Clarke paves way for blind pupils

2017-01-17 10:17
Jody Clarke from Grassy Park recently successfully completed her schooling at a mainstream school after going blind.

Jody Clarke from Grassy Park recently successfully completed her schooling at a mainstream school after going blind.

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Despite many obstacles in her way last year, a blind matriculant – studying at a mainstream school – passed matric, receiving her results with thousands other matriculants earlier this month.

Jody Clarke (20) from Grassy Park, who refused to attend a special needs school after going blind in 2013, completed her matric year at Fairmount High School, and despite not doing as well as she had hoped to, Clarke is still motivated to continue her studies this year.

She aims to study towards an educational qualification, as teaching “was always my dream”.

People’s Post previously reported on Clarke (“Seeing beyond challenges”, 26 April 2016) when she received assistive devices from the Lions Club so she could continue her mainstream schooling.

Clarke insisted on returning to the school after having a brain tumour removed during 2013. She managed to pass her final year of school by studying with recordings, a scribe and volunteers helping her.

“I was playing soccer on the school field one day as a goalkeeper and I suddenly couldn’t see the ball. I let my teacher know, who then sent me home. When I got home, my mother didn’t believe me at first but when she saw me stumbling and bumping into things she knew something was wrong,” Clarke says.

“After seeking medical assistance, we were told by the doctor that there was a lot of fluid on my brain and eyes and I had to go for an operation and after this operation I was left blind,” she says.

Immediately after this, Clarke was helped by the League of Friends of the Blind (Lofob), an organisation supporting the needs of the visually impaired. She shared with Lofob executive director Armand Bam that she wanted to go back to her mainstream school.

Lofob helped Clarke return to Fairmount High. Principal Terrence Klassen says he has never had a blind pupil at his school before, but with the help of Lofob, they were able to accommodate Clarke.

Clarke joined Lofob’s independence development programme in 2013 to gain skills to become independent and be better integrated in society.

Early last year Clarke was dealt another blow when she lost her mother and her brain tumour grew back – this time double in size. This saw her undergoing a 12-hour operation at Vincent Palotti Hospital last year.

Lofob spokesperson Heidi Volkwijn says Clarke always “plays down the severity of the challenge she faced”.

“Clarke was told that if the operation was to be done there was a possibility she would not make it out alive or she would lose functionality in her limbs. After the operation was completed, Clarke reached for her cellphone,” Volkwijn laughs.

Clarke recalls: “I couldn’t wait to tell all my friends and family I was alive and can still use my limbs,” she laughs.

Klassen previously said Clarke was “a pleasure to have at the school” and that accommodating a visually impaired pupil was a first for Fairmount.

“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 helped with Clarke’s integration as a visually impaired pupil.

Volkwijn says they applaud Klassen’s willingness to help Clarke adapt in a mainstream school.

“We made an application to another local school last year to accommodate a blind learner but this was turned down. This could be due to many factors, lack of resources being one of those. But this learner has now been accepted at Fairmount High and started his Grade 11 there earlier this month,” Volkwijn says.

“We can say Clarke has now paved the way for other visually impaired pupils who would like to return to mainstream schooling. We do however urge and encourage volunteers to come to Lofob and assist our clients at the centre. Our volunteers are amazing and their support is remarkable to the centre and our clients,” Volkwijn says.

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