An interest around issues of disability and raising awareness, proved to be a recipe for success for Ms Ntombizodwa Chiya, who graduated with honours in bachelor of education at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).
Chiya was born blind, much like her father, aunts and her partially sighted nephew. Although Chiya never had sight, it did not deter her from studying for her degree. She owed much of her success to hard work, perseverance, strong will and determination.
She also lost both her parents at a young age but was excited that her sister was able to see her graduate with her postgraduate degree.
‘Most people who are blind, don’t consider themselves on the same level as able-bodied people. This thinking must stop. We are capable of so much, our loss of sight should not stop us from achieving our dreams. Blind people should educate themselves, and not see themselves as burdens,’ said Chiya.
Her research looks at language discrimination in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) schools. She found that learners who came from homes where both English and the mother tongue language was spoken, tend to mix up their languages resulting in poor academic performance. She suggested that mother-tongue languages such as isiZulu be selected as a medium of instruction and teaching in KZN schools to enable learners to perform well.
Chiya, who encountered challenges doing her research, relied mainly on electronic means for research purposes, such as e-books. She relied on her own software application on her computer which read out parts of journal articles and information for her to hear and type out. She touch-typed her entire thesis but used editing services to make corrections to grammar, punctuation and formatting.
Chiya was grateful for the support from her family, supervisor and the UKZN disability support unit. She hopes to one day use the knowledge she gained from her research and personal experiences, to own an NGO that advocates for blind people and assist in an advisory capacity to raise awareness around disability issues and the impact it has on the psyche of disabled people.
Her advice to other disabled students: ‘Strive for your best. Focus on yourself.’
Chiya is currently completing her masters in Education.