This is the story of three Kebbi siblings who are, amazingly, blue-eyed, but in a twist of fate, deaf and dumb.
When a Twitter user called Farida Mahmud posted a picture of a young, blue-eyed girl she encountered, she had no idea that the subject of her photo was deaf and dumb, or that she had siblings who also had same-hued eyes, and also suffered the same predicament.
Our reporter reached out to her, and was soon put into contact with the Kebbi-based mother of Ummulkhairi.
Hailing from Sauwa in Kebbi State, and having been married at the age of twelve, Bilkisu Aliyu, 35, bore seven children, four males and three females.
Three out of them are blue-eyed, as well as deaf and dumb.
The uniquely blue-eyed siblings, assist their mother by begging for alms to cater for their needs.
The youngest, seven-year-old Ummulkhairi, may be deaf and dumb, but the little angel is capturing hearts with her blue eyes, and captivating many with her wide smile.
An act of God
Our reporter, via several phone calls, linked up with her mother Bilkisu, to learn more about her unique children.
Bilkisu told Daily Trust Saturday that when she gave birth to her first child, Ibrahim, and noticed his blue eyes, she saw it as an act of God.
“I did not take him to the hospital when I gave birth to him.
“I only maintained patience.
“As he grew, I became aware that he was deaf.
“I initially thought he was blind, too, but he’s not.
“Thereafter, because when he’s spoken to he doesn’t respond, we realised that he is deaf.
“As for his siblings, immediately I delivered them and realized in the morning they’ve got similar eyes, I concluded that they’re deaf, like their elder brother.
“No one has ever advised me concerning them, so I let it be.”
Despite their predicament, their mum noted that their outlook towards life remains positive.
“They interact normally with people without any problem,” Bilkisu said of her three children, Ibrahim, Maryam, and Ummulkhairi.
She also told Daily Trust Saturday that they aren’t stigmatized, but rather, they enjoy admiration from people.
“People generally love [the children] and always want to speak to them,” Bilkisu said, smiling, via a WhatsApp video call.
However, she noted that it is difficult feeding them, and she has resorted to menial jobs to be able to cater for their needs.
“I perform household chores for people, like helping them fetch water and sometimes I beg for alms.
“It is incredibly difficult,” she added.
When asked about the father of the children, Bilkisu noted that he is alive, but has been sick for about a decade, bedridden.
“He used to be a trader and then became a farmer.
“He’s left the village, and us to our fate,” she said, sadness in her voice.
Bilkisu wants Ibrahim, her eldest, also blue-eyed, to train as a tailor.
But she has no idea what she wants for her two blue-eyed daughters.
“But I would appreciate if they’re enrolled in school.
“The mother of seven told Daily Trust Saturday that all she wants is for her children to succeed in life.
“I would like them to learn a trade, or have an education, and have the kind of life I never had; a good one,” she said.
Ibrahim, it was learnt, was once enrolled into primary school and can write his name, but he eventually dropped out.
His sisters, however, have never seen the four walls – or tree shade – of a classroom, which their mother Bilkisu blames on ‘rural influence’.
For Bilkisu and her children, life has had its ups and downs, but she is resolute in making sure to keep them safe.
But she faces a major challenge: “We always have difficulty feeding.
“We get by with menial jobs, begging, and sometimes hawking,” she said, tearfully.
They need medical attention – Experts
Though theories abound about their blue eyes being the reason why they are deaf and dumb, it’s difficult to tell as their mother has disclosed that they have never been taken for a consultation at any medical facility.
Experts spoken to by Daily Trust Saturday say it would appear that the children are suffering from a rare genetic condition called Waardenburg Syndrome (WS).
One expert said it is usually characterized by varying degrees of deafness, and eye pigmentation anomalies.
“Symptoms may vary, but they include pale or brilliantly blue eyes, and even eyes of two different colours, as well as moderate to profound hearing impairment,” another said.
But both agreed that a test needs to be carried out to be certain, adding that the deafness is likely to be treatable.
Bilkisu said she would be eternally grateful to anyone who helps her children get medical attention.
“Their well-being is my number one priority right now,” she sighed.