FNB Fund helps with disability at Tertiary Institutions

Over the past few years, the FNB Fund has focused its effortson providing supportto the education sector, from early development to primary and tertiary education.

Through the various programmes undertaken within these areas, it has focused on raising awareness of students with disabilities at Tertiary Institutions.

The FNB Fund currently funds students from two disability units – one at Stellenbosch University and the other at the University of the Free State. Pearl Mphuthi, FNB Fund Manager visited some of these disability units to learn about their successes and challenges.

“My visit to the universities was an eye-opening experience. It made me realise that even though students are faced with physical disabilities, there are social and psychological repercussions for them, their families and the communities they live in. The lessons learned concerned the complexities of the sector, the role of the disability units at the universities, the types of disabilities and their impact on the students’ studies, and the variety of support required, including types of assistive devices and associated costs,” said Mphuthi.

While the FNB Fund gives financial support, the funding goes toward a mixture of tuition, accommodation, transport and assistive devices.

Hetsie Veitch, Head of the Unit for Students with Disabilities at Free State University said that recipients of the fund allocation have been able to utilize the support toward their different individual needs. She added that three students used the funds to purchase specialised assistive devices that are not only beneficial for their studies but will also make their daily functioning in the workplace much easier, while Marcia Lyner-Cleophas, Head of the Disability Unit at Stellenbosch University stated that the four students who were funded in 2014 were enormously grateful and relieved to be awarded the bursary as it freed them up to focus on being academically successful, amidst their visual, physical and health impairments.

“It has become clear that students with disabilities require a holistic level of support – spanning psychological, technological and adaptations to the environment and academic sphere. It is also not enough to only speak to disabled students and their challenges but it is equally important to engage other university stakeholders, such as the heads of the disability units, as they are all part of the environment in which these students live and study,” concludes Mphuthi