Dr Roshanthni Subrayen graduated at the University of KwaZulu-Natal with a PhD in education for her research on the gendered experiences of both students with visual and physical disabilities in respect of their teaching practice school placements and their student financial aid arrangements.
Subrayen, a disability coordinator at the University, chose to pursue her study on the topic based on the challenges experienced by students with disabilities whilst engaging in their teaching practice school placements. ‘Disability is a human rights and social justice issue. I needed to know and understand how higher education was delivering on the promise of equity, access and participation in higher education for students with disabilities.’
Her research study developed a pre-placement framework to allow for the achievement of equity, access and participation for students with disabilities in their teaching practice school placement. This, according to Subrayen, would allow for equalised higher education opportunities for students with disabilities.
Some of the significant findings from her study were the absence of freedom and agency in decision making in relation to teaching practice school placements; the absence of a social justice reform agenda for teaching practice school placements; the development of power hierarchies in the teaching practice school placement and the chalkboard as a stigma producing agent; erosion of the male identity due to disability; inequities in student financial aid arrangements and learning communities as a structure to support the design of a social justice discourse for policy and practice.
Subrayen plans to continue with more research studies in the context of disability in higher education.
She was grateful for her support system. ‘My heartiest thanks is to my supervisor, Dr Sachin Suknunan, for the excellent manner in which he supervised my research project. To my dear sons, Jadyrien and Brenton Cohen, thank you both for the hard pushes and for PhD reality checks you gave me.
‘To my extended family, my personal, professional and academic friends, my critical PhD friends, the staff of the University Disability Support Units, thank you for the support, nurturing, inspiration and everything else that went into the achievement of this degree.’
Her advice to other students: ‘Create a solid road map of how you would like to drive forward your academic journey. Develop and live by your personal strategic plans. It is a difficult walk but it is a walk that makes you persevere to reach your greatest academic potential and destination.’