The visually impaired who trains the sighted

It may sound outlandish that the visually impaired trains people in arts and crafts. That is the story of  58-year-old Madam Christiana Kehinde Akinrinmade, the proprietor of Chrisken Training Centres.  OMOLOLA AFOLABI reports


The strike embarked upon by doctors at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in 2012 is almost a decade old, but its effects on individuals and families are still up-to-the-minute. Some survived the ordeal to tell their stories.

One of such survivors is a 58-year-old visually-impaired Madam Christiana Kehinde Akinrinmade. She is the proprietor of Chrisken Training Centre; an arts and craft training centre, where she trains those who have no eye problems and the visually-impaired. She was not born with a disability. She lost her sight to glaucoma and to the strike action by doctors.

If the sight could be restored, Akinrinmade would have sacrificed all to get hers back. According to her, it was a very gruelling time for her as it was difficult to come to terms with her condition after spending some of her professional years as a top-notch practitioner in the banking sector.

Any wonder that she takes to fright any time she learns about an impending national strike, especially by doctors. Her mind would be in flux. She would begin to imagine the pains some patients would be subjected to, having had such nasty experience that led to her loss of sight.

Her visual impairment, according to her, began between 2010 and 2011. She said she was driving one day and her son drew her attention to the fact she was driving off the road. She added that but for God’s mercy, they would have been involved in a serious accident.

She thought the capacity of her eyeglass lenses was weak.  She drove to the hospital to see an ophthalmologist and she was diagnosed of glaucoma. Having lost her left eye, she was advised not to drive until correctional measures were taken.

“I was advised to go for eye surgery to save the right eye. I was booked for the surgery. Unfortunately, on getting to the hospital for the surgery on the appointed date, I discovered that the doctors were on strike,” she said.

Determined not to be weighed down by her current situation, she decided to make the best out of a seemingly useless situation. Then, an idea flashed through her mind. She thought of setting up a training centre that would enable youths to engage in wealth creation by converting wastes to wealth.

That was how Chrisken Training Centre, an arts and craft training centre was established.

She said she went into the business of waste recycling in a bid to reduce, re-use and recycle wastes which will help in cutting down the amount of waste we dispose of while maintaining a sustainable environment.

Akinrinmade also revealed that she started the training programme in order to enable the youth to maximise their time at home during the period of lockdown induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Seeing a lot of car tyres that people burn gets me upset. That was one of the reasons I began the art and craft centre to recycle these tyres into beautiful household tables,” she said.

In a chat with our correspondent during the graduation ceremony of the students of the arts and crafts school, three of whom are also visually impaired; Madam Akinrinmade said “the training began during the COVID-19 lockdown. It has lasted up to four months now. One of my students was able to make a huge profit from the proceeds of his sales.”

One thing is peculiarly spectacular about Madam Akinrinmade. She is visually impaired. Nevertheless, she trains those who are sighted and those who are visually impaired. She gives a vivid description of all that happens around her to people’s amazement.

For instance, welcoming this reporter when she visited the Chrisken Training Centre, she said in a heartwarming compliment. “You look very nice! Your hair is so well made. I like your dress!”

Taking the reporter round the centre to intimate her with the workings of the centre, Mrs. Akinrinmade, with a boisterous ambience that is somewhat contagious, said. “We are all sighted.”

One of her trainees, Cassandra Nwokporo, whose story was reported in The Nation in a special report, titled “Challenges Special Needs Children Face amid COVID-19”, expressed her surprise at how a visually impaired woman would be training her.

“I was wondering how she would be able to see what we were doing. But so far, it has been very interesting. It has been a successful journey,” she said gleefully.

Another visually impaired graduate, Uduak Effiong whose mother guided to the graduation ceremony mentioned how Akinrinmade always wishes that doctors do not go on strike again as the damage is too much to bear.

Examining the moral justification of doctors’ strike, Brecher in Researchgate suggested that “strike actions are only justifiable if it presents long-term benefits to the striking doctors and positive improvement to the health care industry. Yet this strike with a focus on personal and financial gains of doctors at the expense of treating patients seems difficult to justify on such grounds.”

Glaucoma, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) remains the second-largest cause of blindness after cataract. This global statistic is, however, more damning due to the peculiar nature of the public health sector in Nigeria.

The eye disease presents an even greater public health challenge than cataract because its resultant blindness is irreversible.

Experts in health matters have expressed the view that the government should show more commitment toward addressing the infrastructure deficits in the health sector, even as they maintain that the government should not wait till strikes are called for by members of staff of any critical segment of the economy.

It is their view that the welfare of doctors should be given priority attention since they constitute first responders in any emergency such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

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