Man born without arms beat odds to graduate

Letlhogonolo Mafela
Letlhogonolo Mafela

A North West man born without both his arms beat all the odds to graduate with a degree in economics this week.

Letlhogonolo Mafela, who was awarded his degree by the North West University at the Mahikeng campus on Tuesday, said he was the happiest person on earth following the achievement.

Mafela, 27, said he could not believe his ears when his name was called so he could ascend the stage and be capped. He said that moment was followed by a louder round of applause and cheers from the crowd as he walked up to receive his certificate.

"My graduation was quite exciting because I went through a lot of challenges while schooling. I felt that I was celebrating all the difficult things I went through in my life and defeated.

"My thinking has always been that the world owes nobody nothing. If you want something to happen you should take action because dreams will remain dreams if you don't act on them," he said.

The graduate from Matshepe village, about an hour drive south of Mahikeng, said this was not the end but just the beginning of a meaningful life ahead.

He said he planned to register for an honours degree and to turn his hobby as a music producer and DJ into a commercial venture. Mafela said he was planning to release his debut EP later this year.

As if Mafela didn't have enough obstacles to deal with, he said he wasted two years of his life on campus studying for a course that he didn't like.

"I started studying in 2014 doing information systems, which focused on technology and I had economics as a module. As I continued with it [economics], I gained much interest in it and felt that I should quit what I did for what made me happier. Economics is the mother of the commercial industry and I enjoyed it more."

Mafela said he failed some modules, which extended his four-year course to five years but he was never demoralised.

He said the 30km distance between his village home and campus also made things difficult for him as he used public transport, having to catch two taxis to get to campus.

"Some days I would not need to go to school but I had to try and go just for internet access so I could do my assignments."

His other challenges included using the rest rooms at campus but fortunately his mother was hired by the university as a general worker so she could be close to him whenever he needed help. The job also enabled her to provide for her family of six that previously depended on Mafela's disability grant.

Though it may seem difficult to many, Mafela said using his mouth and feet to write and use the computer is a piece of cake for him. "They never ache. I do get tired but it's just like any other person, I guess," he said.

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