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VUT boasts first graduate with visual impairment

1 Oct 2020

Thabo Lenyora the first graduate with visual impairment from VUT

By Simukele Ngema

History will be made during this year’s spring graduation ceremonies when Thabo Lenyora, a 31-year-old student, will be getting his academic qualification as the first ever graduate with visual impairment at the Vaal University of Technology(VUT), Vanderbijlpark.

Lenyora, who is from Ventersburg, Free State, will receive a national diploma in policing. He says, “There were a couple of challenges during my time at VUT, due to the fact that the Disability Unit (DU) was still at an adolescent stage. There was not enough staff and resources to accommodate studentswith visual impairment were limited. For example, there were delays to convert study material to electronic (audio) and braille due to a shortage of staff, and some of the lecturers did not know how to create a conducive environment for me, but they were taken for a workshop on how to accommodate students with visual impairment.”

He was in grade 11 in 2006 when glaucoma, a disease which damages the optic nerve, robbed him of his sight. Lenyora says this was the most challenging time of his life, as suddenly he had to depend on others. It took him about two years to accept the condition.

After completing matric in 2009, he registered for a BA in Governance and Political Transformation at the University ofFree State (UFS), but dropped out in 2014 due to some challenges with accommodating his disability.

He says he chose policing because he wants to work in law enforcement and be part of eradicating crime in South Africa. He intends to use his diploma to work in correctional services so that he can play a role in the rehabilitation of offenders.

Mike Khuboni, an executive director: advancement at VUT,told ThisAbility that it took the institution more than 50 years to have its first visually impaired graduate due to a combination of factors such as lack of awareness from both parents and special schools about furthering of studies or career choices for visually impaired students.

“VUT has embarked on an inclusive student marketing and recruitment drive, which includes our VUT FM (radio station) as well as a combination of Open Days and visits to special schools to raise awareness about courses, resources and financial assistance available for students with disabilities, in order to increase graduates with disabilities in our institution,”Khuboni said.

Mziwoxolo David Nkwekwezi who is a coordinator at the DU, highlighted the shortage of staff as the institution’s main problem, however, they have managed to secure funding for 80% of students with disabilities since 2017.

To adopt a culture of inclusive education, VUT is aiming to make all facilities including offices, lecture theatres, laboratories and student residences accessible to all students, including those with disabilities. Inclusive strategies that are currently in place include extra time for students with disabilities during assessments, learning materials in accessible formats including text conversion and use of appropriate software.

Veronica Madia, Lenyora’s sister, says, “We are so overwhelmed and proud of Thabo’s achievement. As a family we thank the Lord for Thabo achievement. God has shown us so much with Thabo.”

Lenyora has words of encouragement for other students with visual impairments.

“They must study hard and never give up, and they must use their time wisely. Some of the students tendto relax and work under pressure but that will not work for a student with visual impairment. Spend one hour on every module every day and work two times harder than ‘normal students’.”

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