One afternoon in March 1999, when her parents were at their workplace, Hassana Bunu became ill, and her legs stopped functioning.
That time, she was under the care of a nanny who, after noticing the condition, sent a neighbour to inform her parents about what was happening.
When Bunu's parents arrived home, they took her to the hospital, and they were given some medications.
“On that day, my body collapsed, and you see, up to now, I can't walk,” Bunu said.
Even with the medications from the hospital, nothing changed.
Bunu had to learn how to crawl, as her parents were told that she would never use be able to walk with her legs again.
Faced with stigma
Bunu grew up in Gwoza Local Government Area of Borno State, and the disability in her leg affected how community members saw her.
Although Nigeria has about 29 million people living with one form of disability or the other. However, persons with disability are subjected to human rights abuses such as discrimination, stigma, and violence, and this wasn't different for Bunu.
Growing up, she was laughed at whenever she wanted to join children of her age to play.
Though the community of people with disability lack access to healthcare and quality education, Bunu's parents wanted her to live a better life, and when she was four years old, they enrolled her in basic school so that she could get formal education like every child out there.
“People in my community told my parents not to waste their money in enrolling me into a school because I can't learn anything,” she said.
Some were saying that the parents should let her join other persons with disabilities who are begging in the streets. But her father wanted her to be different, and he enrolled her into the International Private School Gwoza, which was then one of the best primary schools in the town.
Even in the school, some of her teachers felt enrolling her was a waste of resources because the opportunities they felt she would access through education are limited due to her condition.
But that only fueled her desire to be the best and to prove them wrong. “I was a fast learner, and I always get excellent results even though some teachers keep limiting my ability,” Bunu said.
In 2008, she acquired the First School Leaving Certificate and then went to Government Secondary School Gwoza for her secondary education.
Bunu was in SS 2 when the Boko Haram crisis hit Gwoza in 2013, and her parents fled to Gombe, where she completed her education and also obtained the certificate for the West African Examinations Council at Community Secondary School, Doho, Gombe State.
In 2015, she got admitted into the Federal College Of Technology and Education, Gombe, to acquire a certificate in Computer Application from the institution.
“A year later, my parents relocated to Maiduguri, and I got admitted again to Ramat Polytechnic to study for a Diploma in Science Laboratory Technology, which was my passion,” Bunu told Prime Progress.
After her diploma programme, she did not stop, she pushed her until she got admission into the University of Maiduguri.
“At the university, many students feel amazed and inspired from seeing me pushing harder to get this degree with them despite my condition,” she says. “I still face discrimination from some lecturers. And I know it will soon end because I'm about to graduate.”
Bunu is dreaming big, and after her degree, she hopes to utilize her knowledge to come up with innovations that will provide solutions to the problems surrounding her community.
Bunu was among the beneficiaries of a skill acquisition workshop organised by the Zadaya Kanem Polio and Disabilities Initiative in Maiduguri. She was trained in the skill of make-up. The training has helped her gain practical knowledge and experience to become a professional make-up artist.
“The initiative is helpful and supportive to me. After the training, we were given a small grant to help us turn the skills we learned into a standard business,” she said.
25-year-old Bunu had used the small grant given to her at the end of the training to buy make-up equipment and a wheelchair to aid her movement. She is also monetising the skill to finance her education. “I feel with this skill, I can now ease the burden for my parents. I can use the money I get from it to pay some of the bills in school,” Bunu explained to Prime Progress.
As she continues practising the skill, she also wants to teach other young women who have the same condition as her. So they can be independent and stop begging for alms in the streets. “It hurts me to see them begging,” concluded Bunu.