NMMU’s first blind graduate hopes others will follow suit

APRIL 18, 2016

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s first completely blind graduate Xolisa Yekani, 37, is hoping other blind students will be inspired to follow his example.

“I am proud to be NMMU’s first blind graduate, I advocate for other blind people because I want to bring about change,” said Yekani, who graduated with his BA honours in Journalism.

“Thank you, NMMU, for opening your doors to us and catering for us totally blind students.”

Sadly, Yekani was not always blind but lost his sight at the age of eight.

“I was a normal boy playing by the river with my friends, then suddenly I couldn’t see.”

It was later revealed that Yekani had lost his sight due to cataracts and, because they was left untreated, his corneas were permanently damaged.

“I come from a disadvantaged family and my parents could not afford to get proper medical care,” said Yekani, who hails from the village of Dutywa in the Eastern Cape.

From 2011 to 2015, Yekani was the provincial chairperson for the South African National Council for the Blind and led a team that encouraged more universities to accept totally blind students to study at their institutions.

In 2014, he started studying at NMMU and decided that he would be a “living example” to help the blind students who would follow after him.

Yekani required all his reading material to be in electronic format. He uses a laptop called Book Sense and a device called Job Access With Speech (Jaws), a pocket-sized device converting all the letters to speech. He applauded all his lecturers for being accommodating to his needs.

“Fortunately I am very social so I spoke to all my fellow students and they assisted me to get around – my classmates understood me well and helped me. 

“People will try to look down on you for being disabled, but you must be confident, work hard and be determined to prove them wrong, show them you can do it. Education is key especially when you are disabled.”

 As the eldest of five siblings, Yekani is also the first to graduate in his family.

“I brought my sister and my wife Bongiwe to my graduation so they can be encouraged and motivated to get their education too.”

He works as a current affairs producer for the SABC’s isiXhosa radio station Umhlobo Wenene, in Port Elizabeth. He is also the chairperson of the Nkosinathi Foundation of and for Blind and Partially-Sighted People. 

Image: INSPIRING OTHERS … Xolisa Yekani is the first completely blind student to graduate from NMMU