News & Events

Combating the academic plight faced by students with disabilities

Thakhani Masuka (Chairperson) stresses that, even though much has been achieved to counter the many years of academic inequality, the Association needs to continue to work diligently to ensure that a productive academic environment continues to exist and to thrive for students with disabilities.

The Unisa Association of Students with Disabilities has been the formal voice of students with disabilities since its launch as a national association in August 2012.  The Association actively collaborates with the Student Representative Council (SRC), the Advocacy and Resource Centre for Students with Disabilities (ARCSWiD) and with other structures within Unisa. As part of the mandate imposed by its own constitution, it seeks to combat the academic plight faced by students with disabilities.

Executive Committee members for 2017/2018

The Association’s constitution also determines that fresh blood – in the form of a new National Executive – must be introduced every two years. Accordingly, its third Executive was voted into place in December 2016 and has been in service since January 2017.

Executive Committee members for 2017/2018 are: Thakhani Masuka (Chair), Brian Sibiya (Deputy Chair), Julia Dipheku (Finance Officer), Badza Magoro (Secretary), Helgaardt Meintjes (Education and Training Officer), Mvula Matthews (Advocacy Officer), Zuleakha Abrahams (Gender Officer) and Samuel Maluleke (Sports and Cultural Officer). At the time of going to press, the Media Officer portfolio had not been filled.

According to incoming Chair, Thakhani Masuka, the leaders of the Association are fully committed to serving the academic needs of all students with disabilities within the University. “We execute this mandate through engagement with management and other university structures, thereby providing relevant advice in terms of how to correctly implement the policies that address the academic imbalances of the past.”

Thakhani stresses that, even though much has been achieved to counter the many years of academic inequality, the Association needs to continue to work diligently to ensure that a productive academic environment continues to exist and to thrive for students with disabilities. “What it must show,” he says, “is a palpable process of the comprehensive upgrading of our Association, driven by the enormous competencies of all our students, diverse in disabilities, and made possible by the knowledge and realisation that we share a common desire, regardless of the different qualifications for which we have enrolled.”

The road ahead

The Association has an enormous task ahead of it in proving both that it is capable of solving the problems with which it is presented and qualified to come to the aid of students with disabilities – no matter what challenges may face them in the University milieu. A large part of being able to perform this role adequately is the free flow of information. In other words, before the Executive Committee can step in, it must be made aware of challenges that students with disabilities are facing. A large part of this will be persuading such students to get to know their leaders, starting with the regional forums and working up from there. “Students should not hesitate to consult the National Executive Committee if their challenges are not being resolved within the regional forums,” Thakhani stresses. “This interaction must at all times be based on the principle of holding the executive members of the Association accountable in respect of their constitutional duties.”

The common desire of the Executive is to ensure that all students with disabilities leave the University as graduates and minimise the number of students who drop out before their qualifications are complete.  All the members strive to fulfil this objective through recommending constructive initiatives for the University to undertake towards improving the academic lives of students with disabilities. Indeed, Thakhani is clear that the Association must be fully conscious of the fact that it has entered into a contract with the community of students with disabilities and that it must work in partnership with them to build a winning movement, one capable of leading affected students in the right direction.

While the new Executive Committee has sincerely committed itself to the task at hand, it will also be important for students with disabilities to have the courage and resilience to drive their Association to the extent to which they want their challenges to be resolved. This, says Thakhani, will be achieved by their making proposals known to the Executive Committee on any matter that concerns students with disabilities, as well as by consulting by whatever means with the members of the Executive Committee and developing positive working relationships with them.

An example to other student structures

Representing the Association, the Executive Committee is unanimous that it will not limit itself to seeking to better conditions for students with disabilities. Rather, it wishes to serve as an example to other student structures within the University in demonstrating how to improve academic conditions for all students. As part of this process, the members of the Executive Committee have dedicated themselves to achieving success through identifying other champions with disabilities – those who have already completed their studies at Unisa. “To ensure that we transform the possibility to reality,” says Thakhani, “we will have to continue nurturing the spirit of nothing about us without us.”  The main goal of the Association, Thakhani stresses, is to emancipate students with disabilities from the bondage of academic marginalisation and both he and the other members of the Executive Committee firmly believe that this goal will come to reality.

The Unisa Association of Students with Disabilities is on an academic journey of hope – the hope that, in the future, Unisa will fully address the challenges of disability policies that do not correspond with reality.

Under the leadership of the new Executive Committee and of Executive Committees to come, the Association will not be discouraged, will not hold back from playing its role, and seems certain to find a way to prosper.

See gallery below and contact details for members of the new National Executive: Unisa Association of Students with Disabilities:

Samuel Maluleke (Sports and Cultural Officer).

Julia Dipheku (Finance Officer).

Helgaardt Meintje (Education and Training Officer).

Zuleakha Abrahams (Gender Officer).

Mvula Matthews (Advocacy Officer).

Brian Sibiya (Deputy Chairperson).

Badza Magoro (Secretary).

Portfolio Name E-mail
Chairperson Thakhani Masuka thahani.masuka@gmail.com
Deputy Chairperson Brian Sibiya        sibiyabv@yahoo.com
Finance Officer Julia Dipheku juliadipheku@gmail.com
Secretary Badza Magoro badzamagoro91@gmail.com
Media Officer
Education and Training Officer Helgaardt Meintje              helgaardtm@gmail.com
Advocacy Officer Mvula Matthews              mvulapage@gmail.com
Gender Officer Zuleakha Abrahams              zulfayshah@gmail.com
Sports and Cultural Officer Samuel Maluleke              samluks@outlook.com

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