Disability Service gets huge grant from FirstRand Foundation

7 Mar 2018 - 09:45

The big cheque was handed over on 28 February 2018. From left: Peter Cooper of the FirstRand Foundation, Edwina Ghall, Denise Oldham (both of UCT’s Disability Service), Dr Sianne Abrahams of UCT’s Office for Inclusivity and Change, and Professor Loretta Feris, UCT’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Transformation. Photo Michael Hammond.

In a bid to support students who rely on UCT’s Disability Service Unit to thrive at the university and excel academically, the FirstRand Foundation (Tshikululu Social Investments) has granted more than R11 million to the UCT Disability Service.

The R11 497 772.00 cheque was handed over to the university on 28 February and will be used to address a range of pressing needs.

The grant will allow the Disability Service to appoint much-needed sign-language interpreters, note-takers and similar human services support for students with learning disabilities and physically disabled students at UCT.

Edwina Ghall, Interim Manager of the Disability Service, said that the Disability Service was very grateful for the support from FirstRand. The grant responds directly to Goal Four of the UCT Strategic Planning Framework which aims to achieve accessible and inclusive education for students, and this instance, our disabled students.

The application for the grant was motivated by Mr Khaya Jack from DAD and Disability Service staff members Reinette Popplestone, Nafisa Mayat, Pearl Tukwayo, Ghall, Denise Oldham, and Lesego Modutle.

Popplestone, who retired as director of the Disability Services Unit at the end of 2017 and who played a key role in securing the grant, felt the grant would help empower disabled students to realise their full potential as contributors to society.

“Having played some small part in the negotiations which lead to UCT’s students with disabilities receiving this unbelievably generous support from the Tshikululu Foundation has put the crown on all our efforts to improve support for this cohort of students,” said Popplestone. “Our constitution, the UN convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and several national policy documents compel institutions to provide in all aspects of reasonable accommodations for disabled students, but the laws and policies are silent on where the resources will come from in to give expression to this injunction.

“Optimal support of students with disabilities in the context of higher education – indeed all levels of education – require resources on the one hand and skilled personnel on the other,” Popplestone added.

“Through sustained interaction with the university and the students they sponsor, Tshikululu will develop a sophisticated and nuanced understanding of both the capabilities of people with disabilities as well as their support needs, and that in time Tshikululu will become recognized leaders in the field of empowering people with disabilities to take their rightful place in the future growth and development of the country,” added Popplestone.

FirstRand has also committed to support a number of other initiatives at UCT, including the FirstRand Laurie Dippenaar Scholarship, the African Institute for Financial Markets & Risk Management, and UCT’s student financial aid programme.