By Tope Templer Olaiya
It is sixty diamond years of giving vision to the blind at the Nigeria Society for the Blind Vocational Training Centre in Oshodi.
Nothing is worse than going blind but watching students with their long white cane poring every square inch of the now familiar grounds of the vocational centre with renewed enthusiasm makes one wonder what might have been for the young energetic future leaders, who fate has let to face a solitary world of darkness.
Tucked away behind the serenity of Command Secondary School and NAFRC Army Barracks, Oshodi, the Nigeria Society for the Blind (NSB) for six decades, which was founded by a group of compassionate and spirited Nigerians and expartiates, has been training and rehabilitating the visually impaired to give them hope, succor and a sense of belonging in a society that has subjected them to a life of begging, or worse, locked up at home at the mercy of family members.
In the words of the chairman, Mrs. Biola Agbaje, “since inception, we have trained over 2,000 students who are either gainfully employed or are being useful to themselves. We train them first to be able to move around on their own and we teach them to read and write in Braille.
“Once you teach a person to read and write, teach them to move on their own, then life has become almost normal. This is in addition to developing their skills for handcraft like typing, telephone switchboard operation, computer operation, tie and dye, basket weaving and carpet making,” she said.
It is a remarkable feat that the NSB has continued with these rehabilitation activities since inception without any subvention from either the state or federal government.
The society is today governed by a three-member Trustees namely Ambassador Aduke Alakija (Life President); Chief E.O. Akinsete (1st Vice Life President) and Mrs. Ebun Onabanjo (2nd Vice Life President). There are 18 Executive Council members, who all serve voluntarily in various committees to chart the path for the society through regular meetings.
From an old workshop building donated in 1955 for the take-off of the rehabilitation programme, the NSB has through the support of philanthropists, corporate organisations and religious bodies developed a training complex consisting of a new state-of-the-art workshop, library complex housing a computer school and a Braille press, an ultra-modern digital recording musical studio open for public patronage, block of classrooms, an administrative block and residential accommodation for teaching staff and students.
Some of the activities lined up to celebrate 60 years of the society include a seminar on Living With Blindness at Muson Centre on March 19, Open Day at the centre on April 10 and 11, May Ball Dinner and Dance at Muson Centre on May 25 and a grand finale ceremony on November 28.