After initially being denied the opportunity to study at NMMU because the university lacked the proper facilities to accommodate completely blind students, two visually impaired graduates walked across the stage yesterday to collect their certificates.
This after The Herald broke the story of how three blind NMMU hopefuls had had their dreams dashed when the university initially rejected their applications because it was not equipped to accommodate them.
A week after the publication of the article in October 2013, NMMU backtracked and accepted the applications of Avukile Jeke, Lubabalo Sapepa and Yanelisa Gininda.
At the time, NMMU vice-chancellor Professor Derrick Swartz said the lack of facilities was not reason enough to turn prospective students away. Gininda has since left the university. Jeke and Sapepa, both 24, received a standing ovation yesterday, with the crowd ululating and cheering as they made their way across the stage with their guides.
Jeke, of Mount Frere, who was born partially blind but gradually lost his sight completely, received a BA degree and is doing a postgraduate degree in education.
“It has not been an easy road, but I have always been determined to push through,” he said. “I’m the first in my family to graduate. “I’m my siblings’ role model, a trailblazer who is not afraid to break barriers.
“I’m ready to take the world to the classroom and the classroom to the world.”
Sapepa, of Mqanduli, graduated with a BTech in public management .
“I was very fortunate in being able to secure financial aid to study,” he said.
“I love studying and have always strived to finish in record time.”
Sapepa said earlier his very proud and excited mother would be at the graduation ceremony, “probably ululating and sweeping the floor with her traditional wear”.
Both described their academic journey as an unforgettable experience.
Jeke and Sapepa began their studies at NMMU in 2014, after matriculating from Mthatha’s Efata School for the Blind in 2013.
Disabilities Unit acting senior manager Ruth Sauls said: “It’s been a learning curve for all of us and we are proud to witness and salute the graduandi, Messrs Jeke and Sapepa.”
NMMU’s braille transcription services head, Estelle Broekhuizen, said the pair had started their university success story the minute they arrived in a taxi from Mthatha.
“This is such a great achievement,” she said.
“They were overwhelmed in 2014 but with the team behind them they are here for the big moment.”