Nigeria: Ìtìjú Movie Demystifies Dyslexia

29 July 2021

ÌTÌJÚ, a movie with the rider "hope heals" is an inspiring movie of hope renewed. A product of a unique and exciting collaboration between MINDS Reform Initiative and Lagos State Ministry of Education, the movie project is at the heart of Special Needs Education in Nigeria.

It demystifies the condition known as dyslexia with the aim of removing the stigma that has long been associated with it. The movie title, ÌTÌJÚ is a Yoruba word which roughly translates to mean a feeling of shame.

The suffocating culture of stigmatisation discourages people from speaking up about their personal challenges and how will one find solutions.

Dyslexia is a learning disorder which makes reading and writing herculean tasks. Described by educationists as "the silent destroyer," it is said to be responsible for the high rate of school dropouts and the increasing number of juvenile crimes in the society.

While reflecting on the movie project, the Lagos State Commissioner of Education, Mrs. Sade Adefisayo said, "I am excited about this project which highlights such an important issue that has largely remained under the radar.

" We look forward to exploring this relationship further - during and beyond this project as the ministry appreciates the contribution it will certainly make towards the development of Special Needs Education in Lagos State".

Interestingly, the disorder does not affect the sufferer's intellect in its entirety, as dyslexics are famed for their creativity and problem-solving abilities.

However, lack of awareness in our society has led to dyslexics being labelled as dull. Rejection by parents and the resultant low self-esteem have also been identified as major causes of related mental health issues.

These manifest in different ways: depression, drug and alcohol abuse, bipolar disorder with an alarming increase in suicide rates. It is estimated to affect 10per cent - 15 per cent of the Nigerian population. According to Ben Arikpo of Dyslexia Foundation (Nigeria), dyslexia is a massive problem "hidden from plain sight".

Reportedly, 90 per cent of teachers in Nigeria have never heard of dyslexia. Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Atlantic), Will Smith (Hollywood A list actor), Thomas Edison (inventor of the light bulb) and Lewis Hamilton (Formula One champion) are some of the famous people who live with this condition.

Oladapo Akande, the Founder, MINDS Reform Initiative said: "Though not dyslexic myself, I was privileged to witness first-hand, during my primary and secondary school days in the United Kingdom, how early diagnosis and timely intervention helped salvage the destiny and restored meaning to the lives of some of my dyslexic classmates- who having received the attention at the right time, went on to succeed in their chosen profession."

The movie is the brainchild of Akande who is a two-time author and writer of the popular weekly newspaper column, Character matters with Daps. His partner and fellow producer on the project, Roy Osuji of Alvary Studios and Alvary Creatives, is the producer of the early 2020 movie, 'Handicapped'- a gripping story that highlights the scourge of human trafficking.

According to Osuji, "ÌTÌJÚ is our gift to the world during these crazy times where mental health is a big deal. It is an expression of hope for everyone going through rejection just because they're having a hard time grasping the conventional ways of doing things. We hope to inspire and entertain film watchers all over the world."

As part of giving back to society, the producers of the movie, MINDS Reform Initiative and Alvary Studios, have undertaken to show an abbreviated version of the movie for free at selected public schools in Lagos.

ÌTÌJÚ, a feel-good movie, which will both entertain and enlighten the audience, is billed for a premiere at the cinemas early in 2022.

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