A father wept as he watched his blind daughter graduate at UKZN.
Ms Masibonge Mkhize (23) was awarded a Bachelor of Social Science degree, majoring in Psychology and isiZulu.
Mkhize, who received a standing ovation, said there were no words to truly describe the emotions she felt. ‘I didn’t expect my dad to be standing there and waiting. When he hugged me I was very touched,’ she said.
Her father, Mr Nkosinathi Mkhize, said he got emotional at the ceremony and had wept openly when his daughter was capped. ‘She is our only daughter and the jewel of my heart.’
Nkosinathi says 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.’
Mkhize said she got nervous while waiting for her name to be called out. ‘I was excited but I also thought everyone would be staring at me and thinking: “How did this blind girl manage to get a degree”? Generally, society sort of expects disabled people to stay at home and collect grants and I wondered if that was what people might 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. I also realised that those with disabilities are not all that different.’
Mkhize of Pietermaritzburg lost her sight at the age of five 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 colleagues was daunting at first for Mkhize who said had been relieved to discover that the University had an excellent support system for students with disabilities. I received huge backing from the Disability Unit, lecturers and classmates, and became more independent and confident.’
Mkhize – one of 84 people with disabilities who graduated from the University this Autumn – thanked her parents and her four brothers for their support throughout her life. ‘My family have always been there for me. When I started university my mum was so worried and travelled to campus every day for a while, just to check I was okay.’
Passionate about psychology, she plans to study for an honour’s degree.