Blind NSFAS student spared homelessness

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WAY FORWARD: Wits student Sisanda Msekele is now able to register for her PhD after receiving financial assistance from the university. Photo: Provided.

Sisanda Msekele, an anthropology masters student, faced homelessness and debt of nearly R100 000 a week ago. But following an article in the Wits Vuvuzela about her plight, she has received financial assistance from Wits University and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), making it possible for her to remain in residence and register for her doctoral studies (PhD).

Professor Eric Worby, director of the Humanities Graduate Centre, with the help of Humanities Dean, Prof Ruksana Osman, have worked with the university to ensure Msekele’s outstanding fees of R96 299 are settled.  The fees accrued after the NSFAS ( National Student Financial Aid Scheme) failed to pay for one year.

“We were very sorry she found herself in this position,” Worby told Wits Vuvuzela. “This is hugely important to us, as she is one of our best students, and someone we want to support.”

Head of Anthropology, Dr Hylton White, who has been involved in assisting Msekele since November last year, said his department was not aware of how serious Msekele’s financial predicament was, but is “relieved that the problem could be resolved so quickly once it became apparent”.

Yesterday afternoon Msekele received the news that the DHET had provided additional funds to support her. This will be used to offset any outstanding debt. Msekele told Wits Vuvuzela that she is still waiting to hear what will happen with any money that is left over, but hoped that it could be used towards her PhD.

She said that she is overwhelmed and ecstatic. “You have no idea, I now sleep like a baby at night, I don’t expect someone to come and kick me out.”

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Wits student graduates against all odds

Sisanda Msekele pictured here with her guide dog Romy. Photo provided.

Sisanda Msekele pictured here with her guide dog Romy. Photo provided.

ALL that Wits graduate Sisanda Msekele, 23 wants to see when she gets her eyesight back is herself and all the people that matter most to her.

Despite losing her eyesight from Stevens Johnson’s syndrome when the medication she was prescribed damaged her cornea she has triumphed over adversity by graduating.
Coming to Wits University was a challenge for Sisanda, she had just turned blind and suddenly had to adapt to a university environment as “everything was new and overwhelming”. It was a difficult transition, after being in high school where everybody else was blind. Sisanda came to Wits and had to learn how interact with people who could see.

When Sisanda was in Matric she had applied to do medicine and was in the process of being accepted. Her hopes were dashed after losing her sight, when she had to enrol into a special school where she had to change her subjects and consequently her dreams of being a doctor. “ It’s a challenge, competing with people that can see…You never always get what you want, but you can work something out, it’s all about what you make of it,” Msekele said

When she started Msekele failed her 1st psychology test and her major essay and was ready to give up. Although pursuing psychology was not her first love, Sisanda now has dreams of being a neuro psychologist, she says although the chances of her being a neuro psychologist are slim, she’d like to get into clinical psychology in the mean time.
Mseleke said that she wasn’t excited about the graduation on March 25, but when she got onto the stage she realised what a great achievement it is when she received a standing ovation from students and Academics.
“Accomplishing something yourself is great, but when other people acknowledge you, it’s amazing,” she said.
Msekele now has plans to continue her honours and Masters degree, only this time, there is a chance that she will complete the courses with her eyesight, as she is preparing to undergo a life changing operation that could restore her eyesight.

Msekle remains positive that she will be able to see again, but expressed fear that it might not happen. “It’s scary, if it (Surgery) doesn’t work, I have nothing to lose, I have high hopes of being able to see, but what if it doesn’t happen?”
With all the excitement, Msekele said that she has to be positive, but also realistic.
If the operation goes well, Sisanda will open her eyes, look into a mirror and see herself as a triumphant Wits graduate.