Sheriff Rasheed from Nigeria studying at Grand Valley State University is one of 12 finalists for the International Student Voice Magazine scholarship. Read his essay here!
It is a land where all men are treated equally, a meeting point for people of all races, creeds, sexual orientations, religions, abilities and disabilities, a land of all possibilities, a land of great dreamers, a land of the great Roosevelt, (United States of America). Having this at the back of my mind, I set out for my educational sojourn where I think my life, academic and career goals can be actualized.
According to a U.N.O report, about ten percent of every country’s population is comprised of persons living with various disabilities. Stigmatization and rejection are commonplace experiences for persons living with disabilities in most parts of the globe. Average society, especially in developing nations, conceives of disabled persons as lesser humans who have little or nothing to contribute to societal development. As a person with a disability (mobility impairment), who has lived his whole life in a developing nation, I have worked to prove these individuals wrong using education as my foil. My parents taught to me, that expanding the mind should not be limited or narrowed by disability.
During my high school and undergraduate studies in Nigeria, social and physical activities were limited and these restricted my relationships with my colleagues and teachers to some extent. Generally, perpetual dependence is the fate of disabled persons in developing nations, where roads and structures are only accessible to the able persons and therefore making the use of wheelchairs or any other mobility aides difficult if not impossible.
Resulting from this difficult terrain, I was exposed to problems such as, unaccustomed fatigue,rapid muscle tiring, feeling of total body exhaustion, weaknesses in muscles and joints. All of which had relative impacts on my final grades.
However, seeing education as the strongest avenue to make my life meaningful and to impact society, I set out to work hard in school and to concentrate on my studies. If my disability did not prevent me from graduating with second-class upper honors in my first degree (an equivalent of a 3.7 GPA) or prevent me from leaving Nigeria for the United States in pursuit of my master’s degree, nothing should stand as a barrier to anybody in achieving her/his dream whether abled or disabled.
My life experiences as an individual with a disability helps me to better understand the challenges confronting other individuals living with disabilities, and my academic degree from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria as a special educator/political scientist has made me realize that with education, individuals with disabilities can compete favorably and contribute to society.
While in Nigeria, I engaged in many voluntary services to educate parents on the need to enroll their children with disabilities in school and to see the importance of education in their children’s lives. I also gave free remedial classes to children with disabilities who were in schools, purposely to educate, inspire, and arouse in them “the spirit of can do.”
My long-term goal is to become a policy maker in my home country. I want to formulate/influence policies that will make access to education for pupils with special needs less cumbersome and provide education as the weapon of their liberation. However, to accomplish this goal, I must continue to learn. Currently, I am pursuing my master’s degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Emotional Impairment at Grand Valley State University. I have enrolled in this program because I strongly believe it will equip me with skills and knowledge required to significantly impact the education of fellow persons with disabilities in my home country. I also plan to pursue a Ph.D. from a university in the United States.
The barrier in my way of accomplishing my long-term goal is not my disability. It is finances. Currently, I am funding my education with only the assistance of my widowed mum. Securing this scholarship will go a long way in assisting me in completing my current master’s degree program and move one step closer to my goal of helping children with disabilities in Nigeria.