Students with Disabilities Activism

Students with Disabilities Activism  

By Lungelo Magwaza 09 July 2021

Guest speaker: Dr Desire Chiwandire

The Social Justice and Transformation Unit at the Vaal University of Technology held a webinar under the topic “Students with Disabilities Activism in Higher Education”. The webinar took place on 17 June 2021, with Dr Desire Chiwandire as the guest presenter and Mr George Mvalo being the programme director.

Mr Mvalo opened the session by welcoming and thanking everyone for attending.  He expressed his enthusiasm for hosting the webinar and for being mindful of the current challenges we are facing during this lockdown period. He also clarified the purpose of the SJT Webinar Series as being the guiding force to identify certain aspects and topical issues that are very important to the university. Social Justice and Transformation as a Unit is seized with driving Institutional Transformation on behalf of the university, in association with other departments and divisions within VUT. It is mandated to provide leadership to staff and students with disability.

The session was then handed over to Dr Chiwandire, a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Chair of Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation at Nelson Mandela University.  He shared findings from his doctoral thesis titled “Students with Disabilities Activism in Higher Education”.” It focuses on disability inclusion and advocacy matters for students with disabilities from an international and national context, and at the South African Higher Education / VUT context.

The research focused on three factors, i.e. the historical background of SA regarding HE disability inclusion; the current HE disability inclusion policies and practices and how to create a future, enabling HE environment for students with disabilities to thrive academically and socially. Inclusive education and an enabling environment were key factors discussed, giving staff and students with disabilities a voice and disability advocacy. It will allow them to communicate their needs and wants, being able to make their own decisions, and sharing their experiences. Staff and students with disabilities should feel empowered and be treated the same.

Mr David Nkwenkwezi, Disability Services Coordinator, VUT, thanked Dr Chiwandire for his presentation and added that disability is of importance to VUT. He further mentioned that disability structures should be established to help serve as a mouthpiece between staff, students and the institution. Mr Mvalo expressed his gratitude for Dr Chiwandire for the enlightening presentation and acknowledged the fact that while he was completing his Doctoral Studies at Rhodes University, he came to VUT to conduct part of his fieldwork with staff and students.