Ifeoma Bibiana Okoli's sister, Nnena, noted that her sister is not only inspiring people to push their boundaries but also proving that if one puts their mind to their personal goals, even their disability cannot hold them back from reaching it.
Ifeoma Bibiana Okoli is visually impaired but she did not let it keep her from making profound efforts towards accomplishing her dreams. On November 17, she finally realized them after bagging a doctorate degree from the prestigious University of Ibadan in Oyo State, situated in the South West region of Nigeria. Ifeoma's sister, Nnena Okoli, shared the joyous news with the world by sharing pictures of the proud graduand, who was dressed in a graduation gown, on Facebook. Nnena also noted that her sister is not only inspiring people to push their boundaries but also proving that if one puts their mind to their personal goals, even their disability cannot hold them back from realizing them.
Ifeoma is the first visually impaired person from Nigeria to get a Ph.D. from the University of Ibadan, revealed the university through a shared post. "On November 17, 2021, Dr. Ifeoma Bibiana Okoli, will join hundreds of other graduands that would be formally conferred with a doctorate at the convocation ceremony of Nigeria's premier university, the University of Ibadan. Among those that will be conferred with the title of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree, Dr. Okoli will be standing taller than the rest because of her unique achievement. Despite what many would ordinarily consider a disability, Dr. Ifeoma Okoli has proven that no physical disability can stop anyone from attaining one's dreams or goals, if and only if one sets one's mind to doing so," it read.
The scholar, who holds a Ph.D. in Special Education with specialization in the Education of the Visually-impaired, is the firstborn of the late Mr. Obianusi Vincent Okoli and Mrs. Ijeoma Beatrice Okoli and hails from Ezihu Village, Igboukwu, in Aguata Local Government Area of Anambra State. Dr. Ifeoma has spent most of her years in Abakaliki with her parents and had to forcibly drop out of school in 1985 due to her failing eyesight. It was right around the time when her secondary school's final examination had just begun,
The family was gutted to eventually learn that Ifeoma was struggling with a degenerative eye disease known as Retinitis Pigmentosa. Hoping to find a cure, her parents visited various eye clinics but tragically none of them could come up with a remedy for her condition. It was while writing her final papers that Ifeoma realized that she had almost completely lost her eyesight. "One can imagine how devastating this experience must have been for a young girl who not only loved education but had been promised by her parents to train her up to the university level. The loss of her eyesight seemed like the end of a dream," continued the post.
Despite the huge setback, Dr. Ifeoma fought her way through and enrolled at St. Joseph Rehabilitation Centre for the Blind, Obudu, Cross River State through the assistance of a cloistered nun. After acquiring the required skills to pursue her academic dreams, she launched herself into achieving her dream. The post goes on to celebrate her "single-minded determination" and resilience" that helped Ifeoma pursue her academic studies to the highest possible level. "Though visually impaired, that is, blind, Dr. Ifeoma Okoli has with a single-minded determination and resilience climbed from the lowest academic ladder to the highest academic ladder, a feat that even many who do not suffer such impairment cannot achieve," it continued.
"This is, indeed, an achievement worth celebrating because Dr. Ifeoma Okoli has made history as the first visually impaired woman to earn a doctorate in Nigeria’s premier university, the first visually impaired Ph.D. degree holder in her home state, Anambra state, the first student with special need to earn a Ph.D. in the Special Persons Club, University of Ibadan as well as the second visually impaired woman from St.Josephs Centre for the Visually Handicapped, Obudu, Cross River State to earn a Ph.D. degree."
Regarding Dr. Ifeoma's achievement as nothing short of a miracle, the university noted that her story was also about "the enormous human capacity or potentials which God has lavishly endowed every one of us. When called forth, these potentials can propel one to the highest pinnacle of success." And "Dr. Okoli's achievement is proof that one is capable of succeeding despite the oddities of life. Her success validates the statement that nothing is impossible for those who dare to dream and believe. Her story and success are a signpost for all whose circumstances in life may seem unfavourable."
Of course, this success may not have been possible without the immense support of her family, friends, teachers, and colleagues who did not lose faith in her. "This goes to show that we do need others to succeed. Her success is, therefore, our success. And for this reason, we should roll out the drums and pop bottles of wine to celebrate the success of our sister, daughter and friend," read the post.
Cover image source: Facebook | UniIbadan UniIbadan