Blind graduate Masibonge Mkhize (23) brought her father to tears when she took to the stage to receive her Bachelor of Social Science degree, she is majoring in psychology and isiZulu, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).
Mkhize, who received a standing ovation during her graduation this week, said there were no words to truly describe the emotions she experienced.
“I didn’t expect my dad to be standing there and waiting. When he hugged me, I got very emotional,” she said.
While waiting for her name to be called out, Mkhize said she felt quite nervous.
“I was excited, but I also felt everyone would be staring at me and thinking, ‘How did this blind girl manage to get a degree?’.
“According to society, disabled people are just meant to stay at home and collect grants. I wondered if that’s what they might all be saying. But then I remembered that the world is changing and my experience at UKZN has shown me that people are accommodating and understanding that we (people with disabilities) are not all that different.”
Mkhize’s father, Nkosinathi, said he felt very emotional at the ceremony.
“Masibonge is the only daughter out of four sons. She’s the jewel of my heart.”
Nkosinathi said he wants his daughter to be independent and lead a normal life.
“I don’t like the word disabled. I always tell her that she is just less abled,” he said.
Mkhize, who hails from Pietermaritzburg, lost her sight when she was five years old due to hydrocephalus, a medical condition that causes a build-up of fluid in the brain, which caused damage to her optic nerve.
Studying with a disability on a campus filled with mainly non-disabled students proved daunting for Mkhize who said she was scared at first but then relieved when she found that the environment wasn’t straining.
“UKZN has the best support system for students with disabilities. I received an abundance of support from the disability unit, lecturers and classmates. I also became more independent and confident,” she said.
UKZN said Mkhize is one of 84 people with disabilities graduating at the university this Autumn.
She expressed gratitude to her parents and brothers who have been a source of support throughout her life.
“My family have always been there for me. When I started university, my mother was so worried and travelled to campus every day for a while, just to check that I’m doing okay.”
Mkhize said she is passionate about psychology and plans to study for an honours degree next year.