Ningiza overcomes deafness to study for his masters degree in law

Qobo Ningiza is believed to be the first deaf graduate in South Africa
Qobo Ningiza is believed to be the first deaf graduate in South Africa
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Qobo Ningiza is believed to be the first deaf LLB graduate in South Africa.

The 27-year-old from Ngqamakhwe in the Eastern Cape told Sowetan he spent two years of his childhood not going to primary school because he began losing his hearing.  Despite these challenges he is now enrolled in his master of law at the University of Cape Town.

“I was not born fully deaf like I am now, my deafness developed gradually until I became totally deaf in 2004, the same year my parents separated. The most difficult challenges I have faced anywhere have been social in nature, I have felt very lonely since I left high school where all the children were deaf and using sign language. The transition from an all-deaf classroom into an all-hearing classroom was undoubtedly very difficult; I even failed my first seven tests at university and got my first pass at the eighth attempt,” he said.

Ningiza said he was taught by his mother during grade five and six because he could not find a place in a school.

“I believe she is the one who indoctrinated me with a strong commitment to education. I spent some years without school during which my mother and I stayed home together and I would ask her to give me some school work,” Ningiza said.

Ningiza said it was difficult for his family to come to terms with his deafness which led his mother to try and put him in mainstream schools which ultimately rejected him.

He said after he was eventually enrolled in a school for the deaf, the limited resources made studying difficult.

“I attended one of the most under-resourced schools in the Eastern Cape (St Thomas School for the Deaf) where we shared books as a group of 4-6 learners per book and this made studying difficult because one or other learner would ask for the book if they saw you studying, and this was especially difficult because we all lived in the same school hostel, a large room where there were about 70 of us,” said Ningiza.

He said he eventually had to move to Johannesburg to find a better-resourced school.

“At St Thomas, we also had a very limited number of school subjects and did not get to choose what we wanted to study, the only subjects that were offered at the FET phase were English, Maths literacy, LO, business studies and hospitality- these were the only subjects available at the whole school and were insufficient for university entrance,” Ningiza said.

He ended up at Filadelfia School in Gauteng which had more to offer such as the seven subjects needed to get into university.

“I also spent another year at home after finishing matric; my applications to universities were unsuccessful and this forced me to spend the year at home, but I continued applying nonetheless,” he said.

Ningiza said his plans include being a human rights lawyer and opening his own practice one day.

“I have many plans for the future, so much that my own dreams terrify me. I plan to fight for the inclusion of deaf people in mainstream sports because the exclusion is unjustifiable in my view; there is no reason why deaf people cannot play for Bafana Bafana, the Springboks, Mamelodi Sundowns and all other sports teams in the country, and no reason why they cannot equally be role players in the entertainment industry,” he said.

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