Proud mom to attend graduation in late son's place

2016-04-19 11:09
Nokuzotha Nzama with her son, Nhlanhla Cele, who died in January. (MUT)

Nokuzotha Nzama with her son, Nhlanhla Cele, who died in January. (MUT)

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Durban – A KwaZulu-Natal mother is expected to attend a graduation ceremony in her late son's place at the Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) on Thursday after he died three months ahead of his graduation.

Nhlanhla Cele, who was 24 at the time of his death, will be conferred with a posthumous Bachelor of Technology degree in Human Resources Management at the university's Seme Hall.

Cele, who was living with a rare genetic disease called muscular dystrophy, died of a heart attack in January.

- Health24: Muscular dystrophy

When his mother, Nokuzotha Nzama, gave birth to him in 1991, he was just like every other baby in the nursery.

But when Cele was in Grade 3, the 40-year-old woman from Chicago in Umlazi, noticed a few changes in her son’s body.

"He started limping and I noticed that he was struggling to walk," said Nzama. 

The mother of three took her child to every hospital in Durban seeking to discover what might be wrong with her son.

"There was nothing wrong with his brain but he slowly started to lose sensation and then his nerves stopped working and when he was 15, we had to start using a wheelchair. He was still very bright and he was in the top five in his matric year."

She said in 2012 her son was accepted to study towards a Diploma in Human Resources Management at MUT where she is employed as a contract worker working with students living with disabilities.

"He told me that one day when he grows up he wants to work with children living with disabilities and donate whatever they need."

Nzama said Cele did well in his studies and looked forward to his graduation ceremony but he died a few months before he could graduate.

Celebrating his achievement

Cele had started counting down the days to his graduation in December because for him the day was not only about his achievement, but was something to celebrate with his family.

"He always said that the ceremony wasn't only for him. It was for his family and the many young students who think having a disability is an impediment."

Nzama said on January 22 she took Cele to Prince Mshiyeni Memorial Hospital in Umlazi for a check-up.

"There was nothing wrong with him when we left home. The doctor did X-rays and when he was in the ward waiting for the doctor he screamed my name and then had a heart attack."

Nzama said she was shocked when she saw her unresponsive son and called for help but there was nothing more that the doctors could do for him.

"He died that day, just a few months before he was going to be conferred with his BTech."

She said she would hold back her emotions and celebrate her son's achievement at his graduation on Thursday.

"I have to be strong, even though there is nothing that I can do about it. I have to go and fetch his certificates and frame them."

Nzama said her son managed to study and survive with his heart working at only 30% of its capacity.

"His passing rocked the family, especially his younger brother who also suffers from muscular dystrophy. My job now is to make my children realise the beauty of life and allow them to live it to the fullest."

'The sky was the limit for him'

Nzama said mothers raising children with disabilities should never treat them differently.

"You have to give them hope and encourage them to do well like all the other children. You shouldn't make them feel less human."

Nzama said she was proud of her son. 

"When he enrolled at MUT in 2012, I took a decision to quit my job as a domestic worker because he needed 24-hour care. I had to ensure that all his dreams were made a reality.

"I taught him that his disability isn't a hindrance and that the sky was the limit for him."

Nzama said she believed that wherever her son was, he would be watching over her on Thursday.

"I know his spirit will be there with me."

Aasked what she would be wearing she said, "I don’t have an outfit. I will wear whatever I have at home. I wouldn't miss it for the world."

Read more on:    durban  |  education

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