Blind dad raises the roof at his graduation ceremony

2017-12-14 05:30
Ornette Danse at his graduation. (CPUT Facebook)

Ornette Danse at his graduation. (CPUT Facebook)

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Cape Town – All Ornette Danse can remember about his walk across the Cape Peninsula University of Technology's (CPUT) auditorium stage to receive his diploma in public management is the loud and extended applause he received.

While the blind father of three could not see his proud mother, wife, grandmother and father-in-law in the audience, he could feel their pride as he officially became his family's first university graduate.

"I am overwhelmed, happy, glad – I can't properly describe this feeling," an incredulous and enthused Danse said on Wednesday, hours after one of the most exciting moments of his life.

"It was an overwhelming accomplishment. I felt like I made it."

And while three years of hard work and dedication has paid off, he is far from done with his studies – he is ready to tackle his Bachelor of Technology degree. 

Danse, 32, lost his vision at the age of 10 after a botched operation to repair a retinal detachment which would have eventually resulted in blindness if not treated, he explained.

Multilingual

During his matric year at school, he underwent switchboard training and volunteered during the holidays at his local police station as a switchboard operator.

"I knew that being blind would make getting a job straight out of school basically impossible. I had limited options so to ensure I was employable, I wanted to make sure I had work experience," Danse said.

After matriculating, he worked at the police station for another year until he landed a job as an operator at the 10111 call centre, where he has worked for the past decade.

He speaks six languages – Setswana, isiXhosa, English, Afrikaans, isiZulu and Sesotho.

While he is dedicated to assisting victims of crime and tries to go the extra mile when dealing with a call, he says his keen interest in public service, politics and current affairs encouraged him to enrol for a diploma in public management in 2015.

He received a bursary from the police and juggled his studies and work responsibilities for three years.

"It was very difficult – up and down – but I did it," he said proudly.

Danse was reliant on typed notes which were "read" to him by a screen reader programme.

"I can't read from the board so I would sit and listen intently. I think it helped me understand the material better as instead of concentrating on notes, I would take in everything, then explore it when I got the electronic version," he explained.

His hard work saw him achieve 10 distinctions over the course of his studies.

'All worth it'

Among his biggest hurdles was travelling to and from CPUT's Bellville campus to his home in Delft.

Danse's classes sometimes finished as late as 21:00, after most public transport stops operating, but work colleagues and fellow students would come to his aid by giving him lifts.

In the end, it was all worth it, he insisted.

"My family is very proud of me. My mother – a single parent who raised two children on her own – and my wife expressed how grateful they are to God, and I want to thank Him as well," Danse said.

He celebrated his milestone on Wednesday night with a dinner, surrounded by his friends, loved ones and colleagues.

Danse plans to complete his degree next year, whereafter he will apply for a promotion in the SAPS.

He hopes his accomplishment will inspire others to do what seems impossible.

"My advice to people with disabilities is to try and break the boundaries. Be open and explore. A closed book can't be read. If you need help, ask and someone will assist," he encouraged.


Read more on:    cput  |  cape town  |  education  |  good news

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