Growing up with a disability or in a difficult environment should not be a barrier for people to achieve their dreams. This is a view of a University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) Magister Commercii Graduate, Nyasha Mharakurwa who recently graduated in his Master’s degree with distinction in Sports Management, on Wednesday, 24 May 2017.
Nyasha is an inspiring individual who was born with a physical impairment, a congenital deformity that affects both his legs and therefore has been using a wheelchair for most of his life. Nyasha’s challenges include trying to fit in a world that views people with impairments as not only different but less than their able-bodied peers.
Nyasha explains that his condition becomes tough when one gets restricted from physical independence. “My every day struggle is that the environment around is not conducive to people with impairments to lead independent lives because of the many barriers that exist. One therefore becomes dependent on others to get around and access even the most basic things you can do on your own,” he added.
Nyasha draws inspiration from his challenges because he believes that circumstances don’t define people’s destiny but they exist as normal challenges that build people. “Accepting that I was different took me time while growing up. I was therefore shy amongst strangers because people would stare at me which didn’t help for a child trying to deal with my impairment. However, with time I accepted myself and took control of my life,” Mharakurwa emphasised.
The 34-year-old, born in Buhera, Zimbabwe, decided to use his impairment as a stepping stone to change his life because there was nothing he could do to change his circumstances. His choice of study, Sports Management, has everything to do with how he was born and he believes every individual is custom made to suit their life journey and purpose.
“Feeling sorry for myself was dragging me and my abilities down. I had to deal with my situation the hard way and it made me who I am. Choosing sports as a career was not a difficult decision because I have always been active and enjoyed participating in various sports as a child and I have represented my country, Zimbabwe, at the London 2012 Paralympic Games which was a major highlight for me. I had a downfall where I got injured and had to stop playing tennis – but that did not stop me because I pursued tennis as a career even after being cut short from going professional,” said Nyasha.
Nyasha believes that people’s mindsets are their own barriers. Being born with a disability does not mean he couldn’t access his brain and unlock his passion. “It is not an easy road, but my positivity got me where I am and I have support from my family, friends and trainers at UJ Health Sciences. People draw from your attitude and your support structure become as strong as you are,” Nyasha says.
Mharakurwa’s Masters Dissertation titled ‘The Role of South African Universities in Facilitating Optimal Performance of Elite Athletes with Impairments‘ is a landmark for him to better the environment for people with impairments and show fellow disabled young people that it is possible.
This year, Mharakurwa is pursuing a few projects that include setting up a foundation that offers physical convenience and opportunities to people with impairments. “Completing my Masters is a milestone for me and doing that with a distinction will always bring good memories because I did it with determination and I am not ending here. Young people should look beyond their circumstances – it became possible for me,” Nyasha concluded.