Meet Sheidatu Abubakar who, though born without hands, uses her legs to eat, write, and even do henna decoration for ladies.
From a distance, Sheidatu Abubakar looks like most of her peers in school uniform. The hijab she wears conceals the fact that the SS1 student has no hands, unlike her school mates. But meeting the humorous teenager, you get the feeling that what she lacked in hands, she more than made up through the maximum utilisation of her legs, and this makes her the most popular girl in her hometown of Lapai, Niger State.
Born 16 years ago without hands, Sheda, as she is fondly called among her peers, has refused to allow her physical challenges to stand in the way of her dreams. And determined to realise her potentials to the fullest, Sheda is not only going to school but is competing favorably in the classroom with her normal classmates, particularly in design and drawing.
“I use one of my legs to draw and design to specification. I have been using my toes to give women beautiful henna designs during marriage or naming ceremonies. And I do this (henna decoration) in about an hour or so depending on what the clients asked for,” she told Weekly Trust in Lapai, adding that “Nobody thought me how to make such designs.”
She said there are instances where she collects money for the service rendered. If I were to be paid, I collect N 50 per hand and leg, so the payment for complete service is N 200 per person. And I can do four in a day.”
Indeed, Sheida has been using her toes to do so many other things including writing in class, eating and washing clothes, as well as helping her younger ones to loosen their hair for plaiting. She, however admitted that she cannot plait as she would have loved to.
Speaking on her future plans, Sheida said she nurses the ambition of going to as far as university to study. “I started school after the age of six unlike most of my mates, but I will want to study Fine Art one day in the university,” she said.
Sheida told Weekly Trust that she has never experienced any form of stigmatization either from her mates in the school or from the people in her community. Rather, she noted, most of them adore me. “The physical challenge I have may be seen as a curse by some, but to me it is a blessing. Because of my nature, I have near unrestricted access to the Emir of Lapai. I have his direct line and can also call him.”
She said her only constraint in life is that her parents are financially weak. “But still if given the necessary support, the sky would be my limit in ensuring she that has acquired higher education,” she said, and appealed to the government and well spirited individuals to come to her aid toward realizing her dream.
“I hope to one day secure employment after my studies, so that I can buy a car for my father who has been toiling to take me to school on his old motorcycle, especially in this raining season.”
Going down memory lane, Malam Abubakar R. Daji, a staff of Lapai Local Government Council, said he still recalls the day (Friday, September 23, 1996) Sheida was born. “When my wife gave birth, the nurse attending to her came out in rude shock, saying ‘Inna lillahi Wa’inna ilaihi Rajiun’ (meaning ‘we belong to Allah and to Him we shall return’). She kept on reciting without saying anything to anybody.
“After calming down, she told me that the baby came out without both hands. Meanwhile, my wife, who was in the labour room, panicked thinking she had a still birth. I, therefore, quickly went to and told my wife, and calmed her by letting her know whatever comes from God be it good or bad we must accept in good faith. She understood.”
According him, shortly after the news hit the town, their house turned into a Mecca of sort as people trooped to see the baby. He said he would never forget the words of the former chairman of Lapai LG Umaru Sidi. He told me that a person that was born in similar circumstances in their community is not only alive today. but is one of the most influential people in the area.
He said he once wrote the Niger State government about six years ago seeking for assistance, but only a wheelchair was given to them. “I said to myself, a person without a limb cannot use a wheelchair, therefore we handed it over to someone to whom it would be useful.”
The father of the girl said initially they were not keen on sending the little girl to school until she started exhibiting her God-given talent. “When we saw her potentials, we enrolled her at a private school. But after sometimes, we had to withdraw her because even Sheida believed the school was expensive. Fortunately for us she is still doing pretty well in school.”
Sheida’s mother, Fatima Umar, said she is not finding it difficult to cater for her daughter. “Sheida, like other children, crawled before she started walking. But when she started crawling, instead of moving on hands and knees, she would be twisting her body while on ground.
Malama Fatima said the day she would never forget was the day she kept Sheida and her food on one side and rushed to get a stool, “but to my surprise on coming back I found Sheida feeding herself by using her toes to hold the spoon.
She further revealed that her daughter wears and removes her clothes without any difficulty, particularly her uniform as she always accused her younger ones of not washing it as it should be.
According to her, the little girl was still crawling when her mother gave birth to her younger brother. But when he started walking, she took that as a challenge and started learning how to walk.
Sheida, as a girl, is very active at the home front as she actively participates in the house chores, particularly kitchen activities. Her mother said Sheida cooks her favourite meal of pasta by herself, even though she requires some assistance like arranging of firewood and lighting the fire.
“It is my prayer that Sheida will one day realise her dreams in life,” Malama Fatima said.