Against all odds: Disability is not inability

Issued by North West University
North-West, Feb 21, 2019

Letlhogonolo Mafela was born without arms, but refused to let his physical disability stand in the way of realising his dreams.

Self-acceptance has helped him defy the odds and obtain a BCom degree in economics, which will be conferred on him during the North-West University's (NWU's) April autumn graduations.

Mafela, who originates from Matshepe Village, in Mahikeng, uses his feet and mouth to write, control a computer and eat.

Throughout his life, he has shown nothing but dedication and persistence to reach his goals.

Having passed matric with flying colours, the Dr Kenneth Kaunda district municipality and Matlosana local municipality each donated R25 000 to further his studies. The former North West MEC also presented him with a merit award and a laptop for his extraordinary achievement.

A home away from home

"The Disability Unit made things easier for me on campus," says Mafela. "It was like a second home and moulded me to the person I am today."

Every year the unit made sure that Mafela's lecturers were informed about his presence in their classes. They also provided the necessary aid devices to facilitate his studies, such as a printer and a digital recorder for recording lectures.

More than meets the eye

But, there is more to Mafela than books and business. He is also a DJ for public relations company Go Infinite Holdings, and was a guest DJ on Motsweding FM last year.

His positive attitude and hard work has not gone unnoticed and he was nominated for the Live Your Dreams Awards in the Best DJ category for 2018.

"One of the hardest things for anyone is to get to the point of self-acceptance," he says.

"I always say, we're all different, and we have to celebrate that difference. Once we're able to accept ourselves, we move forward and the world is limitless."

Mafela says he is looking forward to securing a job so he can start raising capital to realise his next dream, a product investment business focusing on perishable products.

Prof Marilyn Setlalentoa, deputy vice-chancellor for operations on the campus, commends Mafela for his achievement. "Letlhogonolo is an inspiration and a perfect example of what you can achieve if you believe in yourself. Disability is not inability."

Ready to support students

The Disability Unit on the campus in Mahikeng was established in 2008 and provides various services to students living with disabilities. These include continuous physical, technological, emotional and social support and collaborating with various other departments to ensure these students' needs are met.

"The number of students with disabilities registering with the NWU has increased significantly," says Vida Mutlaneng, coordinator of the unit. "Since the inception of the unit, 111 students have graduated, some with distinction."