“Unconditionally accepted” – these were the words that popped up when 20-year-old Lekae Combrinck-Nawa checked the status of his application to the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in December.
“I was too ecstatic to be accepted unconditionally and I looked forward to attending my classes in January,” says Combrinck-Nawa who had applied to study graphic design at TUT.
On his first day of school, Combrinck-Nawa – who is a double amputee and wheelchair bound – was accompanied by his father, Lance Nawa. The pair was disheartened to find that Combrinck-Nawa’s classroom had no wheelchair access. This was despite previous conversations between Nawa and administration about accessibility after the father had to carry his son on his back to several screening interviews on campus ahead of Combrinck-Nawa’s acceptance.
“I was disappointed,” Combrinck-Nawa remembers. “Although I was with my father, I couldn’t allow him or security to carry me to the venue – it’s just a cause for embarrassment and not a solution to my problems.”
When the family took the issue further, they allegedly received a letter from TUT Acting Vice Chancellor Lourens van Staden stating that Combrinck-Nawa could not register to attend the school because the campus was not wheelchair friendly.
Now, following a high level meeting between Staden and Director General of the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) Gwebs Qonde, Combrinck-Nawa has been allowed to register at the school. This comes after DHET secured funds for prostheses that will allow Combrinck-Nawa to navigate TUT’s arts campus.
While Nawa, a TUT post-doctoral student, says he is happy that his son has found a solution to his problems, he worries that the decision does not address the campus’ general accessibility issues.
“I registered my son and I will continue to engage the university and other stakeholders to find a permanent solution,” says Nawa, who is helping Combrinck-Nawa adjust to the new prostheses.