Modupe Cole Memorial School in Lagos is home to mentally and physically challenged people 8 years old and above. Members have multiple schelorsis, Down Syndrome and after effects of either congenital polio or Jaundice. The care they receive in this home is reminiscent of the African’s respect for the dignity of human life. Though some children with disabilities may be abandoned after birth or given up for adoption, African mothers prefer this to denying the children a chance to life.
Nneoma Anieto paid her first visit to the school in order to deliver some donation to the school on behalf of her brother, and here she kindly shares her impressions.
Apparently, a lot of people knew the location of the school. A number of people I asked about the school could tell me it was at Akoka. Friday, 7th March was the very first day I stepped into Modupe Cole. I had been delegated by a brother to make a bank draft in favour of Modupe Cole Memorial, all he told me was that it was a school in Lagos and he asked me to deliver the bank draft at the school. I hitched a ride with my classmate who was going towards Akoka, a busy area in Lagos very close to the very popular University of Lagos. Right there across the busy road, shaded by trees and hidden by the non-stop, ever busy cloak of Lagos was Modupe Cole, I walked in without expectations and entered a special world of special people.
Modupe Cole was a jaw dropping world! I saw children, adults too, bound to wheel chairs, I saw people, a good number of people actually, children, youths and adults apparently born with trisomy 21 syndrome. It didn’t feel like Lagos with its non-stop movement and fast life, the hustle and bustle of Lagos was shut out, the pace was slower, the atmosphere was calm, it didn’t feel like any part of the world I had known, all these people, human like myself, missing out on what I felt was life but still living life in their unique world. A lot of things struck me at once, I don’t know which got to me most: the innocence and untainted expressions on the not-so-young faces, the untouchable secluded world they lived in or the insignificance of my petty worries in the face of their far bigger challenges. They had never known what it was to live in what I considered a normal world, I walked past a group of them on my way to find a staff and to my surprise, they were making melodious sounds which may not by any stretch of imagination be called singing but they were trying! I saw another girl trying ever so slowly to wear her shoes, paying serious attention to what I would normally consider a mundane task, I tried to imagine what it would feel like taking special care just to put on my shoes.
The Vice Principal told me a lot of them had been abandoned, some had parents coming to visit, many others did not. She said they were quite promising! I looked and looked and couldn’t see the promise she saw, I saw people surviving life despite challenges and she saw promise. What special eyes one must possess to see what she saw. She told me they were good at crafts, they produced beautiful works with their hands and some who were not as good as the others improved over time. It was almost unimaginable, the beauty she was describing to come from these ones society would write off. While I was stunned by my surroundings and quite a bit uncomfortable, she talked of promise and God, of their hopes for the future of their students and of ways they would benefit the society. I cursed my shortsightedness for I could see nothing of all she saw, all I could see was diligence, passion and belief!
Finally she asked me to record my contribution and provided a book, it was a new book with two names already, both for sums of money that may have cost the contributors a pretty penny but would have been considered by our politicians as extremely paltry. She showered prayers on whoever sent me, she showered prayers on me too for being the errand girl and asked me to call back.
I walked out almost in a daze, the girl on the floor just next to her seat waved at me as I left, the permanent childlike look frozen on her adult face curved in a smile as she waved, I walked past the same group of determined singers still making sounds of singing, I bid a mechanical good night to the gateman who asked me to come again and walked back into the middle of crazy Lagos with its constant traffic and ever moving people.
I walked back into my normal life filled with normal lagosians on the run who would most likely never know the miracle of Modupe Cole.
Nneoma Anieto is a freelance journalist. She lives in Lagos, Nigeria where she is completing her Masters in Communication.