NSFAS bails out disabled university students

The National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) has come to the rescue of students with special needs at the University of Limpopo.

First-year students with various disabilities at the University of Limpopo have received assistive devices and motorised wheelchairs to augment their remote learning experiences, courtesy of a sponsorship to the tune of R700 000 from NSFAS.

The beneficiaries are based at the university’s Reakgona Disability Centre (RDC). The university said of the 36 first-year students, 33 received laptops. Only three had mobility impairments and they received motorised wheelchairs. Other assistive devices included nine spectacles, nine victor readers, six jaws and nine zoom texts.

RDC acting director Justice Phukubje said the supply of assistive devices came at a time of need when students had just shifted to online learning.

He said this would enhance the students’ online learning experiences.

Media studies student Karel Mathebula said some of the classes were difficult for him to attend because he was using a cellphone with a small screen to read and access online teaching platforms.

“Now that I have a laptop, I won’t miss any of my classes,” said Mathebula.

His classmate, Lucia Mbila, who received a wheelchair, said: “It is reliable and faster. With my old wheelchair I had to ask close friends and classmate to push me to gain entry to the class.

“Some you could see that they were getting tired of pushing me around and I had resorted to going to lectures an hour earlier to give myself enough time to get to class.”

She said the motorised wheelchair will make it possible for her to get to the events early and without help from other students.

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a major impact on learners with disabilities, who were already experiencing social and educational disadvantage.

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