Surviving the Odds: Persons with Disabilities  turn Beggars as Discrimination Thrives in Bauchi State

In the heart of Bauchi town, the daily hustle and bustle are perceptible. From the break of dawn, the street comes alive with the sounds of market vendors calling out their wares, the ceaseless hum of motorcycles and cars weaving through the traffic.

 Many silent struggles persist in the street often unnoticed by many who traverse its path. 

It is the struggle of those who live with disabilities, those who face daily challenges that goes beyond the physical disabilities they bear.

Aisha Yusuf is a physically challenged person who resides around  Bauchi town. 

In a chat with WikkiTimes, she opens up about her continuous struggle against discrimination, a narrative that traced back to her earliest days and persists even now.

 Aisha was a baby when she got infected with the deadly poliomyelitis (polio) disease which sometimes leads to irreversible paralysis. Her inability to walk resulted in her reliance on a wheelchair, marking a new chapter of living with disability. Despite her parent’s significant financial investment in her education, Aisha’s journey through primary and secondary school remains a dilemma. 

Faced with limited options, her family contemplated marriage as a viable path forward, seeking a willing partner for her.

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“I endured a four-year marriage to a man who consistently reminded me that his reason for marrying me was pity, not love. After we had two sons, he disappeared, abandoning me to single handedly raise our children. Overwhelmed and unable to cope, I tragically lost one son, my mum intervened, taking my remaining son into her care”.

 Aisha, now 30 years old, has resorted to street begging, explaining that she cannot find anyone willing to offer her even a menial job due to the perception of her incompetence. Every day, whether in Bauchi state’s pouring rain or scorching sun, she can be seen propelling her wheelchair from her home to the town.

She shares her experience: “from my house, when I attempt to board a tricycle, none of the drivers will accept me. They refuse to let me place my wheelchair on their roof for safety reasons, so I have no choice than to navigate my wheelchair to my destination on my own.”

 Grievances of persons with Disabilities in Bauchi state.

Yahu Adamu, who recently graduated from Abubakar Tatari Polytechnic in Bauchi state with a Higher National Diploma in Public Administration, is no stranger to discrimination due to his disability.

He recounted his experience when he approached an organization within the Bauchi state local government to seek for employment after his graduation only to encounter discriminatory treatments.

“Upon my arrival at the building, I encountered a staff member at the gate who informed me that there were no funds available for beggars seeking alms today. I was advised to return when their supervisors were present. Despite my attempts to explain myself and present my credentials, my efforts were fruitless.” 

Hamza Idris, a physically challenged person, recounted his experience while trying to cross the major road in Wunti Market. He shared, “The road is always filled with impatient vehicles, bikes and tricycles that don’t consider physically challenged individuals trying to cross.” Often we have to wait for hours or take the risk of entering the road, hoping it won’t be our last day on earth.

Hamza recounted an incident from a few years ago when a physically challenged person attempted to cross the major road and narrowly avoided being hit by a speeding vehicle. He expressed hope and prayer that the new road constructed by the Governor at the Wunti market considers the needs of physically challenged individuals.

 How Discrimination Fuels Street begging among people with disabilities in Bauchi state.

Bauchi states is witnessing an increase in beggars from neighboring states, including the physically challenged, lepers, and the blind. These beggars appear in various locations within the Bauchi metropolis, seeking assistance due to their unfortunate conditions. Some of these physically challenged individuals explained why they have chosen street begging as their occupation. 

Zainab Ali, a physically challenged woman, who was recently seen begging in Bauchi metropolis. She shared “I have endured this life for the past 10 years after a partial stroke affected my right side.”

Married to a physically challenged man and 8 children to fend for them, “she added, due to my condition nobody is willing to give me any menial job to do. Begging became our sole option, because it allows me and my husband to provide food and shelter for the family. Thanks to the money earned from begging, two of our children are now in school.” 

Aminu Yakubu from Wajir local Government in Bauchi state was also spotted at the Bauchi Metropolis begging, his voice tinged with sadness as he shared his story. “I never wanted to beg,” he began. “I have always loved working and earning a living, but my condition forced me into this situation. 

He paused, reflecting on his past. “I was once a dedicated teacher in my village, both at the primary and secondary levels. However, my health issue sidelined me for years, when I finally returned, I found out that someone else had taken over my classroom. Desperate to provide for my family, I pleaded for any position, but my disability seemed to render me invisible.”

While Hafsat Adamu listened to her fellow disable people as the voiced out on the dosage of discrimination the received everyday which has attributed to their street begging, she replied angrily, “persons with disabilities in Bauchi state are denied the basic acknowledgment of their humanity”

  “I remember vividly, a few years back, when I experienced a sharp pain piercing my chest, I visited one of the primary health care facilities in Bauchi state. I waited a long time because I was too sick to get through the crowd to the doctor. When it was finally my turn the nurses were not nice at all. They told me to go buy a card, which meant waiting even longer. After I got the card, they said I had to come back the next day to see the doctor. They didn’t care that I was in pain.”

Bauchi State Faces Alarming Number of Individuals with Disabilities.

According to the 2018 report by the World Health Organization starkly highlights that an estimated 29 million individuals within Nigeria’s national populace are living with disabilities. This figure is further underscored by data from the Bauchi State Agency for People Living with Disabilities which provides a detailed census from 2013 to the present reflecting the ongoing and pressing reality of disability in the region.

 Educational Statistics for People with Disabilities in Bauchi State from 2013 to present.

EDUCATIONAL LEVELESTIMATED NUMBER OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES
Informal school8376
Primary school8882
Secondary school4693
Tertiary Education 945

Awareness Deficit and Disability Rights Recognition in Bauchi State   

In an interview with Mr. Isa Mohammed, the director of health and Rehabilitation at the Agency for Person with Disabilities, said that the root of discrimination against individuals with disabilities stems from lack of awareness.

Furthermore, he highlighted that although Bauchi state has enacted legislation to protect the rights of persons with disabilities, there is a significant gap in knowledge among both the disabled and non-disabled individuals regarding these laws and rights.

Reflecting on his personal experiences, Mr. Mohammed shared that even in his esteemed position, he encounters ill-treatment from clerks when visiting new organization within Bauchi state, an issue that continues to go unaddressed and unchallenged by others.

“Many individuals with disabilities have become disillusioned with the agency, often declining invitations to attend meetings. This is attributed to the pervasive discrimination they encounter within the state”.

Mohammed urges the state authorities to enhance awareness efforts and to explicitly define the repercussions for any individual or organizations found in violation of the law.

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