By Kyenpya Katkuk Esq
As a 9 year old I had a problem with the colour of my skin because I was constantly bullied by a certain boy who was always calling me “blacky” everyday on our way back from school. His constant name calling and taunting got me thinking there was something wrong with my skin. Fast forward to my college year, I had a course mate who happened to be an albino. I realised she barely had friends around her and she was constantly avoided by people. Inspite of her plight, she was extremely smart, outspoken and very confident of which I admired so much. This got me thinking about albinos whenever I’d come in contact with them, I resonate with their insecurities and the discrimination they face by virtue of their skin colour but I also can see that its no fault of theirs, and they have as much to offer to the world as every other person. These are people that are endowed with gifts, talents and abilities of which can be of great help to anybody, establishment or community.
Albinism is a genetic condition, which has been profoundly misunderstood and has led to various forms of stigma. The sad part about albinism is the constant dehumanization, physical attacks or killings due to the perception that they are magical beings and so their body parts can be used for witchcraft rituals particularly in certain parts of eastern Africa. Some persons also share beliefs that the condition can be physically transferred.
This brings me home to where it has been discovered by UNICEF that there is an estimated number of 2 million albinos living in Nigeria. With this population, Nigeria has one of the highest albinism prevalence rates in the world, with children constituting about 40% of the estimated 2 million albino’s. Children with albinism are the most vulnerable of all children. Their situation is further compounded by the fact that they are the most susceptible to skin cancer due to their delicate skin type. Quite a number of albino children are not in school because of visual impairment, discrimination from other children and social exclusion as a result of their skin.
There is significant ignorance amongst families and communities and sometimes the rationale is that parents of children with albinism should not enrol their children because of the belief that educating such a child is a waste of resources.
Furthermore, the inability to see the classroom board from their desks leaves most of them frustrated and puts pressure on them to drop out of school. As a result, a lot of albinos do not have the full social or economic tools to live productive lives and some lack the confidence to compete favorably with others in the labor market and therefore rarely reach their full potential. Conversely, both the individual and the country suffer because the skills of an albino person are not being tapped for the greater goal.
Conclusively, there is a need to address the challenges of persons living with albinism in homes, schools and communities to create adequate awareness educate the public as to the fact that albinism is not a disability but a genetic condition and should not be a ground for discrimination. Albinism should not be undermined by governments and there should be a social welfare policy for the care of persons with albinism. Policy makers should be involved in ameliorating challenges faced by persons living with albinism.