“Your daughter has lost her sight, madam.”, those are the jarring words that no mother wants to hear. Bringing up a child in Nigeria is hard enough without adding early-onset blindness. If you can imagine, it’s a tough job! If you had told Mrs. Adewale that her teenage daughter would lose her eyesight as she watched a cartoon show, she would have just laughed in your face. How? There was no blindness in her family.
Opeyemi Adewale Kikelemo was in secondary school when everything in her life changed. She had rushed home after a long day in school. She and her friends were exhausted and were ready for a much-needed break. It was TV time! A popular children’s animated television series, fantastic Four, was airing and they were all excited about it. Five minutes into the show and her vision began to blur. She assumed it was the tv, what else could it have been?
She blinked profusely but her sight didn’t clear up, rather it had gotten worse. In a few seconds, it was dark. Opeyemi did the only thing she could – she screamed for her mother, ‘mummy mi o le ri ran!” (‘mum, I can’t see,’ in Yoruba). Her poor mother assumed it was one of the childish jokes the young ones played along with. However, those words kicked off a trying period for Opeyemi and everyone she held dear. After various visits to health care centres (at one point she was scheduled for surgery), the doctor diagnosed Opeyemi. She was blind! Her puzzled mother grappled with the new reality. How was any of this possible? Kilelomo’s mother questioned everything.
Life continued for the family and Kilelomo’s drive and determination shone through her blindness. She sat for the NECO and JAMB exams and to her mother’s shock, she passed both. However, she was not done shocking her mother. A few months after the good news, she was accepted into the University of Lagos. Shouts of joy rang from the Adewale’s home that evening. The joy hid the questions everyone was too scared to ask – how will we afford this good news? Where would the funds for school come from? The family struggled to make the first year’s tuition and Kikeleomo’s diligence doubled. She was going to make her family proud.
In her second year, she applied for MTN Foundation’s Scholarship Scheme For Blind Students (MTNF SSBS) and was selected. By the end of the screening process, she was awarded a scholarship to finish her education! The joy in her home knew no bounds. MTN had taken a huge burden off their necks and they were grateful. “I was fortunate to be an MTN beneficiary. Life was much easier. I could get what I wanted. In fact, that’s the proper definition of support.”, Opeyemi shared.
She graduated and applied at PricewaterhouseCoopers, a multinational professional services network of firms. After interviews, she received the offer letter and handed it over to her ecstatic mother! The woman was rendered frozen with joy.
At work, Opeyemi is a delight. Moyosore Olaolu-Diya, Manager, Learning and Development, PWC explained her first contact with the graduate intern. “From the moment Opeyemu walked in, we could see somebody willing to learn. She’s not somebody who sees herself as disabled”.
Her mother’s joy is still reeling. She shakes her head every time her daughter sends her allowance from her monthly salary. “We are living comfortably because Ope is okay!”, her mother struggled to not get emotional. She was unsure if her daughter would have gotten that opportunity without MTN’s support. She didn’t finish her story. The emotions she kept attempting to hold on to finally took over.