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Using his feet for tasks done by hands, Ephraim Kekana overcomes challenges to earn a bachelor's degree

Born with a rare genetic condition known as phocomelia, where his hands and feet are attached to the body,? Ephraim Kekana celebrates his graduation with a Bachelor of Human Resources and Management (HRM) degree from the University of Limpopo (UL), conferred during the recent Autumn Graduation ceremonies

Using a wheelchair to navigate his mobility and relying on his feet for tasks typically performed by hands such as eating and writing, Kekana views this achievement as a triumph over adversity. He reflects on the challenging journey he undertook to reach this milestone, especially considering financial constraints. Born at Groothoek Hospital, in Zebediela, Limpopo with a rare condition in 1999, he expresses gratitude to the nurses for their support. "I credit the media attention brought about by nurses at the hospital, which led to a massive support from donors, including Kaizer Chiefs, which helped sustain my family," expressed Kekana.

He recalls how his upbringing was challenging, particularly due to financial difficulties. "I come from a single-parent family, raised by my mother. She works as a domestic worker, and her wages are not sufficient," he explained.

He also expressed gratitude for the invaluable support provided by the Ntuli family throughout his life. "They played a significant role when I was young, covering my school fees and other necessities. Even to this day, their support continues," he acknowledged.

Talking about how his academic career began, he recounts matriculating from, Filadelfia Secondary, a special school in Soshanguve, Pretoria, in 2018, and taking a gap year in 2019 after being rejected to study dietetics at another university. He speculates that the practical nature of the qualification may have been what was considered against his physical abilities hence the unsuccessful application. His opportunity arose when he was accepted at UL for an HRM degree in 2020, with the Reakgona Disability Centre (RDC) providing crucial support throughout his studies.

"I was introduced to the RDC upon enrolling here, and it played a significant role in my studies. The centre’s state-of-the-art equipment, catering for students with disabilities, was helpful for the completion of my studies. When I joined UL, the only concern I had was to find a caregiver to assist with my daily needs, such as cooking and washing. After writing a motivation for a helper, my proposal for my brother to assist was approved," Kekana shared. His brother's supportive role extended beyond him, assisting others in need within the campus community, especially those with disabilities, the centre employed him on permanently basis.

During his studies at UL, everything went smoothly as the centre ensured he had all the necessary resources, allowing him to navigate the campus effortlessly. “Additionally, online teaching and learning simplified matters by reducing the need for physical movement,” he stated.

Despite being often noticed on campus, Kekana maintains a positive outlook. "It means I'm handsome, that I'm unique, and that's something to be proud of," he quipped. He emphasised the significance of not making assumptions about his condition and hopes his achievement will inspire others.

Currently, Kekana is pursuing an honours degree and working as a tutor in the Department of Human Resources Management at the University.

UL stands as a beacon of inclusivity in higher education, offering advanced infrastructure and support tailored to students with disabilities. During these graduation ceremonies, concluding on April 22, 2024, the University will recognise the remarkable achievements of 33 graduates with disabilities, showcasing their resilience and determination.


Date created: 2024-05-13 23:24:04