On Sunday, August 13, 2023, Fatima Bello arrived at Mabest Academy, Oke-Ijebu Akure, Ondo State capital in very high spirit.
The academy is the venue of this year’s edition of BeMore Summer Boot Camp, an annual programme of BeMore Empowered Girls Foundation founded by Her Excellency, Chief Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, wife of the Ondo State governor, Arakunrin Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN.
The enthusiasm exhibited by Fatima could be gleaned from her face as she beamed with smiles. On passing through clearance, documentation and health screening, Fatima settled down in her hostel room ruminating over the new world of adventure and intellectual rigour she would soon embark upon.
Fatima, a student of Ondo State School for the Hearing Impaired, Akure didn’t arrive alone. She came alongside with her three other colleagues namely Jimoh Iyanuoluwa, Ibukun Joy and Akinlade Ruth.
The quartet attend same Ondo State School for the Hearing-Impaired, Akure.
The quartet are among the 350 young secondary school girls participating in this year’s edition of the two-week-long intensive BeMore Summer Boot Camp.
Interestingly, the quartet are accompanied by two alumni of the programme, Akinnuoye Christiana and Suliman Aminat as well as their chaperone, Mrs. Aderinto Roseline.
Christiana and Aminat participated in the 2022 edition also held at Mabest Academy. They would collaborate with their matron to help train the quartet in Information Communication Technology, ICT, solar technology and other skills such as hair-dressing, gele-tying, soap-making, cake-baking, beads/wig-making, music, dancing, etc that are on offer at the boot camp.
The boot camp started in 2017. Owing to its success and impact on the girl-child, the organizers thought it wise to ensure the inclusion of the physically-challenged among its catchment gender.
In 2022, eight of the hearing-impaired girls took part in the programme. This inclusiveness of persons with disabilities is clearly a good development.
The 2022 hearing impaired graduands, 19-year-old Aminat and 17-year-old Christiana confessed that the training last year impacted positively on them.
According to Aminat, the knowledge she acquired during last year’s programme is helping her to operate computer and install solar systems. She added that she could also dance and play football very well.
For Christiana, she acquired skill in computer operation and solar system installation as well as hair-dressing. Both admonished their colleagues attending this year‘s training to take very seriously the training.
It is same counsel which their matron, Mrs. Roseline Aderinto is giving to the new participants namely Ibukun Joy, Bello Fatima, Ruth Akinlade and Iyanuoluwa Jimoh.
From all indications, Joy, Fatima, Ruth and Iyanuoluwa have heeded the advice. They have fully integrated into the curriculum and extra-curriculum activities at the camp. They said they do not only enjoy the ICT, solar and other skill acquisition classes but also the early morning exercises.
Commenting on the inclusion of the girls with special needs, Bassey Obetan, Coordinator, Technical, said it was to ensure disability does not impede the participation of all category of girls in the programme.
Obetan added that in some cases the ‘special needs’ participants do better than than the able-bodied ones.
Hear him, ”The training is structured in a manner that no girl is left behind. The idea is that disability should not be a hindrance to achieving one’s potential.
“Even though they have special needs, sometimes they perform better than girls that do not have special needs.
“The idea is to create an inclusive platform for all girls, promote diversity, tolerance and empathy for people with special needs”.
According to Obetan, the two ambassadors would help their colleagues during the training in the area interpretation.
As the girls with hearing-impairment arrived at the camp on Sunday, August 13, one of the matrons was overheard emphasizing to the staff involved in the programme to handle them with special care because they are so dear to the initiator of the programme.
Also, as the programme got underway, this reporter observed that the BeMore girls with special needs are mingling well with their able-bodied colleagues, who have also begun to learn how to relate with them.
For instance, whenever the BeMore girls want to salute anybody especially the initiator, Chief Betty Anyanwu-Akeredolu, they would engage in a three-time special clap offering. But rather than jam their hands together, the BeMore ‘special citizens’ would raise their hands up three times with their raised hands shaking endlessly at the third time.