Once again, April has been a month which celebrates academic success at the University of Pretoria. The autumn graduation ceremonies took place from 2 to 30 April 2019 and awarded 11 649 qualifications to graduates from all of UP’s faculties. According to the UP website, this number includes 10 600 undergraduate qualifications and the conferment of 229 PhDs and 1 496 Master’s qualifications. Further, three honorary doctorates were awarded including, an honorary Doctor of Commerce degree to Professor Mary Elizabeth Barth, an honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree to Ms Elinor Sisulu and a PhD awarded to Minister of Higher Education and Training, Ms Naledi Pandor. While all of these achievements are exceptional, there are a few truly inspirational students who formed part of these statistics. Below are four students who overcame significant challenges to obtain their degree:
Barnard is a graduate from the Faculty of Theology with a rare genetic disorder called Familial Dysautonomia. Despite Barnard having a disorder that impairs her autonomic nervous system, she managed to complete her four-year degree programme in just three years. Furthermore, Barnard received an award from Vice-Chancellor and Principle, Professor Tawana Kupe, for achieving high marks throughout her degree. Above her degree, Barnard and her husband are foster parents to four girls who, according to UP’s website, were “exposed to many forms of violence, abuse and injustice”. Barnard is also an arts and drama teacher at Laerskool Garsfontein and works at Dutch Reformed Church in Monument, Pretoria.
After receiving both his undergraduate degree and honours from UP, Boshoff, a wheelchairbound student, received his master’s degree in Environmental Studies during the April graduation period. Boshoff is now enrolled for Inspirational graduates his PhD in Environment and Society at UP.
During the April graduations, Gwambe graduated from her Bachelor of Social Work degree with distinction. According to the UP website, Gwambe is wheelchairbound as she was born with tetra-amelia syndrome. This is an extremely rare autosomal recessive congenital disorder characterised by the absence or malformation of all limbs. Despite the hardships that come with living with this disorder, Gwambe has persevered and shown academic excellence throughout high school and her university career. “Turn your challenges or disappointments into motivation, and success will come your way” commented Gwambe to UP.
Sanders has beaten cancer four times in her lifetime. According to UP’s website, Sanders suffers with a condition called Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, which affects a gene that usually stops the growth of tumours, causing a lifelong battle with cancer. Sanders was first diagnosed with cancer of the soft tissue in her right leg at two. Her most recent diagnosis was at age 25, when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Despite this, Sanders has graduated with a master’s degree in Translation and Interpreting Studies, with her dissertation on translating Japanese anime subtitles. Sanders plans to go to the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies in Japan to do her degree.
No matter who you are, achieving a degree is a special feat. Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe would like to share the following message with UP’s 2019 autumn graduates: “Well done to all our UP graduates. I am extremely proud of you! It is heartwarming that during our 32 Autumn graduation ceremonies 11 649 degrees, diplomas and certificates were awarded. Through hard work and perseverance, you succeeded and reached your dreams. In today’s day and age, lifelong learning is of critical importance so why not consider enrolling to study further? I applaud all of you. Make today and every day matter! Make South Africa and Africa’s future matter!”