Meluleki Thethwayo, from Mtubatuba, north of KZN, graduated on Thursday with honours after facing numerous challenges in his studies.
Thethwayo said it was hard to express his happiness. “It is unbelievable and I thank God. I can’t believe I’ve achieved this.”
The 22-year-old said a teacher in primary school picked up that he had a visual disability. It was later discovered that he had Retinitis Pigmentosa, a rare inherited disease that could lead to complete blindness.
Despite this challenge, he was determined to continue studying. Thethwayo said he had resolved not to go to a school for the disabled as he wanted to maximise his chances of entering university. He defied all the odds to the point that his eye specialist did not believe he had matriculated and was pursuing tertiary studies.
When he chose to attend UKZN, his mother was concerned that he would not cope with being so far away from home, but he was intent on achieving his goal of becoming a physiotherapist. His mother was one of his biggest pillars of support.
Thethwayo said there were times where he struggled to see when studying, and could barely attend lectures. However, he made it through thanks to the support of members of his church and friend, Ntokozo Nxele.
“I did not believe I was going to be one of the top three students and it turned what was a difficult year into a good one. I struggled as I was diagnosed with cataracts and glaucoma.”
This is a condition that results from pressure to the eye and affects the nerve that connects the eye to the brain.
Thethwayo is planning on studying towards his Masters degree.