For schoolboy Bakura, Braille and broadcasting
In north-east Nigeria, a blind vulnerable boy moves closer to his life’s passion on World’s Children’s Day
Reading the primetime news on Al-Ansaar Radio to commemorate World Children’s Day in Maiduguri, north-east Nigeria, Bakura Muhammad, 15, did not look like what he has been through. Heart racing but hands steady, Bakura ran his hands over his white Braille news sheet and said to listeners, “This is the news hour brought to you at 11am. I am Bakura Muhammed, your news anchor.’’
But as magical as that moment was for him, life has thrown the vulnerable schoolboy many sour grapes. Bakura was born blind in 2007, two years before armed conflict broke out in Maiduguri, north-east Nigeria. Adversity not done, Bakura lost his mother when when he was only 30 days old. For the boy, who is a student at Maiduguri Special School, the trauma of conflict is compounded by the tragedy of personal loss. “I didn’t know my mum. I never heard her voice,’’ said Bakura.
With courage and resilience however, Bakura has come full cycle since the strings of tragedies. On World Children’s Day, Bakura read the news as a child anchor on Al-Ansaar Radio. It was a giant step for Bakura who first realized he wanted to be a newscaster when he was 13 years.
“My father had a transistor radio he listened to,’’ said Bakura. “Whenever he stepped out of the house, I used to take it from his room and listen to it. When he found out, he gave me his old radio as a gift,’’ added Bakura.
Through that portable battery-powered radio, Bakura started listening to and admire famous broadcast journalists, including Nasiru Salisu Zango of Deutsche Welle (DW) and Ibrahim Isa, a reporter with the British Broadcasting Commission (BBC). The teenager eventually fell in love with broadcasting.
“I love the way they present their reports and sign off their names with flourish. I wanted to be like them so I joined the debate club in my school to improve my presentation skills. I was also lucky to be chosen as one of the anchors of Da Rarrafe Yaro Kan Tashi, a children’s radio programme. But I was still worried that my disability could stand in the way of my dreams,’’ he said.
Despite his fears, Bakura had his day in the sun when he was chosen by GoalPrime, a UNICEF-supported non-governmental organisation, to present the news as part of the commemoration of World Children’s Day 2022. The presentation, which was done in collaboration with Al-Ansaar Radio in Maiduguri, was supported by the European Union, Education Cannot Wait and the Global Partnership for Education.
“When I translated the news on the Braille sheet, my fears disappeared. I held the sheet in my hands and my confidence soared. God willing, I would love to work with the Cable Network News (CNN) or Voice of America (VOA) as a newscaster when I finish my education. In Nigeria, I can also work in the media and sensitization department of UNICEF,’’ he said.
As lofty as his aspirations are, Bakura almost missed being enrolled in school and having the lifelong opportunity that education confers.
“I have been blind for as long as I have been alive. I am my mum’s last child because she died about a month after giving birth to me. I was not enrolled in school until I was seven years. Some neighbours advised my father against enrolling me in school because they felt that I would be better off begging for alms. My father did not listen to them and I am very grateful for that.
Bakura, who speaks fluent English says education is an opportunity for conflict-affected children like him. “With education, anything is possible. I used to doubt if I could make something out of my life, but the opportunities I got from education has reassured me of a better future,’’ he said.