Reviewing the Pioneering Roles of Gallaudet University Alumni in Advancing Deaf Education and Services in Developing Countries: Insights and Challenges from Nigeria

By Eleweke, C. Jonah; Agboola, Isaac O. et al. | American Annals of the Deaf, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Reviewing the Pioneering Roles of Gallaudet University Alumni in Advancing Deaf Education and Services in Developing Countries: Insights and Challenges from Nigeria


Eleweke, C. Jonah, Agboola, Isaac O., Guteng, Simon I., American Annals of the Deaf


With the 150th anniversary of the founding of Gallaudet University having recently been celebrated, it seems fitting to document the global impact of many of Gallaudet's alumni in the effort to provide education and other services to deaf people. It is important to reflect on the effect this unique institution has had and continues to have on the lives of deaf people all over the world.

Historically, formal provision of deaf education and related services began to be developed in Nigeria only a few decades ago. This was due to the efforts of a famous Gallaudet alumnus, Dr. Andrew Foster, and other deaf and hearing Nigerians he trained and empowered. We feel that before we examine the development of deaf education in Nigeria, including relevant trends and challenges, as well as the legacy of Andrew Foster and other Gallaudet graduates in Nigeria, a brief overview of the country would be pertinent.

Nigeria: An Overview

Nigeria is a country in West Africa. With an estimated population of over 155 million, Nigeria is the most populous nation of black people in the world ("Nigeria Population," 2011). Nigeria's population is greater than that of the other 15 countries in West Africa combined. The country has a territory of 923,768 square kilometers (about 357,000 square miles, or more than twice the size of California). Nigeria is bordered on the north by Niger, on the east by Cameroon, on the west by Benin, and on the south by the Atlantic Ocean. As in other developing countries, individuals with hearing loss and other disabilities constitute a significant portion of the population due to inadequacies in nutrition, health care, and social services (Eleweke, 1999; Obiakor & Eleweke, 2014). Evidence has consistently indicated that 80% of deaf people and people with other disabilities in the world live in Nigeria and other developing countries, where inadequate nutrition, diseases, accidents, and poverty are common causes of disabling conditions (Lang, Groce, Kett, Trani, & Bailey, 2009). Reliable data on the population of people with disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria are lacking. No valid census has been conducted in the country since independence was achieved from Britain in I960. However, on the basis of estimates by the World Health Organization and the World Bank (2011), that disabilities occur in at least 15% of the world's population (i.e., about 1 billion people), it could be assumed that at least 22 million PWDs live in Nigeria.

Prevalence and Incidence of Hearing Loss and Other Disabilities in Nigeria

Even though reliable data are scarce on the incidence and prevalence of hearing loss and other disabilities in Nigeria, a recent national baseline survey of PWDs in Nigeria, conducted in 2011 by the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, provided some interesting insights. The ministry is responsible for issues affecting PWDs in Nigeria. The survey was necessary because the government recognized that the absence or inadequacy of data on disabilities prevents rehabilitation programs from receiving the appropriate policy formulation, planning, and implementation to be effective. Accordingly, the survey was designed to generate comprehensive data on the number and characteristics of PWDs in Nigeria, in order to provide the basis for informed planning and implementation of appropriate intervention measures, and appropriate supporting mechanisms to facilitate the deliver}' of relevant, effective, and timely services. The nationwide baseline survey covered 10,648 households in the 36 Nigerian states and the Federal Capital Territory, where the national capital city, Abuja, is located. The data indicated that, taken together, 95-9% of the questionnaires distributed for the survey were completed and found usable. This implied great enthusiasm about participating in the survey on the part of PWDs.

The data on the geographical distribution, spread, and prevalence of PWDs revealed that disabilities are ver}' common in all parts of Nigeria. …

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