Graduation tinged with sadness over absence of mom who died in crash for NMU blind student
As an emotional Ncebakazi Siziba crossed the graduation stage to a standing ovation and cheers from the audience, she shed a tear and said a silent prayer to continue making her late mother proud.
Siziba, who graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from Nelson Mandela University on Friday, was one of 391 students conferred their qualifications in the Faculty of Health Sciences’ schools of Behavioural Sciences and Lifestyle Sciences.
But the moment was a bittersweet one as she had so wished that her mother, Nowinile Siziba – who was killed in a car accident in February – could be there to witness the fruits of her hard work.
“To be honest, I was not excited about my graduation, though I’m happy to be graduating, because I lost my mom.
“She was the one person I wished could have come to watch me cross that stage.
“She was not just my parent, but my friend and major support system,” Sibiza said.
“I was very emotional on that stage and that standing ovation and ululations from the audience made everything feel worthwhile.”
When she found out she would be graduating, plans were made for a big family celebration at home in Mqanduli.
“The initial plan was that my mother would come back home with me after graduation so that we could have a big party to celebrate as a family.
“So, since that wish could no longer be fulfilled, I honestly wished that this day would just pass so that I can move on and focus on my studies.”
But her mood lifted slightly and her face lit up as she talked about how happy she was that her father, William Siziba, sister Nokuphiwa Simanga and brother Nkosinathi Siziba had come to celebrate with her.
Siziba is a former Efata School for the Blind pupil and was among the university’s first cohort of completely blind students in more than 20 years, alongside Avukile Jeke and Lubabalo Sapepa, in 2014.
She described her journey at the university as “very difficult, both academically and socially.
“Social work was very challenging for a visually impaired student like me because it contained practical aspects like drawing organograms and ecomaps, making collages, colouring things in and so forth.
“I also found it difficult to approach lecturers to adapt my presentations and remove practical things like that because I didn’t want to seem like I wanted special treatment.
“Another challenge for me during my first year in 2014 was being away from home and having to adapt to a new environment,” she said.
“My second to fourth year were tough for me because it was practicals all the way.
“Fourth year was the hardest I had ever experienced because I failed my mid-practical evaluation, but fortunately I was given a second chance to do a panel presentation and I passed.”
NMU has now conferred qualifications on five visually impaired students: Jeke and Ntsikelelo Williams with BA Honours in isiXhosa; partially sighted Pelisa Mkwami with an Advanced Diploma in Business Studies; and Mzobanzi Xipula (in absentia) with a Higher Certificate in Law.