Blind graduand says degree belongs to her mum

2011-04-14 00:00

SHE was completely blind by the age of five and the first few years of her life were spent in and out of hospital.

While most children her age started school at six years, she had turned 10 when by the time she first set foot in a classroom.

But last night Zama Ngwenya(32) graduated with a bachelor’s degree in social science in labour studies and sociology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Funded by the Education Department, Ngwenya is reading for her honours in industrial relations and hopes to follow that with a master’s degree.

Her journey has been anything but easy. It was always clear to her that she had to redouble her efforts to compete with her sighted peers. But nothing could have prepared her for the death of her mother, the only parent she had known. Worse, her mother died in her final year, while she was busy with June exams.

While Ngwenya managed to pass her supplementary examination after the burial of her mother, she couldn’t cope with her studies afterwards and had to repeat the year.

“It was undoubtedly the darkest time of my life. My mother was everything to me. She was not educated. She went as far as standard five. But she made sure that I got the best education. The fact that she didn’t know any other blind person did not stop her making it her duty to find out all that she could and asking questions.”

When social workers’ promises to help get Ngwenya into school did not materialise, her mother took matters into her own hands and got her daughter enrolled.

“I can’t explain how I feel right now. But this degree was never mine. I just wish the rightful owner was here to witness it,” Ngwenya told The Witness.

As the eldest, Ngwenya had the added responsibility of looking after her younger siblings after their mother’s death.

“I used part of the money I received from my scholarship as well as from my disability grant to send money home so that my siblings had food and [school] uniforms.”

Two of her younger siblings, aged 13 and 17, are at school, while the oldest, aged 25, is at a further education and training college.

“I had to come to a resolve that if I can’t change something, I have to learn to adapt to it,” said Ngwenya.

“My advice to other students would be exactly that.

“The journey might be long and difficult, but iyahambeka [it is accomplishable].”

Ngwenya hopes to work as an industrial relations officer for Trans­net or Unilever.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.