The challenges and discrimination faced by people with albinism in his home nation of Nigeria was the focus of a PhD student who has recently completed his studies at the University of Chester.
Anthony Olagunju, who graduates from the University on Friday, investigated the experiences of people with albinism to explore what ‘being different’ means and the realities of disability, stigma and associated injustices that these people experience in Nigeria.
Albinism is a rare group of genetic disorders that cause the skin, hair or eyes to have little or no colour. It is also associated with vision problems. According to the Albino Foundation of Nigeria the majority of people with albinism suffer a high level of discrimination in the country, live in poverty and cannot afford education and basic healthcare.
Anthony said: “My study prides itself in being the first study to theoretically conceptualise what it means to be a person with albinism in the context of the Nigerian population. The study has implications and recommendations for public health and social care policy and practice that can be operationalised across all social institutions in Nigeria.”
Anthony met with People with Albinism (PWA) to collect his data through face-to-face interviews.
He found that due to the poor configuration of social institutions in Nigeria, PWA are likely to face injustices from childhood and throughout their lives. Children with albinism are likely to suffer from ridicule, parental neglect, and domestic abuse within the family-home environment when their parents do not have the right information on how to manage albinism and also at school, where they can be bullied by their peers and teachers because of their physical appearance and visual impairment. This can have a further negative effect resulting in poor academic performance, truancy and eventually loss of interest in education. The working environment can also be inaccessible and unkind to PWA because of their physical appearance and visual impairment. Women with albinism are also more disadvantaged because of the patriarchal configuration of the Nigerian society which predisposes them to being sexually exploited by men who have no genuine interest in them.
Anthony added that he chose this topic because of its “potential to amplify the voice of the oppressed and to inspire and inform a truly inclusive society where everyone matters; a society that functions through the principle of ‘being your brother’s keeper’ and a society that enables every individual to achieve their best potential.”
Anthony chose to study for his PhD at Chester after previously completing at Master’s here.
He said: “Personally, my studies have changed me. I have become more attuned and empathetic to the injustices that go on around me. I have received a higher calling of solidarity with people who are naturally and socially disadvantaged, and advocacy for their health and social security.
“I have also gained skills for life such as: critical and innovative thinking and expression, problem solving, conflict resolution, pedagogic communication, as well as public speaking and engagement.”
Anthony also attributes his success to his relationship with his supervisor, Dr Andi Mabhala, Professor of Public Health who he describes as “a supervisor whose friendship and guidance was instrumental for a successful PhD journey”.
Professor Mabhala said: “Anthony has been an asset to the Faculty of Health and Social Care. He taught quantitative research in both undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. He is a passionate researcher and advocate for social justice and marginalised groups.”
Anthony added that he plans to follow a career in public health and to aims a role in health and social care reforms. He plans to publish the findings of his PhD studies and gain a teaching qualification.