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“Schools Rejected Me, Because Of My Disability” – Successful Shoemaker Shares Story

Tosin Alo is a 39-year-old criple who has been making shoes for 20 years. He speaks with BIOLUWATIFE AKINYEMI in this interview. 

What informed your decision to go into shoemaking, despite being physically challenged?

You know people in my condition prefer to beg, rather than working, and I made up my mind not to join them, since my parents couldn’t afford to give me education to an expected level. I convinced myself that begging from pillar to post will not feed me sufficiently nor feed my wife and kids; those who I have always promised to be a good model to. These informed my decision to go learn shoemaking in a skill acquisition centre, which I have been doing for 20 years.

Considering your condition, how long did it take you to learn shoemaking? 

It took me six years to learn this job before doing it on my own. I enrolled in a skill acquisition centre for disabled persons in Oyo town, and I learnt the nitty gritty of shoemaking for three years formally; after which I proceeded to learn the practice of the job for another three years in Ibadan, as an apprentice. Then, I started working in my room before renting this space for a shop where I now work for people in all spheres of life.

Were you born with this disability?

No, I was not born this way. My mother told me that my siblings and I started walking at nine months. I was also told that I walked till I clocked 18 months before an unfortunate incident happened, which paralysed all parts of my body. My parents tried their best to make me walk again, but unfortunately they went bankrupt in the process and this made them relocate to my hometown in Oka-Akoko in Ondo State from Ibadan.

What is the level of education you were able to attain before settling for shoemaking? 

I got rejected by a lot of elementary schools in Oka-Akoko as a result of my disability. This delayed my enrolment into a school for my primary school education. I was brought back to Ibadan, where I eventually started schooling at Ebenezer Primary School, Oke-Ado at age 11. I could not go beyond primary school education due to my parents’ financial constraints.

What have you been holding on as a source of motivation and encouragement?

God has always been helping me. I have always seen myself as a wise man who is capable to do anything.

How have you been handling discrimination and non-inclusion over the years? 

Apart from being rejected by schools at a tender age, I had a lot of colleagues in school who cast me out of their circle. They worked and played together, while some people chose to relate with me. People often take me for a beggar and they treat me like one. They either ignore me or offer to dash me money without asking.

At the point of choosing a partner, ladies rejected me. In fact, my wife initially rejected me when I told her God had told me she would be my wife. She, being an OND holder and a physically able lesson teacher did not want to settle with me, but with God’s intervention, we dated for two years, and we are married today with three girls. The union has lasted 10 years, and I took the decision at the age of 29, and I am 39 years old already.

 READ ALSO: 30 Corpers Escapes Death As Bus Catches Fire While Being Refueled

Have you experienced physical assault at any point in life?

I was once stumped on, on my knee cap by a customer, while engaging in a brawl with him over a transaction, where I felt cheated. This broke my knee and I made up my mind not to engage in a physical combat with any one, ever since.

What other things do you do apart from shoemaking? 

I am a gospel artiste, who has recorded three tracks and I’m working on another one, presently. I also freelance as a presenter at RayPower 95.1FM in cocoa house, Dugbe, where I crawl to the fifth floor through the stairs because elevators don’t operate on Sundays, which is when I hold my gospel music related programme on air.

How do you promote your brand and how much do you charge for shoemaking?

I don’t have a registered brand yet. I only promote my work by posting pictures on my WhatsApp status updates. And for the prices of shoes I make, I charge as much as N20,000 for a pair of shoe and as less as #8000. I charge #5000 for making sandals and slippers, and I charge N13,000 for mules.

What do you have to say to young Nigerians and physically challenged people?

I’ll admonish young people to be creative and not expect the government to always bring succour to them. And for the physically challenged people, I’ll advise them to stop subjecting themselves to begging, irrespective of their condition and believe in themselves. They should build hope in themselves and get engaged in one thing or the other.

What would you want the good people of Nigeria and the government to do for you? 

I would like Nigerians to help me achieve my dream. It has always been in my plans to train physically challenged people in shoemaking. I’ve trained three physically able people in the past but I want to move beyond that now. I would also want Nigerians to help me acquire some instruments for my music career, and also assist my wife in establishing a school.

READ ALSO: Old Students Contributes N1.8m to Renovate School, Leader Runs Away with Cash

CREDIT: ALLSCHOOL, Nigerian Tribune

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