Airtel Transforms Life of Toddler Blinded by Ritualists

Sadiq Usman

The prompt intervention of one of the leading telecom companies in Nigeria, Airtel, in giving succour to a little boy, Master Sadiq Usman, has been applauded by a teacher.

In 2016, Sadiq was kidnapped and blinded by unknown persons suspected to be ritualists and his life almost crumbled but Airtel came into the picture and today, he now lives a surprisingly more productive life as a young student.

According to one of his teachers, Mr Ibrahim Yusuf Morah, the cash and equipment donations from Airtel and its employees made it possible for the school to reintegrate the boy.

Mr Morah is the lead tutor and head of the Special Education Unit at Professors International Group of Schools in Tudun Wadan, Zaria, Kaduna State.

Today, the teacher said, “Sadiq is in Primary 2 and one of our best students in the school –we have a nickname for him; we call him Professor.”

As a three-year-old, Sadiq Usman was seized from his neighbourhood in the Jushi area of Zaria by suspected organ thieves still at large. The assailants gouged out the pre-schooler’s eyes and abandoned him in a remote part of the town. The horrific incident devastated the boy’s family of eight and threw the village into a panic.

After passers-by found Sadiq and took him for treatment at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital, Professors International Group of Schools, Zaria offered to assist his indigent family by training him for free.

However, said Mr Morah, “We weren’t equipped with all the standard materials and apparatus needed to facilitate his learning. Although we were able to acquire the ones we could afford, what we had still wasn’t enough to fully help the boy with the academic support he really needed.”

Via the company’s Employees Volunteer Scheme, Airtel’s staff raised N400,000 for Sadiq’s tuition and donated several sophisticated training equipment to the school.

Some of the items presented included a Perkins Brailler, a laptop computer, a Braille Coacher, a Crammer-style abacus, and a Taylor frame, among others. Since this intervention three years ago, the teacher confirmed that Airtel has continued to completely pay for Sadiq’s education.

“After Airtel started paying [Sadiq’s] tuition fees, more people have reached out to us, asking to help, too. Some have donated clothing materials, among other things, for his upkeep. One person even donated a car to help with his transportation,” he added.

Airtel’s donations towards Sadiq’s rehabilitation have been beneficial, not only to the boy but also to his teachers, according to Mr Morah.

“Really, not only has Airtel’s contributions significantly helped him; it has further propelled me to tutor him better than I ever could,” he said.

Remarkably, he noted, the pupil has taken well to all the equipment provided by Airtel. “He particularly likes using the laptop Airtel got him as it came with a computer program called JAWS, which allows the visually impaired to read and operate a computer, using text-to-speech.”

Sadiq is also said to have developed the needed capacity to use a typewriter when there is no power on his laptop.

This “is a remarkable feat, considering the fact that most visually impaired children do not operate Perkins Brailler efficiently until they are about ten years of age. He started to type efficiently when he was only in primary 1.

“Another remarkable achievement is that Sadiq is now multilingual as he speaks four languages fluently, including French, Arabic and, of course, English and Hausa,” Mr Morah noted.

When Sadiq learnt of how the telecom company had saved him, Mr Morah said the school staff observed his gratitude.

“It gave him hope and we saw him go from being withdrawn to jovial and cheerful. Today, he feels loved and he understands what compassion means,” the teacher said.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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