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Change the world

21/06/2024

As we celebrate Youth Month at Nelson Mandela University, it is crucial to reflect on the experiences, challenges and achievements of our young students, in particular students with disabilities.

 

As the Student Access Coordinator for Universal Accessibility and Disability Services (UADS) at the George campus, Ms Miso Mbuli has had the privilege of working closely with these remarkable individuals. Ms Mbuli said that: "Their resilience, determination and triumphs inspire me every day, and it is my hope that sharing their stories will offer guidance and hope for the future".

My journey as an advocate for inclusivity and accessibility began long before my current role. As a student, I was a fervent activist, passionately raising my voice for various social causes. One of my most significant contributions was my involvement in the MEMEZA Gender-Based Violence (GBV) campaign, where I fought tirelessly to create a safer and more respectful environment for everyone on campus. This experience laid the foundation for my advocacy work, teaching me the importance of persistence and community in driving societal change.

Today, in my role at UADS, I am dedicated to ensuring that students with disabilities have the resources and accommodation they need to thrive academically and socially. My academic background which includes a Diploma and a BTech in Public Management, and an Honours degree in Public Administration, has equipped me with the knowledge to advocate effectively. My Honours thesis, "An Assessment of the Employability of People Living with Disabilities –  A Case of Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality," under the guidance of Dr Jakoet-Salie, aimed to contribute valuable insights and inform policies promoting equitable access to the job market.

Working with students with disabilities has been both a professional and personal journey for me. It has helped me accept my own son's ADHD, strengthening our relationship and fostering a deeper sense of empathy and understanding. This acceptance has been bittersweet, as I often find myself counselling and motivating students, pushing them to find their voice and become the best versions of themselves. Their challenges and triumphs have inspired me to embody the change I wish to see in the world.

The students I have had the privilege to build relationships with continually challenge societal norms. They want to be seen not for their disabilities, but for who they are. They have found their voices and now advocate for themselves in lecture halls, on sports fields and in debates. They teach us that, despite having similar disabilities, each individual is unique and deserves to be treated as such. It brings me great joy to see them thriving within the university community. I always tell them they can be anything they want, and they know I will be their number one supporter in achieving their goals.

The experiences of a young persons with disabilities in South Africa is marked by both significant challenges and remarkable achievements. These students face numerous barriers, from physical accessibility issues, to societal stigmas and limited employment opportunities. However, their resilience and determination are truly inspiring. They continually challenge societal norms and push for greater inclusivity, demonstrating that with the right support and resources, they can achieve anything.

At Nelson Mandela University, we strive to create a culture of empathy, understanding and accessibility. Through our efforts, we aim to ensure that all students, regardless of their abilities, have equal opportunities to succeed. Beyond my official responsibilities, I engage diverse audiences in meaningful conversations about disability rights and inclusivity, fostering dialogue that transcends disciplinary boundaries. Whether speaking to fellow academics, students, or community members, I strive to inspire reflection and promote inclusive discourse.

As a woman of determination and compassion, I am committed to elevating the discourse surrounding disability rights, education and public administration. My journey is a testament to the transformative power of advocacy and resilience. By advocating for the rights and inclusion of marginalised communities, we enrich our society and move closer to a world where every individual can realise their full potential.

Nelson Mandela University’s Youth Month Campaign reminds us of the importance of empowering our youth and fostering an inclusive and compassionate community. Let us continue to champion the rights of all individuals, ensuring that every voice is heard, and every potential is realised. Together, we can create a brighter, more inclusive future for all.

Contact information
Kelley Felix Julie
Social Media Coordinator
Tel: +27 94 578 4559
Kelley.Felix@mandela.ac.za