Seeing beyond challenges

2016-04-26 06:00
Jody Clarke, a blind matriculant at Fairmount High, received assistive devices on Thursday. The handover was made possible through role-players at League of Friends of the Blind in Grassy Park and the Lions Club of Bergvliet.  PHOTOS: Chevon Booysen

Jody Clarke, a blind matriculant at Fairmount High, received assistive devices on Thursday. The handover was made possible through role-players at League of Friends of the Blind in Grassy Park and the Lions Club of Bergvliet. PHOTOS: Chevon Booysen

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She has overcome many challenges, including going blind three years ago and recently losing her mother.

But Jody Clarke won’t let this hold her back.

Clarke (18) is completing her matric year at Fairmount High – a mainstream school set on the border of Parkwood.

People’s Post previously reported (“Blind teen doesn’t give up”, 8 December) on Clarke after she graduated at the League of Friends of The Blind (Lofob) days after receiving the news she progressed to Grade 12.

And now Clarke, in her final school year, will be able to excel further after receiving assistive devices.

These include a computer with speech software and scanner with the help of Lofob and the Lions Club of Bergvliet.

These devices will enhance Jody’s access to information and the quality of her education.

Clarke joined Lofob’s independence development programme in 2013 where she acquired skills to be independent and integrated within society.

The devices were handed over officially to Clarke during a ceremony held at Lofob on Thursday.

Philip Bam, who was the master of ceremonies and received many accolades for his involvement in the blindness sector, refers to the devices as “enabling devices” instead of assistive.

“These devices and technology presented to Clarke today will serve to enable her to progress and do better.

“She will now be able to compete with others at the same school. And I think it’s a great thing because Lofob has been involved in enabling visually impaired people for many years now and we are grateful for the partnership with the Lions Club,” Bam says.

Public relations officer Heidi Volkwijn, who refers to Clarke as her blind sister, says this is an exciting time for her.

“Three years ago Clarke came to Lofob after she went blind following an operation to remove her brain tumour.

“We asked her what she wanted to do next and she said she did not want to go to a school for the blind; she wanted to complete her schooling at Fairmount,” Volkwijn recalls.

In 2014 Clarke repeated Grade 10 and when she went on to Grade 11 she encountered another hurdle when she was told by doctors that her tumour was back, only this time twice as big as the first time.

Down but not out, Clark had to undergo surgery which doctors thought might leave her further disabled or dead.

Six weeks later, Clark returned to school and was ready for the challenge ahead of completing Grade 11.

At the start of 2016, Clark entered the gates of Fairmount High School as a matric student with the determination and vigour to take on the world. Like Clarke, there are many blind learners who Lofob assists through it’s support to inclusive education programme.

Volkwijn adds that Lofob aims to assist those who want to pursue their education after being declared blind.

“When one is blind and you do not have a matric certificate you face a double barrier. And this is why we have embarked on working with schools in the province and adapting these schools for blind or visually impaired learners,” she says.

Fairmount High principal Terrence Klassen says Clarke is a pleasure to have at the school adding that accommodating a visually impaired pupil is a first for their school.

“When Clarke said she wanted to come back to the school, we welcomed her back and we did not see her as one with an impediment. When we welcomed her back we did not know the challenges we would face because the school does not have the facilities and we did not have the rights. All we had was the relationship that was built over the years with Lofob,” Klassen said.
Despite these challenges, Fairmount High assisted in Clarke’s integration as a visually impaired pupil.

District governer for the Lions Club, Sue Long, said she was “gobsmacked” by Clarke’s achievements. “This does prove that even if you are differently abled, you can reach the top,” Long said.

Clarke then accepted her devices saying it was a “great privilege”, continuing to thank Fatima Moltethe Lions Club as well as the Lofob team.
“Also to my brother who is now my mom and my dad. For me it was not easy to lose a mom in a year like this. But to have my brother by my side, everything is possible. For me it is a tough year but I try my best to make my matric year a success.”

In an emotional thanks, Marlin Clarke, said it is a privilege and honour to have his younger sister in matric. “It was a dream of my mother’s to have at least of her children complete matric. It’s a dream come true for our family. She is the baby of all of us and she has made us proud. We thank everyone for what they have done for Jody, it really means a lot to us,” he says.

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