On a courtesy visit to Mr. Chris Maiyaki, the acting executive secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), the executive secretary of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) urged the NUC to consider the needs of the physically challenged. Essentially, the NCPWD urged the university commission to work towards incorporating their needs into its curriculum. NCPWD executive secretary, Mr. James David Lalu, stated this when he led a delegation to the NUC recently. The aim of the visit, according to Lalu, was to discuss critical matters affecting persons with disabilities in Nigerian universities.
While commending the acting executive secretary for the opportunity to discuss the issues, Lalu recounted a personal experience of discrimination that he suffered in the hands of a university management as he sought admission to study during his undergraduate days. He recalled that he was rejected from studying the course that he was admitted into when the management observed that he was physically challenged. Instead, he was offered Special Education as a course to study. He described this as a common experience of persons with disabilities in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
Collaboration request to address the observed gaps.
To stem the tide, Lalu informed Maiyaki that there was now an existing law in the country barring discrimination against persons with disabilities. He expressed dismay that the just re-engineered university curriculum did not factor in the needs of persons with disabilities due to lack of consultation with them in the review process. Because of this, he requested collaboration with the university commission to address the observed gaps. Also, he informed the NUC team that the NCPWD is currently collaborating with 13 universities in Nigeria on the possibilities of incorporating their needs into the curriculum.
He stated that a sign language program had commenced at Federal University Lafia (FULafia) and hoped that other universities would soon integrate relevant programs that would address the needs of the physically challenged. In addition, the group appealed to the NUC to champion its demand by introducing some courses that would further address issues of persons with disabilities in the General Studies (GST) programs of Nigerian tertiary institutions. On the issue of employment, he said that there was already an existing circular from the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF) directing government establishments to give 5% slots to persons with a disability during the recruitment exercises.
NUC role in varsities and reactions to issues presented.
Unfortunately, Lalu said that most establishments had not honoured it. He said that the discriminatory practice remained the major challenge of persons with disability, noting that keeping to the tenets of the circular would reduce the suffering among them. He appealed to Nigerian universities in particular to empathize with persons with disability both in admission and in recruitment exercises. On his side, Maiyaki gave a rundown on the establishment of the NUC as a regulatory agency saddled with the responsibility to regulate university education in Nigeria. He informed the team that Nigeria currently has 260 universities, comprising 51 federal, 62 state and 147 private universities and still counting.
Some of the commission’s functions include accreditation of academic programs, conduct of resource verification exercise to new programs, inspection and monitoring of universities, issuance of licenses for establishment of private universities, drafting of curriculum, among others. Every now and then, the agency participates in policy formation and formulation for university education in Nigeria. Recent achievements include curriculum re-engineering, the consummation of guidelines on Transnational Education (TNE), E-Learning as well as private open university. Reacting to the issues on persons with disabilities, the acting executive secretary disclosed that the Nigerian University System (NUS) had been responsive and responsible to the physically challenged.
University commission to work on issues on curriculum raised.
Through its Directorate of Students (DoS), the NUC had paid regular visits to the universities to assess the status of Student Support Facilities and Services. The commission had always recommended varsities to redesign their programs and physical facilities through this process to accommodate the physically challenged. Maiyaki said that the management attached great value to people with disabilities and frowned at any form of discrimination against them. He also promised that the issues raised on the already re-engineered curriculum would be discussed to see how to capture the needs of the physically challenged.