I WAS hurt to hear my university, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), is being condemned for rejecting blind students ("NMMU rejects blind students", October 31).
I have been a student at NMMU for four years. I am proudly dyslexic and have attention deficit disorder (ADD) – and will forever be thankful for the role the university has played in making me the man that I am today.
The institution has not only given me the opportunity for an education, but also the privilege of serving fellow students with disabilities, except completely blind to completely deaf.
I have sat in many meetings where NMMU has strived to establish how to accommodate both the completely blind and completely deaf. To do this requires not only specific facilities and equipment, such as a braille printer, but also a comprehensive educational programme for all staff to deal with such challenges (disabilities) and a re-evaluation of all modules to ensure that students are all assessed equally.
In the short time I have worked as a student leader, I have seen tremendous progress within NMMU in relation to ongoing improvement for students with disabilities. The university is implementing capital projects valued at about R8-million to improve, among others, library services, accessibility through lifts and ramps, and access to technical devices such has software and PCs.
During my time at NMMU, the physical size of the disability unit has been increased and its staff contingent has grown to include a new senior management post to ensure that the rights of our challenged students are recognised at all levels within the institution. The Disability Awareness Society's budget was also increased by the dean of students last year, showing the commitment of the university to both hearing and encouraging the voice of the challenged student.
Last year, during a visit by the Deputy Minister of women, children and disabilities, NMMU insisted that I, as the then chairman of the Disability Awareness Society, be part of a crucial meeting evaluating the institution in terms of its ability to accommodate students with various disabilities. This was despite the minister's reluctance to have students present.
To disregard all that NMMU has achieved for students like me in a single headline is unfair and so disheartening to those who are committed to such students.
My personal journey to university was not the same as the majority of students. In Grade 2 I was held back due to my inability to read and write.
At the same time I was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADD. From Grade 5 my parents and my school pestered the government year in and year out for assistance for me to have a scribe, extra time for examinations and to tackle only one language.
This was an ongoing battle until matric when I eventually received support for my basic right to an education within a mainstream school.
Nelson Mandela once said, "When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw." At NMMU I never had to become that outlaw.
The university is not only giving me an excellent education, but also the opportunity to start paying back my debt to all those who fought for me.
I am currently the student representative council society officer and an executive member of that student organisation. It is truly encouraging to find an institution where challenged students can be leaders at the highest level of student leadership.
A proud NMMU disabled student, Duncan Monks