Ms Thobile Sibiya was thrilled to graduate summa cum laude with her Honours degree in Educational Psychology for her research that explores teaching and learning experiences of students living with disabilities during COVID-19 through investigating if these programmes are inclusive of the students needs.
‘One should commend the measures taken by the University to ensure a smooth operating academic year during COVID-19, however, these programmes should cater for every single student within the College, taking into consideration the needs and capabilities of individuals who are incapacitated,’ she said.
Sibiya argues that disable student’s uniqueness and individuality should be taken into consideration in the process of delivering the content in all modules.
Her research findings show the lack of lecturers’ involvement to ensure inclusion of students with disability; non-existence of portfolios for students living with disability in the leadership structures within the University; as well as insufficiency in well knowledgeable staff to assist these students.
‘The University is trying by all means to include the students however, the intervention strategies are not enough as the staff are not well knowledgeable in terms of how to assist the students with learning barriers compared to the people working in the forefront with students. As a result, the students feel so excluded in the academic programmes. The presence of the Disability Unit in the campus is helpful to the students living with disability as they always liaise between them and other University stakeholders,’ she said.
Apart from suspending contact sessions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections amongst the University population as well as implementing remote online teaching and learning, Sibiya herself adjusted to the new normal: ‘The lecturers had so much compassion and patience. They understood that the learning platform has changed and tried to accommodate us,’ she said.
In addition to her family and friends who have supported her throughout her academic journey, she is grateful to everyone who witnessed it, having observed her work hard over the years, challenging herself outside the confines of her village.
She encourages other students, especially young women of all races to stay in school, believe in their goals, and strive to achieve excellence in all they do.
Sibiya has been awarded an Emma Smith Overseas Scholarship to complete her Master of Early Childhood Education in the UK.