The Nigerian Association of the Blind has condemned newspaper stories attributed to the West African Examination Council, WAEC, which suggested that blind people collude among themselves to cheat during examinations.
The National President of the association, Mr. Adamu Ishaku Gombe, told journalists in Gombe, that the publication, carried in some newspapers on December 29, last year and attributed to the Head of Test Administration of the West African Examination Council, Mrs. Francis Iweha-Onukwu, may create the misleading impression that blind people were engaged in examination malpractice.
“The fact that few blind students were caught cheating during exam, that does not mean that the issue should be generalized. And in the Nigeria Association of the Blind, we denounce any form of exam malpractice and we are not in support of that, but we feel like, this official report by WAEC, it will create a serious stereotype against our members and other institutions will use it against our members to deny them employment or admission in their institutions,” Mr. Ishaku said.
The National President of the Blind, said in a statement that the Blind Community in Nigeria was demanding for a public apology.
“In the meantime, the blind community of Nigeria demand for a public apology from WAEC for this unacceptable allegation.”
According Mr. Ishaku, the association abhors any form of examination malpractice by anyone, even the blind and as such it was unacceptable to stereotype blind Nigerians as cheats because of the acts of some few members.
“We want WAEC to understand that blind students, that is not their habit. Majority of them are hardworking people and they earn their legitimate knowledge through hard work. It is not a common thing among the blind people to cheat during examinations. So we are calling on WAEC and other bodies to work with the association to correct this problem. But we also want the general public to understand that it is not a normal practice within the blind students,” said Mr. Ishaku.
The National President of the Blind said the association had a long standing committee on education, which had been working hard to provide education opportunities for its members and advocated for the inclusion of members in all institutions.
He, however, called on its members to read and use the limited available resources to pass their examinations legitimately.
To the federal government, it called for the passage of legislation that would provide equal opportunities for its members at all levels.
The National President, Mr. Ishaku gave an example with the Merrakesh Treaty, which he said when signed into law and domesticated, would remove barriers to all international copy laws, so that its members could afford printed materials from any part of the world without any restrictions.
The treaty was adopted on June 27, 2013, in Marrakesh, Morocco, with the main goal of creating a set of mandatory limitations and exceptions for the benefit of the blind, visually impaired, and otherwise print disabled.
“The association is therefore calling on the Nigerian Government to first sign the treaty and provide laws that would enable its members have instruction materials and access to education and ICT on equal level with sighted colleagues.”
Mr. Ishaku said the blind were at a disadvantage when they were made to use materials meant for people who can see.
“You can imagine a blind person sitting in a classroom with other sighted colleagues, but having fifty pages handout. He has to come and record it or to get somebody to read for him to brailling; you don’t have access to 80 per cent of the books in the library. He is already in a disadvantaged position. But despite that fact, most of our blind people are performing wonderfully. They are graduating with 2:1, 2:2, some even with First Class and they are doing marvelous in most of the interviews they attend,” Mr. Ishaku said.
The National Association of the Blind called on the government to support its efforts by passing the legislation on disability, which will help address the huge shortage of books, available in formats that blind people could use.