Despite contending with cerebral palsy, Adebolu Adejobi, 18, got the best West African Senior School Certificate Examination result in his school. He tells ALEXANDER OKERE about his triumph despite the odds
Can you tell me the primary and secondary schools you attended?
I attended Toluviv Primary School, Morocco Comprehensive Junior High School, Igbobi; and Ajayi Crowther Senior Memorial Grammar School, Bariga. I will apply for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination next week.
Would that be your first attempt?
No, my second. I didn’t meet the cut-off mark for the course I chose. I wanted to study Medicine at the University of Lagos.
You trended on the social media for having the best WASSCE result in your school despite your disability. In which month and year did you take the examination?
I took the examination towards the end of 2021.
Can you tell me the subjects you took and the result for each one?
I had A1 in Mathematics, B3 in Biology, C4 in Chemistry, C4 in Physics, B3 in Dyeing and Bleaching, C5 in English Language, C4 in Computer Science, C4 in Economics and D7 in Civic Education, which was my lowest.
How did you feel when you got a call from your school informing you that you got the best WASSCE result in the school?
That day, I was actually sleeping. I was just called that the school wanted to give me an award. I was not expecting it at all. It was the award day of the school, so I thought the call was to inform me that I would be among the awardees.
You said you promised your grandmother that you would study a medical course. Why did you do that?
I made that promise to her when I was staying with her. I have experienced what other kids are going through and there is a saying that a doctor who doesn’t understand how painful injection is is not a doctor. I have first-hand experience about what people with disabilities go through in society, so I know that if I am in the medical field, I can help them.
How close were you to your grandmother?
I stayed with her for six months and during the period she advised me. I have not even told her what is going on currently. She would be really happy.
How did your mum react?
She was very surprised and happy. She cried because she did not expect it. My dad was pleased with me. I was a child that society told my parents to use for money ritual. But I am glad they did not listen to what people said.
In a viral video, you spoke about a neighbour in Idiroko who used to beat while teaching you three-letter words. How old were you at that time?
I was about nine years old.
What impact did that have you as you grew older?
Back then, I didn’t understand why he whipped me. If he had not done that, I would have taken his lessons for granted. But when I think about it now, I love the fact that he corrected me because those corrections have been helping me. Nine years ago, I could not spell my name but because he corrected me the best way he felt he could, I can do that now.
How did you feel when you were rejected by some schools because of your disability?
I felt bad. I didn’t believe any other school would accept me after that experience. I felt a lot of discouragement from different angles except my parents and loved ones. I felt discrimination in its cruelest form.
In the video, you said you had to return to Primary Two from Primary Six, some may see it as a demotion. But did it matter to you that you had to study at that level when your peers were in a higher class?
Back then, I figured out that I could have done better if I was with my peers but returning to Primary Two brought out the best in me. It remoulded me. It was the foundation of my education. If I had not gone back, I would have been a pupil warming the bench in the classroom.
You said you studied indoors on your own. What did you do to motivate yourself?
At that time, I was motivated by the fact that it is not how far but how well I studied. I figured out that if I didn’t study, I would just be at home without something to accomplish. I can’t use my hands and legs in the best way I want but I can use my intelligence quotient in the best way I can. So, I know the best thing to do is to sharpen it.
My guide while studying was the Bible. I am always with my Bible. Any time I feel down or discouraged, I bring it out and read.
Do you have a favourite verse in the Bible?
Yes. I remember Psalm 23; although it’s one of the commonest (verses of the Bible), each time I remember it, I feel comforted, especially by Verse 5.
What did you notice about the attitude of the pupils on your first day at Ajayi Crowther Memorial Senior Grammar School, Bariga?
My first day at Ajayi Crowther Memorial Senior Grammar School, Bariga was like going to a new place outside Nigeria where I knew nobody. When I got to the school, many of the pupils distanced themselves from me, so I felt sad. But some of the pupils showed me love.
When I was at Morocco Comprehensive Junior High School, Igbobi, I was bullied but I stood up to my bullies later. At Ajayi Crowther, some pupils tried to bully me but with my experience in Morocco, I was able to fight back. I believe that while in Rome, one has to act like a Roman. So, when bullies used foul language to talk to me, I responded and they realised I knew what they were trying to do.
Did some of them call you names?
Yes. The interesting part of it is that I used to help my class captain with his tests but one day, he told my friend that he was looking for “that handicap of a boy” and I was surprised. People called me different things. It was painful but I tried to overlook it. But when those who called me names saw my WASSCE results, they were shocked.
You said at Ajayi Crowther Memorial Senior Grammar School, you were told you could not be in a science class because you lacked coordination and many have that belief about people with cerebral palsy. Did you feel they discriminated against you in that way?
Yes. It was painful.
What other ways have you faced discrimination?
Some passengers tell the conductor that they would join another bus if I boarded the same bus. I believe this also happens to other people with a disability.
Can you tell us about the disability and how it affects you?
I have cerebral palsy and this is like a limitation to movement and coordination. Cerebral palsy is a cognitive disorder that affects a person by paralysing a part of the body. In the early stage, a person with cerebral palsy will not be able to function at all until a certain age when the person starts outgrowing the challenges. To me, cerebral palsy is like a limitation to some things I can do and an advantage to some things I can’t do normally. For example, when I try to eat in public, people look at me and when I notice, I would not be able to coordinate myself or it would take me a long time to do that.
At what age did you realise you had the condition?
I noticed it when I was younger but didn’t know why. When I turned nine and returned to Lagos, I figured it out. I got to understand cerebral palsy as a disability when I was 16. I read about it and made some research.
With your recent academic feat, what is the next thing for you?
I am preparing to enter a university. I would like to study Biomedical Engineering. I believe that with the knowledge, I can help a lot of children.
Have you got any offer from any person or organisation?
Yes. I got some offers from individuals. They said they would sponsor my education.
Did you get any call from WAEC?
Yes. A WAEC official contacted me last week and we spoke about how best we can help other children with disabilities to take WASSCE.
Are you still in contact with the pupils who helped you during the WASSCE?
What do you want people to know about you as a person?
I am a friendly person; I am easy to talk to. I have a lot of friends at school and at home.
Your story shows courage and persistence. What do you want parents whose kids have cerebral palsy to know?
I want them to know that when there is life, there is hope. Some parents lock their children with cerebral palsy up when they have visitors. Some can’t even move with their children in public. I want the stigmatisation from parents to children with cerebral palsy to end. Parents should show society that they are not ashamed of their children.
You speak passionately about the need for Nigerians to be enlightened about cerebral palsy. How best can one relate with persons with disabilities?
Once you notice that a person has a disability you can move close to the person with a smile and ask them how best you can assist them. If you just walk to a person who has a disability and try to help the person without their permission, the person may feel bad. A smile towards a person with a disability could be enough to give them a great day.
Yes. There were four of them. When one was not available, the other helped.
What do you love doing in your spare time?
I love reading.