It was a double celebration for staff member at UKZN’s Ujamaa Centre Ms Noluthando Gasa who graduated and celebrated her birthday at the same time.
The visually impaired Bachelor of Theology graduate says she struggled to fund her studies. ‘I had received a scholarship from the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics and although it covered tuition, I still had to find a way to support my family.
‘It was hard as a single mother and on top of that I was unemployed at the time. My daughter was growing fast and bills needed to be paid. I lived at home and travelled daily to campus using four taxis so often travel costs prevented me from attending lectures,’ said Gasa.
‘I was also on a spiritual journey of growth. I had to go through phases of training on the road to become a diviner/healer. That is never easy, it can disturb your life in many ways and for a student it’s worse,’ explained Gasa.
She works as a trained facilitator at the Institute for Healing of Memories and is a student worker at the Ujamaa Centre. ‘At times it was hard to balance work and studying. I was also the first person with a visual impairment that the School had as a student. They had to adjust to seeing how best to accommodate me – they really tried and for that I am grateful.’
Gasa was awarded merit accolades during her studies and was part of an exchange programme in her third year, which saw her attend Hendrix College in the United States. ‘It was great to meet students from another institution and get to share experiences about different countries.’
She is currently enrolled to do an Honours degree in Theology under the Gender Health and Religion Programme. In the interim she is the Programme’s coordinator at the Ujamaa Centre.
Offering advice to other students, Gasa said: ‘As hard as it may seem it can be done. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it and connect with fellow students, – you don’t realise how much support you can actually give each other.’
Ujamaa Centre Director Rev Sthembiso Zwane said, ‘We are excited about Noluthando’s graduation because she has been able to articulate both theory and praxis in her work which is a rare combination. Her leadership qualities in academia and community engagement are second to none. As an organisation, we are privileged to call her our comrade.’