Thandolakhe Stuurman with Heidi Volkwijn, manager for Lofob’s Services to Youth and Adults. Picture: Supplied
Blindness was no barrier for a blind Grade 12 learner enrolled at Fairmount Senior Secondary School in Grassy Park.

Thandolakhe Stuurman’s achievement is a credit to the wonderful partnership between the school and League of the Friends of the Blind (Lofob) having produced the second blind matriculant at the school.

When asked what this achievement means to him, Thandolakhe said: “This is more than achieving a qualification. To me, it is a triumph over the challenges that blindness presented me as my sight failed me in a classroom three years ago”.

Thandolakhe had a sudden onset of blindness as his sight failed him while writing his Grade 11 June examination at a school in Bloemfontein in 2016. Just days before this incident, Thandolakhe complained of headaches and blurred vision, but pushed on as he was caught up in the throes of the exams. While sitting through one of the papers, he experienced severe blurring as he struggled to read through the question paper and within minutes he was left in total darkness.

This experience became worse as he had to undergo several medical examinations and was later told that his vision loss was permanent and he would be blind for the rest of his life. At 17, Thandolakhe was ready to give up on life and the dreams he once had of completing his education and pursuing a successful career.

He was later brought to Cape Town by a family member to seek a second medical opinion, and this brought hope that it would mean a chance of seeing again.

Thandolakhe was left devastated when he received what he considered the second big blow as he was told his vision loss was permanent.

Just as he was about to give up, he was referred to Lofob where he was enrolled in a rehabilitation programme and was housed at the organisation’s residential facility.

Thandolakhe received all the skills needed to live independently, and at the end of the year, he faced the all-important question about the road he would take to complete his school career. Inspired by a blind learner who had completed her schooling career at Fairmount Senior Secondary, the teenager concentrated on returning to a mainstream school to re-do Grade 11 and Grade 12.

It took hard work and dedication from the Fairmount Secondary management team and staff, who worked hand-in-hand with Lofob to ensure the learner received a good quality education and the needed support.

Lofob executive director Dr Armand Bam said: “The future of this country is dependent on an educated society. We are pleased that Lofob can make this contribution in the development of future leaders.”

He said it was not only celebrating an achievement in education but also celebrating the courage of learners with disabilities.

“It is our experience that acquiring a disability at this age often leads to learners throwing in the towel and giving up on their education.”

Bam said they knew that it was indeed possible for blind learners to successfully integrate into a mainstream school when all parties including the school, an organisation like Lofob and the family were on board.

Lofob can be reached at: 94 Klip Road, Grassy Park: Telephone: 0217053753; Fax: 0880217052154; Mobile: 0726030946. 

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