Graduates with powerful dreams: Nolwazi Mncube visually impaired, undeterred to succeed

The saying “seeing is honest and complete. We see and are aware that we see the complete field” literally and figuratively describes the advantage of having sight. However, what happens when people are born blind or lose their sight somewhere in the middle of their journey of life? The latter can be devastating, but some people embrace such a challenge when they dare to dream.

As University of Johannesburg (UJ) graduands marvel in anticipation of receiving their hard-earned qualifications at the 2019 graduation ceremonies, Nolwazi Mncube recalls her challenges of losing her sight, which almost derailed her journey to academic success. She is completely blind, a condition that developed over the years when she was a teenager. This was particularly worrying for Nolwazi, who, like many other children, grew up wanting to be a recognised professional teacher in a country alive with possibilities. However, her sight started deteriorating when she was in grade 6, and worsened as she progressed into high school and university.

“When I was at Qoqa Secondary School in Orange Farm, I received the necessary support I needed and finally completed matric in 2013 as the 2nd top learner in the school. I passed Life Sciences and Life Orientation with distinctions, passed with Level 6s in IsiZulu, English, Geography and Mathematics, and a Level 5 in Physical Science. These results gave me an opportunity to be awarded a Gauteng City Region Academy bursary that funded my studies in BA Community Development and Leadership at the University of Johannesburg in 2014,” says the 22-year-old Nolwazi.

She maintained good academic performance at UJ, consequently receiving a DOL bursary that is provided to students with disabilities. In 2015, when Nolwazi was a second-year student, she completely lost her eyesight. “This forced me to deregister and thus drop out. It felt like I had reached the end of my life,” Nolwazi explains.

Nolwazi ‘story echoes that of a world-renowned author and poet, John Milton. As a young man in the prime of his life, Milton lost his eyesight – and started writing poetry about life’s darkest and brightest moments, including his blindness.Milton wrote an emotional, but powerful sonnet titled, “When I consider how my light is spent”.

Nolwazi was not to be deterred by her condition, and managed to pursue her dreams. She will be one of the 9 962 graduands who will receive their qualifications. She will be receiving her second qualification, an Honours degree in Public Management and Governance on 01 April, 2019. Nolwazi, a current Master’s student in Public Management and Governance, is a perfect example of sheer determination. She is from the dusty streets of Orange Farm, a township found in the south of Johannesburg, living with her sister and cousin. She supervises UJ’s final-year Community Development and Leadership students, and hopes to become a Senior Lecturer at the same University.

Through the University’s services to staff and students with physical disabilities, Nolwazi’s journey at UJ was a smooth sail – as a result she became one of the University’s top performing students added to the UJenius club.

“Since I arrived at UJ, I received certificates of excellence, including being a UJenius club member in 2017, and I was also awarded a certificate for top performing student in Theory by the Department of Social Work.

“Despite all the challenges I have faced, I still keep my head up high and focus on reaching my goals even in my blindness,” explains Nolwazi.

UJ provides academic and social support to all its students. For students with disabilities, the Centre for Psychological Services and Career Development (PsyCaD), provides support services such as advice and facilitating academic accommodations, in collaboration with various departments and faculties. The Centre’s concession services range from extra-time, use of assistive devices and venues as well as application for tests/exams; test and exam arrangements; training, assistance and advice regarding assistive hardware and software, among many other useful services.

Enquiries can be forwarded to the Disability Services professional at



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