Loss of sight no hurdle for local

Blindness is no barrier for one blind Grade 12 learner enrolled at Fairmount Senior Secondary School in Grassy Park.

Thandolakhe Stuurman’s life was thrown into turmoil when his sight started to fail in 2016 during the June exams while in Grade 11 at a school in Bloemfontein.

According to League of the Friends of the Blind (Lofob) spokesperson, Heidi Volkwijn, days before the incident, Stuurman had complained of headaches and blurred vision but pushed on as he was caught up in the throws of the exams.

“While sitting through one of the papers, he experienced severe blurring as he struggled to read through the question paper and within minutes he was left in total darkness. This experience only became worse as he had to undergo several medical examinations and was later told that his vision loss was permanent and he would be blind for the rest of his life,” says Volkwijn.

At the tender age of 17, Stuurman was ready to give up on life and the dreams he once had of completing his education and pursuing a successful career. He was later brought to Cape Town by a family member to seek a second medical opinion and this brought hope that this would mean a chance of seeing again.

He describes the devastation he felt when he received what he considered the second blow as he was told his vision loss was permanent.

Just as he was about to give up, he was referred to Lofob where he was enrolled in a rehabilitation programme and was housed at Lofob’s residential facility. There he received all the skills needed to live independently and at the end of the year he faced the all-important question about the road he would take to complete his school career. Inspired by a blind learner who had just completed her schooling career at Fairmount Senior Secondary School, this young man set his sight on returning to a mainstream school to redo Grade 11 and Grade 12.

Thanks to the partnership between Lofob and Fairmount High School, Stuurman has been enrolled to complete his high school career, becoming the second blind matriculant at the school.

When asked what this achievement means to him, Stuurman said: “This is more than achieving a qualification – to me it is a triumph over the challenges that blindness presented me as my sight failed me in a classroom three years ago.”

Fairmount High’s principal, Terrence Klassen, welcomed the application as he had walked the road with a former learner after she was blinded and did not want to leave the school on the grounds of her disability. “It took hard work and dedication from the school management team and staff who worked hand-in-hand with Lofob to ensure the learner received a good quality education and the needed support. Fairmount is fast becoming a leader in pioneering the way for the inclusion of blind learners in mainstream schools,” says Klassen, adding: “The future of this country is dependent on an educated society and we are pleased that Lofob can make this contribution in the development of future leaders.”

He further added that they are not only celebrating an achievement in education, but that the courage of learners with disabilities is being celebrated.

“It is the experience that acquiring a disability at this age often leads to learners throwing in the towel and giving up on their education. It is for this reason that Lofob introduced its support to mainstream education programmes and works tirelessly to ensuring quality and inclusive education for all its service recipients. We are aware that this is by no account an easy journey but through our experiences know that it is indeed possible for blind learners to successfully integrate into a mainstream school when all parties,, including the school, an organisation like Lofob and the family, are on board,” says Lofob executive director, Doctor Armand Bam.

Blindness is no barrier for one blind Grade 12 learner enrolled at Fairmount Senior Secondary School in Grassy Park.

Thandolakhe Stuurman’s life was thrown into turmoil when his sight started to fail in 2016 during the June exams while in Grade 11 at a school in Bloemfontein.

According to League of the Friends of the Blind (Lofob) spokesperson, Heidi Volkwijn, days before the incident, Stuurman had complained of headaches and blurred vision but pushed on as he was caught up in the throws of the exams.

“While sitting through one of the papers, he experienced severe blurring as he struggled to read through the question paper and within minutes he was left in total darkness. This experience only became worse as he had to undergo several medical examinations and was later told that his vision loss was permanent and he would be blind for the rest of his life,” says Volkwijn.

At the tender age of 17, Stuurman was ready to give up on life and the dreams he once had of completing his education and pursuing a successful career. He was later brought to Cape Town by a family member to seek a second medical opinion and this brought hope that this would mean a chance of seeing again. He describes the devastation he felt when he received what he considered the second blow as he was told his vision loss was permanent. Just as he was about to give up, he was referred to Lofob where he was enrolled in a rehabilitation programme and was housed at Lofob’s residential facility. There he received all the skills needed to live independently and at the end of the year he faced the all-important question about the road he would take to complete his school career. Inspired by a blind learner who had just completed her schooling career at Fairmount Senior Secondary School, this young man set his sight on returning to a mainstream school to redo Grade 11 and Grade 12.

Thanks to the partnership between Lofob and Fairmount High School, Stuurman has been enrolled to complete his high school career, becoming the second blind matriculant at the school.

When asked what this achievement means to him, Stuurman said: “This is more than achieving a qualification – to me it is a triumph over the challenges that blindness presented me as my sight failed me in a classroom three years ago.”

Fairmount High’s principal, Terrence Klassen, welcomed the application as he had walked the road with a former learner after she was blinded and did not want to leave the school on the grounds of her disability. “It took hard work and dedication from the school management team and staff who worked hand-in-hand with Lofob to ensure the learner received a good quality education and the needed support. Fairmount is fast becoming a leader in pioneering the way for the inclusion of blind learners in mainstream schools,” says Klassen, adding: “The future of this country is dependent on an educated society and we are pleased that Lofob can make this contribution in the development of future leaders.”

He further added that they are not only celebrating an achievement in education, but that the courage of learners with disabilities is being celebrated.

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