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UKZN’s first ever sign-language graduate praised for paving way for future disabled students

VOLOSHNI Annamallay, 25, from Chatsworth, became UKZN’s first deaf student to graduate using only SA sign language as a means of communication. l ABHI INDRARAJAN

VOLOSHNI Annamallay, 25, from Chatsworth, became UKZN’s first deaf student to graduate using only SA sign language as a means of communication. l ABHI INDRARAJAN

Published May 19, 2022

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The staff at the University of KwaZulu-Natal has praised one of its students, Voloshni Annamallay, for being the first deaf student to graduate while using South African sign language as a sole means of communication.

Annamallay, 25, completely lost her hearing when she was just aged 18 months, according to her mother Popsy – who was present the her daughter’s graduation s ceremony.

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UKZN said she used sign language for both undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications she attained at the university.

The university’s disability co-ordinator, Nevil Balakrishna, a person who worked with Annamallay since she joined in 2016, said she had paved the way for deaf students of the future.

Annamallay’s attitude towards her graduation was a simple but effective message: “You can do it; nothing is stopping you from what you aspire to become or do. You must simply believe that you can and make and take the necessary steps to achieve your goals.

“Yes, I am deaf and faced many challenges during my studies. but I made it through all the way from my first year of studies until now. I can do anything except hear!”

The Chatsworth graduate said she felt tremors in her legs when she walked up to collect her award, which took a tremendous amount of effort from both her and her parents.

Popsy Annamallay said she could hold back the tears when she saw her daughter up on stage.

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“Twenty-four years ago – the moment I came to know that my daughter, who was just one-and-a-half years old at the time, was never going to be able to hear again – I couldn’t imagine her future. I didn’t know if she’d go to school let alone university.

“I thought she’d fall by the wayside, but as she got older she got more and more academically inclined. She just grew. She never failed a year of school. She showed me she’d do well but I never realised she’d be the great woman she’s become,” the proud mother said.

FROM left, Popsy Annamallay (mother), Voloshni Annamallay and Siven Annamallay (Father). l ABHI INDRARAJAN

She said that Voloshi’s older sister, Lareina, has been an integral part of her daughter's success.

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UKZN’s executive director of corporate relations, Normah Zondo, said was extremely proud of Annamallay. She echoed Balakrishna’s remarks, saying she had made strides in helping future generations reach for their educational goals.

“Annamallay has not only achieved highly for herself, but also for UKZN and the deaf community as a whole. Her academic journey has also given the university critical experience in supporting future deaf students,” Zondo said.

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