Ayodeji Ake, who recently spent a day at Pacelli School for the Blind and Partially Sighted children, writes that in over five decades, the school has kept faith with the promise of providing for the educational needs of the visually-impaired
For over five decades, the Pacelli School for the blind and partially sighted children has kept faith with their promise to cater to every stream of visually impaired children that are admitted. Located at the Surulere area of Lagos, the school has over the years proven that it’s one of the best schools for the visually impaired children in Nigeria. Established by the Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos on the June 16, 1962, its operation has spanned 56 years with a present population of 140 students and staff strength of 45. It’s a non-fee paying institution and co-educational boarding school.
Pacelli School for the blind is funded partly through religious bodies and donations from cooperate organisations, companies, schools and individuals. The structure of the school is from primary basic one through basic six and preparatory classes. It also has a rehabilitation programme where students from secondary schools are engaged in training that will assist them to be self-reliant.
Recently, 15 students of the school graduated from primary to secondary schools. In their honour, the school organised an elaborate ceremony and exhibition. At the graduation ceremony which took place within the school facility in Lagos, the Principal, Sister Jane Onyeneri, expressed joy over the student’s ability to showcase some of their products, such as; tie and dye, flower vases, table mats, necklaces, handbags, key holders and lot more., as she commended the Lagos State Governor and other corporate bodies for their unending support.
Onyeneri said, “The school has recorded some achievements; a brand new 30-Seater Coaster bus by the Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, renovation of three classrooms and a dining hall by the Tectonic Oil Tools Ltd; Mayday Samaritan Foundation in collaboration with Lipoid Stifting renovated the school kitchen, furnished the Braille room and administrative office. Also, six students received first Holy Communion while 15 received Baptism and first Holy Communion. Education wise, Pacelli School students came first on July 10, 2018, in the interactive quiz competition between inclusive and special primary schools in Lagos state, organised by LASODA at Alausa, Ikeja.”
Charging the graduating students, the principal encouraged them to be of best behaviour as ambassadors of the school and not to be discouraged by their disability. She said, “I admonish you to be good ambassadors and always make us proud through spiritual and academic excellence. I urge you to be law abiding, respectful and make sure you go to church and get involved in the church activities. I also want to remind you to be conscious of their academic pursuit. You will have challenges but I implore you to handle it in a mature way and always seek for advice from good people around you. We have taught you not to allow people to take advantage of you.
“I thank God for their lives and for making them to witness this memorable day in your life. It’s often said that a journey of a million mile begins with a step. They have started and reached the end of a rigorous academic and vocational training. The school is graduating 15 of them and some have spent six or seven years here. May God’s Holy name be praise. I’m happy to announce to you that they have all been admitted to the school of their choice such as Queens and Kings College in Lagos, and Model College Agbowa in Ikorodu, Lagos.”
Speaking on challenges facing the school, Onyeneri said issues like perennial flooding and funds to pay staff given that it’s a school that runs on pro bono basis, had been a burden. She pleaded for support from individuals, government and corporate bodies.
She said, “Our greatest challenge is paying of staff salaries, upkeep and maintenance of the school. We also have the problem of flooding. Whenever it rains, the students cannot attend classes or to go to the dining hall to eat. We use this opportunity to thank Governor Akinwunmi Ambode for sending two groups of engineers who came and checked on the issue of frequent flooding in the school compound, but we have no feedback from them since then. We are hoping to get positive feedback from the engineers.
“The school is appealing to the federal government, friends, benefactors, parents and guardians for some of our pressing need like power inverters, computers, tape recorders, public address system and even scholarship for some of our graduating students.”
The Catholic Archbishop of the Metropolitan Diocese of Lagos, His Grace, Most Rev. Alfred Adewale Martins, who was present at the event, commended the management of the school for their sincere commitment in helping the children attain educational qualifications. He also lauded the government and others for their continuous support in making the school a success.
Martins stated, “We are delighted to rejoice with the graduates, and I believe it’s the beginning of great things in their life. We are truly proud of what the institution has been able to do in the life of the students and the country at large. We are proud that the products of the institution are good examples in the society. The school has produced products across the industry and we are still counting. With this, we want to thank God for the journey so far and in the life of the committed staff. We will want to encourage that with the grace of God, the grandaunts will grow having confidence in themselves.
“We want to thank the government for picking interest in the institution. We appreciate the governor for the attention given to the institution and all who have impacted in the life of the institution by generosity.”
Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Idiat Adebule, charged the graduating students to be of best behaviour and always leverage on their potentials and abilities as the weapon towards achieving great things.
Adebule said, “As they have entered into a new phase, they must be prepared to accept the challenges that come with it. They shouldn’t brood over their disability but focus on their abilities, potentials and talents they are endowed with, because there is indeed ability in disability. Every challenge is a means of to fly higher like the eagle in the storm. Cohbams Asuquo, the Nigerian singer is a blind man but, he made an impact in the society and so are many others across the world and in our country here, making impact even in their disabilities.”
Adebule restated government’s support in the education system to ensure every pupil in the state becomes educated without exempting children with special needs. She noted, “As government, our vision is to ensure that all pupils with multi-dimensional challenges are exposed to the same opportunities, while assisting them to attain their desired goals. We shall continue to work, partner and support individuals, organisations and corporate bodies with initiatives that will enhance the education of this category of special children.”
The deputy governor who was represented by the Deputy Director, Ministry of Education, Dr. Abolarin Grace, enjoined parents and guardians who have physically challenged children and wards to avail their children special educational facilities instead of keeping them at home. “I want to assure you that our administration will continue to give education a priority by putting in place sustainable reforms that would enhance quality and functional education delivery in the state” she added.
She also commended the management for their consistency and firm commitment over the years in giving hope to this special category of children. She said, “They have done well and I know that these children will not forget them in a hurry anywhere they find themselves in future.”
The chairman of the occasion, Dr. Chike Odili, in his speech commended and applauded the management of the school, as he also charged the graduates to ensure they succeed.
Odili, “I want to commend the management of the school for a wonderful work done. I see in these children a greater future and career and changing things in level of space. As a parent, I also come around to spend quality time with them so would I implore other parents too. The children can achieve a lot and the sky is their limit.”