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Friday, 26 April 2024

Visually impaired graduate conquers his circumstances

PROUD: A visually impaired Advanced Diploma: Quality graduate, Lesley Olivier and his wife, Hendrika, who is also visually impaired are determined to live a fulfilled life. PROUD: A visually impaired Advanced Diploma: Quality graduate, Lesley Olivier and his wife, Hendrika, who is also visually impaired are determined to live a fulfilled life.

A visually impaired Advanced Diploma: Quality graduate, Lesley Olivier, and his wife, Hendrika, a Call Centre Agent in CPUT’s Marketing and Communication Department, who is also visually impaired are not going to “let our disability stand in the way of us living a fulfilled life”.

“We want to take part in everything life has to offer,” says Lesley, who graduated last night. The elated father of two boys says it is possible to achieve your dreams only when you put your mind to it, adding that being visually impaired wouldn’t deter him and his family from fulfilling their dreams but pushes them to strive to reach their life goals.

“We want to be good parents for our children and give them the best possible opportunities in life, including the best possible education we can afford.”

His “immensely proud wife portrayed him as a very quiet and humble person. “He is always up for a challenge and is very self-driven. His academic success can be ascribed to his dedication and curious mind - he always wants to acquire new knowledge.

“It's difficult to put it [excitement] into words, but when I heard his name being called out, I was super excited and immensely proud of what my husband has achieved.”

She has been very supportive through-out his husband’s studies. “She understood if I had to put in hours to catch up with studies or doing research for assignments. She relieved me from time to time, so I could focus on my studies. She always encouraged me, especially through those times when I really stressed when I had difficulty understanding a concept or battled to find research material for an assignment.”

When he registered part-time in 2022, he was surprised to learn that CPUT has a dedicated Disability Unit that sees to the study needs of students with disabilities, and “this made me feel more at ease”. Classes were online, which meant that he would have had much less of personal interaction with lecturers than with physical classes, which would have been a disadvantage, especially for “a visually impaired student”. However, he decided to embrace the new way of attending classes and met “two brilliant lectures for my first two subjects”. “I can still recall Dr [Bronwyn]Swartz’s passion for teaching statistics and how she always started her classes by determining the wellbeing of her students out of pure sincerity.” He later met Dr [Desiree] Jaftha, “a real people’s person who liked to chat to students about everything imaginable, but who were also very efficient and knowledgeable on conveying various ISO standards applications and what it meant to students in their particular industries”.

“As soon as Dr Jaftha and Dr Swartz became aware of my presence in their respective classes, they had always tried to take special care to ensure that I’m able to follow.”

Lesley, who has been working as a call centre agent for an investment, savings, insurance, and banking group for 11 years admits that statistics with Dr Swartz was particularly challenging, but with additional help from her “I managed to pull through in the end”. “Dr Jaftha remained in contact with me even outside of class times to provide repeated feedback to me until I would grasp difficult concepts.”

It was also helpful that all lectures were recorded, so Lesley could listen to them over and over to assist him to better comprehend a concept. In his second year he met Dr Lucrecia Valentine, a lecturer in the Auditing of ISO Standards. “She was amazing, always full of energy and ready for a chat, but also extremely knowledgeable in the field of auditing with lots of experience that she shared with us students during her lecturers. She always made me feel very at ease in her class and I always felt free to contribute, whether it was through sharing an experience or answering a question she had asked. Dr Valentine’s lectures were always easy to follow, even for me who had a visual impairment.”

He continued: “None of my concerns I initially had when applied to study at CPUT materialised. None [lecturers] of them previously had a blind student in their class, and I suppose that they may not always have known how to accommodate me as one of their students, but in the end they have done a brilliant job in the way they have assisted me throughout my two years of study, having enabled me to complete my studies and be eligible to graduate the Advance Diploma in Quality, for which I’m very grateful.”

Meanwhile Jaftha says: “After investigating, I confirm that he is the first blind student to graduate from our faculty. As far as I know.” She adds that Lesley certainly conquered his circumstances. “It was interesting to see how he managed to participate in good quality group work and generally connecting virtually with his peers. In many instances they were unaware of his impairment. Lesley has shown an admirable level of tenacity, integrity and determination that truly inspired me. Keep on holding dear that which matters the most. I am honoured and proud to share in your moment of glory! A tremendous congratulations to you!”

Valentine described Lesley as a gentle, soft-spoken, and very gifted individual. “Lesley, unknowingly, inspired me as an able-bodied person. I was not aware he was visually impaired. I was drawn to the gentleness with which he spoke and his valuable experience when we engaged. It was evident that the qualification meant a lot to Lesley, and his learning attitude attributed his success…Lesley, you did it despite the obvious challenges.”

Maleecka Harris, Lecturer, Industrial & Systems Engineering, described Lesley as very respectful and humble. “His active engagement during class attributed to his success.”

Written by Aphiwe Boyce