Christina: Beacon of hope

Christina takes time to pose for the camera as she reads.   Photo: Boipelo Boikhutso

Christina takes time to pose for the camera as she reads.
Photo: Boipelo Boikhutso

Christina Mlambo is a partially blind student who is hard of hearing in her left ear. She refuses to be defined or confined by her disability. She recalls how in primary school, she was taught that “you are not going to get noticed because of your disability, but by how great you are”.

“To prove that greatness is possible to achieve even for an average person”

She matriculated last year, with four distinctions in Economics, Life Sciences, Business Studies and Afrikaans. In a series of two events, Mlambo was invited to attend a celebratory breakfast at Vodaworld, where she mingled with prominent people such as the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga. She was also invited to attend the matric awards ceremony, broadcast live on SABC, which she describes as one of the greatest moments in her life. Along with two other students from different schools, she was awarded a position in one of the Learners with Special Education Needs (LSEN) category, known as the“Against All Odds” category. Mlambo also obtained second position in the provincial awards. She also received a call from the MetroFm DJ, T’Bo Touch where he congratulated her on air and offered to help with finding a bursar.

Mlambo is currently doing her first year in BCom Law and when Wits Vuvuzela asked her how she’s coping in her new environment she said: “I won’t lie, it has been rather difficult, especially because there’s many of us [students] in a lecture so one cannot always get individual attention when in need.”

She said at her previous school, Prinshof School for the Visually Impaired there were 14 students in a class and the pace was slower. She regularly attends meetings at the Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU) on campus which helps her with managing time and coping with school work.

In her school bag there is usually a law textbook, a recorder which she uses in class to capture lectures and a portable magnifier which she uses to enlarge course notes she cannot see properly. She said the Disability Unit is very supportive and provided her with the portable magnifier.

When she is not doing her school work, Mlambo reads novels and says her favourite author is Nora Roberts. She also plays the piano and occasionally writes poetry. She said she wants to be “a beacon of hope” in her family and community. “To prove that greatness is possible to achieve even for an average person ”.

Blind NSFAS student spared homelessness


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.”


Am I Really

Physical theatre – usually considered the preserve of fit, able-bodied actors – will give disabled actors the chance to show Witsies “how they view themselves and interpret other people’s view of them”, during March. Pictures by: Thule Zwane and Emelia Motsai

Wits disables ugly labels

For just two minutes Witsies felt what it was like to be blind.


The Disability Awareness Movement (DAM) held a series of events during the week, which included a blind run, games at the library lawns and discussions around employment for persons with disabilities.


“I think through participation one can gain a lot,” said DAM chairperson Jimmy Ramokgopa. “[The events] place people in a disabled person’s shoes.”


The 2nd year civil engineering student said they tried to convey the message through different channels.
“For people who are active we had games, for people who like discussion we had talks and then we have a film screening on Friday [about silent disabilities].”


One of the activities was a blind run. Students were blindfolded and had to navigate through a course surrounded by ropes.


Ot Goiwakae, a 3rd year drama student, had a particularly hard time finishing the course. “I felt insecure.
“I had someone to assist me and tell me where to go, but imagine if I didn’t.”


The DAM also organised a career day for grade 11 students from Filadelfia Secondary School and Hope School for children with disabilities. Christelle Bester, a teacher at Hope School, felt parts of Wits were “not really wheelchair accessible”.


The movement coordinated the events with other organisations such as the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities (NCPPDSA), Johannesburg Society for the Blind and Association for the Physically Disabled.


Lubabalo Mbeki from the NCPPDSA hopes to encourage people with disabilities to get educated for better employment opportunities.


“One of my targets is looking at placing persons with disabilities in prominent positions and create leaders,” he said.
Ramokgopa said “Our objective was to provide the necessary tools and information to people.


“What they do with that is personal… So in that sense our aim was met.”