How ActionAid changed my life

I am Muhammed Krubally, a visually impaired student pursuing a four years law degree programme at the University of The Gambia. During my school days at the primary, junior, secondary levels, and the higher institute of learning -the tertiary Institution, I used to face numerous challenges as a student some of which include the lack of Braille text books compatible with the subjects I study, lack of a special computer for the blind and talking books, just to mention a few.

I depended heavily on friends to read books and handouts to me as well as print-outs from the Internet and newspapers, etc in order to keep my education in progress. For example, most of the subjects I studied in primary, junior and senior schools and at the tertiary level used to be read to me by my classmates and friends both at school and home. An example of such dramatic circumstance is that during examinations period, a classmate is usually attached to me to read every single question from all the subjects until the examinations end. At times, this was very inconsistent, unsuitable and unfavourable by virtue of the fact that they are not at times being read to me up to my satisfaction. At times, I would like a particular question to be read to me several times but I used to shy away from requesting this from the person reading out to me because he or she normally complains of his or her time. In fact, my under-performance in several subjects was due to lack of facilities such as Braille text books being available in all the subjects where I competed against sighted counterparts.  But even in the absence of the relevant facilities, sometimes I scored equal grades or mark with them. Again, in instances where I emerge top in any competitive subject, I felt extraordinarily great and elated and immediately wish myself thus:" I wish facilities are at my disposal. If available, I will beat my competitors triumphantly''.

Situations always became different when my friends were away and I am dire in need of some information from a book, handout, newspaper or the notice board in the school. In their absence I became discouraged, bored and easily gave up.

After completing my secondary school education, I proceeded to the Gambia Technical Training Institute to do a National Diploma programme in Law and successfully graduated in 2007 in spite of the substantial challenges and hardships I went through. No facility was available for me as a Special Needs Student in this institute. I only relied on explanations from the lecturers and friends. In spite of these challenges, I strived harder to combat the circumstances and to prove the phrase: "disability does not mean inability"

Indisputably, visually impairment becomes a burden upon a person who lacks relevant facilities and equipment. Visually Impairment may also make a person more of a liability than an asset in the mere absence of support.

With a high sense of ambition, direction, hope and confidence I proceeded to the University of the Gambia to undertake a four years degree programme at the University of The Gambia. I experienced the same challenges at the University but later realised that special equipment could help to address some of the challenges I faced in my educational career.

I seriously and relentlessly wrote to different institutions and individuals requesting for support for a "Special laptop" for the blind but to no avail. However, "thanks to Janette Sallah-Njie, a private legal practitioner and chairperson of ActionAid's board of directors who expressed concern about my situation and introduced my issue to ActionAid International The Gambia. It is against this backdrop that Action Aid International The Gambia without hesitation and reservation considered my application request for a special laptop fitted with special software and specially made for the blind and partially sighted people.

This special laptop is of great help and of paramount importance in my educational career. With this laptop, I can easily use the Internet to do my research from various web sites. I can also use it to properly work on assignments given to me by lecturers and answer examination questions for lecturers who cannot read Braille writings. With this laptop, I can also attach a scanner to it to help me read any printed material, be it a letter, magazine, newspaper or book. I can also use it to send and receive emails without the assistance of any one like before, when I used to ask my friends to be reading my incoming and outgoing emails for me. My own privacy or secret were not known to me alone but others who used to offer me help in reading to me, my own emails and letters.

Today things are very different from previous days because this laptop makes it easier for me and undoubtedly makes me independent and self reliant in many aspects.

Had it not been for the timely intervention of Action Aid International the Gambia, I would have continued to achieve very little and would continue to be dependent on friends. Now, my dependency ratio on friends to read scripts and other materials to me has drastically reduced.

I am now more independent on my works and studies, except when extenuating circumstances arise.

My long term plan is to become the first visually impaired lawyer in the Gambia. When I successfully attain my desire to be a lawyer, I shall owe a duty to all people with disabilities, so as to fight for their rights, ensure that they enjoy equal opportunities and access in the same way as the sighted persons do. Furthermore, I will also like to offer my services for ActionAid International The Gambia either now or later in any work or by being their future solicitor or otherwise. This is in regard to their benevolence and magnanimous gesture rendered to me.