Polokwane - Born and raised in the deep rural area of Tshilamba, outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo province, Tinyiko Gwambe, 22, has no limbs and is wheelchair-bound, but has never allowed her disability to stop her quest to be well educated and to reach for her dreams.
She has no arms or legs but is well on her way to becoming a qualified social worker.
Gwambe believes that education can open any door for her. She was born with Tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare condition that left her without limbs. The syndrome can also cause severe malformations of other parts of the body, including the face, heart, nervous system, skeleton, and genitalia.
Now a fourth-year social work student at the University of Pretoria, Gwambe has managed well despite her disability. She has so far obtained 16 distinctions towards her degree.
She said that her mother, who died in 2011, encouraged her to go to school and take education seriously so that she would be able to look after herself and be independent.
“My mom was my pillar of strength. She used to motivate and encourage me to take my education seriously,” Gwambe said.
Though she has managed to overcome many obstacles throughout her childhood, Gwambe now needs a custom-made car to in order to drive herself around while doing her practical work as part of her degree. But her family cannot afford to purchase one for her, and because of this she now faces the risk of having to drop out of university without graduating.
“The career I chose requires one to do practical work before graduating and to carry out work in the field at various times. But due to my condition, I am struggling to do some of the work because it requires a lot of travelling and it is difficult for me to use the public transport on my own as very little is user-friendly for someone with my condition,” said Gwambe.
Her dream is to enrol for a Master’s degree, but this can only happen if she manages to raise R350 000 for a customised car which will be imported from the United Kingdom with the assistance from a Cape Town-based company.
“My father is now a pensioner and cannot afford to raise this kind of money. I have tried approaching private companies but without success. I will never allow my condition to stand in the way of my dreams, I have come too far to give up now. Growing up in a rural area with my condition was never easy, but with the support of my family, I am here today. I want to inspire other disabled people,” said Gwambe.
With the assistance of her sister, Willemina Gwambe, she has started a social media campaign but has so far managed to raise about R6 000.
“I am appealing to everyone who can afford to help me to give what they can. I believe that if I manage to obtain a Master’s degree my journey will be enough to motivate other disabled people that it can be done - especially the ones who are in rural areas with limited opportunities,” added Gwambe.