by educationists as “the silent destroyer.”

According to him, it is said to be responsible for the high rate of school dropouts and the increasing number of juvenile crimes in the society.

“Interestingly, the disorder does not affect the sufferer’s intellect, as dyslexics are famed for their creativity and excellent problem solving abilities.

“Lack of awareness in our society has, however, led to dyslexics being labelled as dull and stupid as they struggle through school.

“Rejection by parents and the resultant low self esteem have been identified as major causes of mental health issues in society,” he said.

He explained that these manifest in different ways: from depression, drug and alcohol abuse, bipolar disorder and an alarming increase in suicide rates.

“Estimated to affect 10 per cent- 15 per cent of the Nigerian population according to Ben Arikpo of Dyslexia Foundation (Nigeria), dyslexia is a massive problem ‘hidden from plain sight,’” he said.

Akande said though 90 per cent of teachers in Nigeria had never heard of dyslexia, not to talk of parents, the list of foreign household names that were known dyslexics was endless.

“Though not dyslexic myself, I was privileged to witness first hand, during my primary and secondary school days in the United Kingdom, how early diagnosis and timely intervention helped salvage the destiny and restored meaning to the lives of some of my dyslexic classmates.

“They, having received the attention at the right time, went on to succeed in their chosen professions.

“It is amazing what knowledge can do,” he said.

Akande is a two-time author and writer of the popular weekly newspaper column, Character matters with Daps.

His partner and fellow producer on the project, Roy Osuji of Alvary Studios and Alvary Creatives, is the producer of the early 2020 movie, Handicapped; a story that highlights the scourge of human trafficking.

Osuji said, “ÌTÌJÚ is our gift to the world during these crazy times where mental health is a big deal.

“It is an expression of hope for everyone going through rejection just because they’re having a hard time grasping the conventional ways of doing things.”

As part of giving back to society, the producers of the movie, MINDS Reform Initiative and Alvary Studios, have undertaken to show an abbreviated version of the movie for free at selected public schools in Lagos.

ÌTÌJÚ is billed to premier at the cinemas early in 2022.