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UKZN Foundation Helps to Keep the Wheels Turning

Essential skills training for blind and partially sighted students and those with disabilities at UKZN has received a significant boost thanks to a generous contribution from the UKZN Foundation. The invaluable support comes in the form of a brand new Mitsubushi Xpander vehicle, which will be utilised by Independence Trainers to deliver crucial training sessions to these students.

UKZN Foundation
From left: Mr Mxolisi Radebe (DSU), Ms Azraa Ebrahim, Ms Margie Naidoo (DSU), Ms Asiphe Khumbula, Mr Siphosethu Ndlovu, Mrs Bukiwe Biyela (UKZN Foundation) and Mr Mandla Dlamini (DSU). (Photographer: Sethu Dlamini)

The new vehicle will enhance the consultations and services provided on all UKZN campuses. With a dedicated vehicle, the Independence Trainers can plan future services more effectively, knowing that transportation will not be a limitation.


UKZN Disability Support Unit (DSU) Manager, Mr Amith Ramballie said, ‘The previous vehicle was stolen, and there was a shortfall with respect to funding for a replacement. We approached the UKZN Foundation that liaised with donors to cover­­­­ the purchase balance.’


Ramballie expressed gratitude to the donors, adding, ‘The resource that you have enabled us to procure will positively impact the lives of students and staff with disabilities for years to come. Mobility is a concept that is often taken for granted, and the team was sometimes unable to deliver quality service due to theft of our vehicle. This will enable students to better navigate the built environment at UKZN and participate in an equitable manner with other students.’


The training provided by the Independence Trainers plays a crucial role in enhancing the living and learning experience of students in a Higher Education setting, through independent skills acquisition aimed at developing successful graduates ready to enter the mainstream workforce with greater confidence. ‘Many students entering university are ill-equipped to cope with the transition to a Higher Education environment [at UKZN], especially those who come from rural or special schools,’ said Ms Margie Naidoo, the Independence Trainer based in Durban. Her services address students’ unique training and development needs and empower them with essential independence skills.


An important aspect of the training is assessment and tracking of students' eye conditions. The UKZN Independence Trainers assist students to obtain referrals and coordinate with hospitals and eye clinics for regular check-ups, enabling them to monitor their eye health over time. In some cases, they accompany students to discussions with eyecare practitioners. This ensures that students benefit from a holistic approach involving a multidisciplinary team of professionals for any deteriorating eye conditions.


The training also focuses on skills related to daily living, including room and home management, shopping skills (including online shopping), the use of laundromats, and adaptive kitchen skills such as cooking and meal preparation. Personal management skills, including grooming and medication management, are also shared. Communication skills such as budgeting and safe banking practices are taught to ensure students can navigate financial responsibilities effectively. For partially sighted students, visual efficiency training is provided to help them make the most of their functional vision.


A vital part of the training is teaching Orientation and Mobility (O&M) skills. Students learn different techniques to navigate their environments safely. Throughout the semester, they benefit from a structured programme to learn routes from their residences to various lecture venues and other spaces. The training also extends to students with physical disabilities, such as those using wheelchairs, scooters, or other devices.


Donations and funding of this nature are invaluable for the DSU, as the financial resources required to support inclusion, access and participation for students with disabilities at Higher Education Institutions often exceed available resources. ‘Generous contributions like this have a significant impact in meeting students’ training needs. The new vehicle ensures that the services can be provided more consistently across all campuses,’ said Naidoo.


Bachelor of Science student Ms Celiwe Gumede said, ‘The vehicle donation will impact us positively and make our lives easier. Thank you to the donors for recognising the value that the vehicle will bring us. The independence training from DSU has boosted my confidence. Ms Naidoo’s advice and training has ensured that I live independently as a person with a disability.’ Audiology student Ms Mandisa Ntshangase added, ‘Ms Naidoo’s support has really assisted me emotionally, mentally and academically.’


To contribute to the Disability Support Programme or any other fundraising projects, donate at least R50 via https://ukzn.devman.co.za/devman/online/genomics/

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