Getting that MBA despite disability

Duduzile Phumzile Ndlovu

Duduzile Phumzile Ndlovu, grants administrator at the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), shares her journey of recovery and enjoying life fully after a spinal cord injury.

In 2008, I sustained a disability after a car accident. My marriage broke down soon after as a result of my depression. Studying offered a distraction and I currently hold a master’s degree in business administration (MBA).

Apart from needing something that would keep me from sinking into depression, I learnt that life for a person with a disability was clouded by stereotypes and by people doubting you. I wanted to bust those stereotypes and prove that having a disability doesn’t prevent anyone from achieving their goals.

I wanted to demonstrate the power of determination and hard work. During my studies, I obtained two degrees – a bachelor’s degree in public administration and an MBA. Studying, however, came with its own challenges, mostly because of the inaccessibility of buildings. Sometimes lectures – or, worse, exams – were in venues where I had to use staircases.

I would then consult Student Support for alternative venues. Sometimes people totally forget about the needs of persons with disabilities. As a person with a disability you need to constantly fight for your rights and educate people around you about your needs. When I was graduating in 2015, I advised the institution to arrange for a ramp to the stage.

However, this wasn’t done, which meant I had to struggle with great difficulty to get onto the stage. It took about five minutes. After the graduation I wrote to the institution about the incident that had made my day unpleasant.

Luckily, when I was graduating in 2018 from the same institution, the ramp was provided. I’m proud that the institution now understands the needs of people with disabilities better and is able to cater for reasonable accommodation where there is a need. Creating awareness ensures that generations coming after us won’t experience the challenges we experienced.

Duduzile Phumzile Ndlovu, studying, university
Duduzile Phumzile Ndlovu graduates from university with an MBA.

I believe in demolishing one barrier at a time to create institutions that are accessible to all. I am aspiring to further my studies in the near future and obtain my PhD degree.

I started working at SASSA in 2004, prior to my injury, when it was still the Department of Social Development. After the accident I had to be reintegrated as a person with a disability. However, working for SASSA has been an absolute pleasure as there are programmes to help persons with disabilities integrate with other employees.

Currently, the organisation is running road shows to educate its leadership and employees about disability. The organisation emphasises that disability is just another form of diversity. It also offers a wellness programme contracted to mentor, guide and empower personnel with disabilities.

Both my degrees were paid for by the organisation because it believes that personnel with disabilities make productive employees if they are empowered and provided with the tools of trade to perform their duties efficiently and effectively.

My advice to people with disabilities is that they should push their way to success. Many institutions for further learning don’t (fully) cater for the needs of persons with disabilities, but every person with disability should learn to be an ambassador and fight or integration and equal opportunity for education.

This cannot be corrected overnight! In the meantime, you can enrol for distance-learning courses and study from home. Whatever you choose to do, don’t stop pursuing your goals. Organisations are desperate to hire persons with disabilities to meet their employment equity targets; however, they cannot find suitable candidates. Why not find out what they are looking for and study to be the ideal candidate?

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