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Despite blindness, Anambra-born Ifeoma Okoli bags PhD in UI



…Breaks records

In a development that typifies doggedness, outstanding brilliance and rare drive for knowledge, Anambra state-born woman, Ifeoma Bibian Okoli, who lives with visual impairment in both eyes successfully completed her doctorate degree in the University of Ibadan (UI). She was awarded her PhD amid encomiums during the recently held 73rd convocation ceremony of the university. STELLA OBI writes:

MANY people with physical challenges tend to have poor quality of life since it affects their ability to perform independent activities of daily living, including mobility, reading, earning and performing personal chores.

  One a scarce handful  of them beat these challenges to attain feats and so it was with the case of Dr Ifeoma Bibian Okoli.

  It was a standing ovation for Dr feoma Bibian Okoli, at the Founder’s Day and 73rd Convocation ceremony of the University of Ibadan, where she was one of the graduands conferred with a Doctor of Philosophy in Education (Ph.D) from the Department of Special Needs.

  Dr Okoli, who is visually impaired, is the first woman to achieve this academic feat in Nigeria.

  The doctorate degree holder, who hails from Ezihu Village, Igboukwu in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State, is the first child of eight children of late Obiabusi Vincent Okoli and Ijeoma Okoli. She was raised up at Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, where her parents lived and worked for several years.

  Dr Okoli, who made history recently was not born blind but battled health challenges from the tender age of eight.  She suffered failing eyesight as she was diagnosed of a disease called retintispigmentosa and lost her sight in secondary school during her final exams.  She was forced to drop out of school in 1985.

  She was nurtured at the St Joseph Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, Obudu, Cross River State. With the required skill to succeed, Dr Okoli resolved that she was going to become the best she could be in academically, despite her challenges.

  Though visually impaired, with hard work, determination and resilience, she climbed from the lowest academic ladder to the highest academic ladder; a feat that even many who do not suffer such may not attain.

  Dr Okoli’s achievement is proof that one can succeed despite some oddities of life.  An attainment worth celebrating; her story is inspiring to lots of people on social media, as many praised her determination in the face of strong disability.

  Her success story would not have been possible without the generous support of her family, friends colleagues, teachers and all those who believed in her dream.

  Speaking during the convocation ceremony, the Vice-Chancellor of University Of Ibadan, Prof Kayode Adebowale praised Dr Okoli for being the first female visually impaired to be conferred with a Doctor of Philosophy degree from the Department of Special Education.

  Prof Adebowale stated that Okoli’s tenacity, which made her achieve the rare feat was worthy of commendation.

  He urged all the 481 graduands who bagged doctorate degrees in various disciplines to raise the bars wherever they found themselves and remain good ambassadors of the institution.

  In his remarks during the event, the visitor to the university, President Muhammadu Buhari, said that his administration has given priority to the education sector especially tertiary institutions.

  President Buhari stated that his administration would increase budgetary allocation to education by 50 percent.

  The president, who was represented by the Deputy Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Mr Chris Mayaki, noted the roles of private sector in providing quality education in Nigeria.

  In her remarks, Dr Okoli who was elated and grateful, thanked God for seeing her through her academic quest of acquiring a doctorate degree.

  She informed that apart from being the first female in Anambra State with visual impairment to bag a Ph.D, she is also the second out of those who graduated from St Joseph Rehabilitation for Visually  Handicapped, Obudu, Cross River State.

  Dr Okoli noted that with hard work and determination she was able to cope to attain the feat, adding that everybody should know that with determination, disability is not a barrier to attaining great feats in life. It takes perseverance, consistency and prayer while trusting God to make.

  The doctorate degree holder advised parents to always monitor their children to know when they have health challenges.

  Commenting on her sibling’s achievement, Nneka Okoli said that her sister proved to people that disability is no excuse to stop one from reaching a personal goal.

  According to her, the sister is the first visually impaired person to get a Ph. D from the University of Ibadan in the Department of Special Education and the first from Anambra, her home state.

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