Var­sity is any­thing but

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don’t see. When you are teach­ing and you keep on say­ing ‘as you can see’, what do you ex­pect a blind stu­dent to see?” she said.

She said stu­dents in wheel­chairs some­times can­not even con­sult lec­tur­ers be­cause lifts are not work­ing and they can’t reach the lec­tur­ers’ of­fices.

“You go to the ad­min­is­tra­tor and say: ‘Can you tell prof so-and-so that I’m here; can they come and at­tend to me?’ They throw tantrums and don’t want to at­tend to stu­dents,” Mthiyane said.

“When this univer­sity got recog­nised as the num­ber one in­sti­tu­tion cater­ing for stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties, it meant that ev­ery­thing is at its best level and that is what we ex­pect — the best. We will not be apolo­getic about our is­sues,” she said.

Many other stu­dents shared their ex­pe­ri­ences dur­ing the aware­ness cam­paign and de­scribed how some lec­tur­ers are not at all help­ful.

“Stop ig­nor­ing us,” was Mahlatse Mam­puru’s ap­peal to the lec­tur­ers. He lost his eye­sight when he was 14. He is a sports fa­natic.

“If I were to choose be­tween be­ing here and sport, I would choose sport [rather] than be­ing here. In sport, the com­men­ta­tors, even though I can­not see, they give me the full in­for­ma­tion about what is hap­pen­ing on the field.

“In 2010, when Siphiwe Tsha­bal­ala scored that beau­ti­ful goal [dur­ing the Fifa World Cup], I ex­pe­ri­enced that mo­ment the same time it hap­pened and not af­ter.

“But here you go to the class, the lec­turer uses a pro­jec­tor and you can­not see, and they start say­ing this and that and you can­not see what they are talk­ing about. So for me, be­ing here some­times is just use­less,” he told those gath­ered in a lec­ture hall.

Stu­dents also be­moaned the fact that some lec­tur­ers refuse to help them and “di­ag­nose” them and say they are not dis­abled be­cause their dis­abil­ity is not vis­i­ble.

One such as stu­dent is Sph­e­sihle Khoza. She had a stroke when she was a baby and can­not use her left limbs. Her feet do not have sen­sa­tion.

“I can’t even do sim­ple things. I can’t even stretch my arms. Even when I have to take fin­ger­prints, I strug­gle to take fin­ger­prints with my left hand be­cause it is not work­ing … and just be­cause peo­ple see me smil­ing, they say I’m jok­ing when I say I’m dis­abled.”

She said be­cause she can only use one hand she strug­gles to type as­sign­ments and it takes her longer to fin­ish them be­cause her arm gets tired. “It’s so painful when I have to ex­plain that I’m dis­abled and I can’t fin­ish some of the things in time. I’m plead­ing, reach [out] to us,” she said.

Par­tially sighted stu­dent Nom­fundo Nkosi, who is also liv­ing with al­binism, said her life was easy un­til she came to the Univer­sity of Lim­popo.

“You go to class and you are ex­pected to be in class every sin­gle day, and here is a pro­jec­tor and you are sit­ting in front and you see zero. The font is small, you see noth­ing and you are ex­pected [to suc­ceed]. I used to not go in class in my first year, be­cause I did not see any rea­son to go to class be­cause I could not see on the board. I de­cided that I will just study on my own,” she said.

She shared the story of an in­ci­dent when a lec­turer used a small chalk­board to draw graphs and, when she in­formed the lec­turer that she and a friend could not see them, the lec­turer said she was ly­ing.

“She re­fused to un­der­stand and we were in tears, lit­er­ally in tears. And my other friend even stopped at­tend­ing that class,” Nkosi said.

Some of the lec­tur­ers who at­tended the aware­ness cam­paign said the ses­sion was an eye-opener and they would start be­ing more sen­si­tive to the stu­dents’ needs.

Most said their knowl­edge of dis­abled stu­dents’ re­quire­ments and is­sues was lim­ited.

“It is true that we do not have knowl­edge, partly we ac­cept that what we have been do­ing,” said a lec­turer. “But there were also pre­sen­ta­tions that showed that some­times we are lim­ited in un­der­stand­ing your needs and your is­sues ... It hurts us when we re­alise how much dam­age we have caused.”

The Univer­sity of Lim­popo failed to re­spond to re­peated re­quests for com­ment.

Reach­ing out: Univer­sity of Lim­popo stu­dent Pre­cious Rale­feta (above) has suf­fered from os­teoarthri­tis since she was 17, af­fect­ing her mo­bil­ity. She has to use a wheel­chair when she trav­els long dis­tances, but it’s not easy to get around cam­pus when the lifts aren’t work­ing. Stu­dents such as Wil­liam Jonga (left) took part in a re­cent aware­ness cam­paign, to sen­si­tise staff to the prob­lems faced by stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties. Pho­tos: Oupa Nkosi

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