April has been quite a month for Lennon Jarman. Firstly, he won two gold medals at the national championship for the physically disabled and on Tuesday he graduated with a masters degree in clinical social work at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) south campus auditorium.
Wheelchair-bound but with great perseverance Jarman, 39, has proved he is as book smart as he is athletic. Born with cerebral palsy, Jarman was awarded two gold medals for boccia (a precision ball sport related to bowls) when the national championships for the physically disabled were held in his home town of Port Elizabeth last week.
Jarman, who works as a social worker at the Ernest Malgas Treatment Centre in New Brighton, said he felt fabulous about getting his masters degree. Before gaining his masters, he acquired a BA and BA honours degree in psychology.
Jarman said he wanted to inspire other disabled people and hoped they would “get the same opportunities to study, work and not be pushed into a sheltered lifestyle”.
“I only saw one other wheelchair- bound person and he wasn’t even the one graduating, but a parent , ” Jarman said.
“I want to be an inspiration for other quadriplegics so they can confidently say ‘I’ve lived my authentic life’.”
The former Cape Recife High School pupil’s mother Ann said her son had gone to great lengths to obtain his degree and become a “disabled working professional”.
“Initially, the university didn’t think Lennon could become a social worker because they see a lot of clients and travel to meet these families. They need to have their own vehicle to make these appointments,” Ann said.
“Lennon, who financed his own studies while holding a full-time job, got a car and hired a driver in order to fulfil his obligations as a social worker.” One of the main hurdles Jarman had to overcome was “being told by his professors what he could do and couldn’t do,” she said.
Jarman said one of the main reasons for studying social work was to defy his physical challenges and added that he believed he had “a synergy with people”. “I thought it was an area in which I could most make a difference”.
Encouraging parents with disabled children to push their children to succeed, Ann said: “It helps to treat your disabled child as normally as possible. When a situation arises, normalise it.
“It also helps if they have siblings to treat them all the same. “If we went swimming, we all went swimming, or if we went down the super tubes, we all went down. “Lennon is the middle child and all three of my children have professions. I didn’t see why Lennon shouldn’t.”