Vanguard (Lagos)

17 February 2013

Nigeria: Ijeh Patience, Girl Who Writes With Toes! - 'I Want to Be Successful Even Without My Hands'

Her tale is eccentric! What could have made her live her entire life in obscurity, total dependence and waste has turned her into a celebrity. Usually, we hear of such only on the big screen and hardly see it happen before our very eyes. Patience was born with deformed hands, but unlike most persons with disability, she was not immune to self-worth.

Like every normal child, she desired to be fulfilled in life, and therefore continued to strive towards accomplishment despite the odds. After her Senior School Certificate Examination in 2001 however, all attempts to clear her General Certificate of Education (GCE) examination ended in futility. After giving up on all for two years, she finally had her breakthrough when she decided on a final trial and this awarded her a scholarship, employment and accommodation. Ijeh Patience, in this inspiring encounter, shares her tale.

Her dream of furthering her education and becoming a lawyer was hindered for ten years by no fault of hers- her birth 31 years ago at a hospital in Delta State encountered some complications.

"I was not properly positioned in the womb, so, I was already coming out with my hands. As the nurse pushed me in and tried to reposition me to come out normally, my hands got deformed because I was being turned all over and nobody knew of it", she explained.

Writing with toes

Miraculously, Patience did not have to attend a special school like most handicapped children because she intuitively found an alternative the first time she came across the chalk and slate- she placed the chalk between her toes and began learning to write just as her peers at Ikeliki Primary School, Delta State, placed the chalk between their fingers.

To her, this wasn't abnormal, especially as other children didn't stare at her, except for some adults who looked at her embarrassingly as she grew up. She soon began to fold her arms in shame as soon as she became self-conscious.

Amazingly, she was doing well at school, Patience dreamed of becoming a lawyer and never hesitated to tell anyone who cared to listen. "Education will be difficult for you because of your disability. Look for something simple to do. Learn a trade. Something small and easy", many told her pitifully, but she wouldn't let her disability obscure her aspirations.

Regular GCE candidate

Trouble, however, brewed when 2002 SSCE results for Saint Roses Girls Grammar School, Ogwashi-Uku, Delta State, which she sat for, were withheld. That heralded a new beginning for her struggles, and she became a regular candidate for the General Certificate of Education. Her scripts were continuously seized without explanations. "Perhaps they were suspected for being slightly dirty and rumpled", she thought.

Mastering the computer with toes!

A few years later, she moved to Benin-City, Edo State from Delta State to reside with an elder brother, being the last and only daughter of five children. An ambitious Patience didn't want to be idle, so, she immediately enrolled for a diploma at TCM, a computer training institute in Benin City. Guess what!! In few months, she had gained mastery of the computer, using her legs!

"I explained to them when I was enrolling that I would have to use my legs, and they understood. I competed very well with the other students, except that I had to put my own keyboard on the floor", she recalled.

Rejected by employers

As she moved to Lagos in 2007 to reside with another elder brother, Patience was excited she could now operate the computer, and she went in search of a job. Sadly, she was turned down by a couple of employers who claimed they couldn't put their keyboard and mouse on the floor because of her.

Frustration sets in

The thought of her inability to clear her A' levels coupled by this rejection by employers soon began to wane her optimism and she doubted if she could ever become an undergraduate, not to mention being a lawyer.

"I began to lose hope on my dream, especially two years ago. I considered accepting my fate and settling for less. Maybe education wasn't for me like I was earlier advised. I began to ponder on small and easy things that I could try my hands on like people had advised me".

Victory for Patience!

Last year, however, as she heard news of her peers making diverse progress, her sanguine spirit came alive once again. Patience, now 31, who had decided three years ago to accept her fate and stop further trials, suddenly decided to enroll for the 2012 GCE examination.

Being a member of the Living Faith Church, Ota, throughout the annual Shiloh last December, she decided to sit outside the auditorium, calling on God to intervene in her case, and, this time, He showed up. Patience came out with her six credits: C5 in Biology and C6 in Literature in English, Economics, Government, Mathematics and English Language! What beautiful reward for Patience who soon became the joy of many as she was given a job, scholarship and accommodation by Swiss Biostadt Limited, a famous healthcare company in Lagos.

"I'm grateful to God and to Swiss Biostadt for the opportunity to further my education. Getting education is my dream because I want to prove to the world that no matter how one was born, one can still make a difference. My advice to other people who might have one form of disability or the other is to never give up", she enthused.

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