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Defying the odds: Delia Bester's inspiring journey to academic success

Born in Paarl, Western Cape, Delia Bester, who graduated at the university’s #2024UnisaAtumnGraduations, held in Cape Town, with a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Development: Foundation Phase) degree, did not allow her disability to prevent her from reaching her dreams in becoming a teacher. She explains: "I was born with fibrous dysplasia, a rare bone condition which means that my bones are not as strong as those of the average person. In other words, I have very brittle bones that can break easily." Due to this disability, Bester says she has been bound to a wheelchair and crutches for most of her life, but this, she says, has never stopped her from achieving her dreams to become a teacher.


Delia Bester

Bester explains that the university has made it possible for her to pursue her dreams while living with a disability, describing the ease-of-access to the university’s buildings that has made it possible for her to navigate the offices, and the friendly service she received from staff members. She continues: "The university’s campuses are of top-notch quality, and wheelchair friendly. The personnel were always friendly and very helpful, accommodating my needs. At Unisa I felt like I belong, I didn’t feel any different because I was disabled. No one ever looked down on me."

When Bester registered at the university in 2015, she says that she never disclosed her disability, "not because I thought they wouldn’t accept me but because I didn’t want any sympathy or any extra special attention just because I am living with a disability". 

Bester centres her mother’s love as the source of inspiration and unconditional support. She continues: "Since the day I was born, my mother has always been my biggest supporter who always encouraged and cheered me on. I am the person I am today because of the unconditional support and love I received from her."

Recalling her moments of doubt, Bester agrees that there were times she felt like giving up on her studies because of how long it took. But then, she says, she remembered all the children she wants to continue helping, and the difference she wants to make in their lives. She adds: "I felt discouraged at times, However, I reminded myself of the end goal and that kept me going forward and after nine years of perseverance I finally graduated. I finally stopped seeing my disability as an obstacle and instead saw it as an opportunity to rise above it. So, it doesn’t matter if it takes you four years or nine years to finish studying. The important thing is that you don’t give up."

Bester argues that fellow students should not allow anyone to tell them that they cannot enter a certain profession, because, she explains: "Here I am to tell you that it is not true. You can do and achieve anything you put your mind to if you believe in yourself." She adds: "There is only one thing that I’ve always wanted for students and people like me living with any form of disability. I want the world to see us as normal human beings and not, in simple terms, as 'different'. You will never know what we are capable of if you don’t give us a chance. Who knows, we might even be an investment to you and your workplace."

From her early days in Paarl to her recent graduation from Unisa with a Bachelor of Education degree, Delia has shown that no obstacle is too great to overcome. Her journey, filled with personal triumphs and unwavering support from her mother, serves as an inspiration to all.

* By Godfrey Madibane, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2024/06/20

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