A visually impaired law student at the University of Namibia (Unam), who was born sighted but lost his vision, is determined to complete his studies against all odds.
Shortly after losing his sight to a condition called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (SJS) towards the end of 2004, life came to a standstill for Tiofelus Jeremia.
“For about nine years I was at home not knowing what to do,” said Jeremia who is now pursuing a Bachelor of Law (LLB) Honours at Unam.
According to an online dictionary, SJS is a rare, serious disorder of the skin and mucous membrane. It is a reaction to a medication or an infection. It begins with flu-like symptoms, followed by a painful red or purplish rash that spreads and blisters. Then the top layer of the affected skin dies and sheds.
Jeremia plans on enrolling for a master’s programme at the University of the Western Cape and upon graduation wants to practise in commercial or disability law.
He told New Era he remained home until he learnt about the Namibian Federation of the Visually Impaired (NFVI) that helped him get back into society.
At the federation Jeremia learnt Braille, mobility, activities of daily living and attended counselling sessions and motivation classes.
Jeremia says he now serves on different boards in the federation which has the mandate to lobby and advocate for the rights and well-being of the visually impaired “and from there I got an interest in studying law”.
“I soon gained confidence and realized I could do something,” remarked Jeremia last week during the N$20 000 bursary cheque handover from Ombaye Fishing company towards helping to pay for his studies. The company has been funding Jeremia’s studies for the past four years.
Embarking on his studies as a visually impaired student was challenging, he said. “I first had proper sight. I got visually impaired in 2004. And when I came to Unam in 2011, it was the first time to be in school without sight. It was also challenging in a sense that it was a new studying environment for me and I was among sighted learners,” said Jeremia.
He pointed out that last year he was struggling with accounting but got a private tutor.
At the university some fellow learners were supportive and asked him how they could help.
“Others said I should remain home as it wasn’t worth it. But I looked around and befriended some students and we formed study groups.”
In the past he used part of the company bursary to buy assistive devices, equipment for reading like magnifying glasses, and software, recorders, laptops and a printer, among others. Jeremia said it wasn’t easy to get a government loan and he struggled to pay registration and hostel fees.
Ombaye Managing Director Lukas Uutoni said the bursary is part of their social responsibility and that the relationship between Ombaye and the federation comes a long way.
Uutoni said the company supports the federation and Tsumkwe community Trust. Uutoni called on other businesses to follow suit.