Overcoming adversity: Assisted technology helps learner graduate | Western Cape Education Department
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Overcoming adversity: Assisted technology helps learner graduate

Overcoming adversity: Assisted technology helps learner graduate

19 March 2024

In a world where barriers often define the path to success, there are some remarkable individuals who shatter these barriers with their determination and resilience. One such inspiring story is that of Sonja Jonkers, who, despite facing unique challenges, has defied the odds to obtain a BA degree from the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in 2023. This marks a triumph not only for Sonja, but also for Inclusive Education and accessibility in education.

Sonja was born with congenital structural myopathy and started her schooling as a learner at Paarl School until Grade 9. She transferred to Jan Kriel School to complete her Further Education and Training (Grade 10 – 12) schooling career. Sonja matriculated with two distinctions in 2020 and received a Special Ministerial Award for her excellent matric results. She was accepted to study a BA degree at UWC in 2021.

One of the pivotal elements of Sonja 's success story lies in the integration of assistive technology into her learning process. The aid of a specialised assistive device enabled Sonja to access the curriculum, educational resources and to participate in academic activities.

Sonja used the Tobii eye gaze system to access the curriculum at school and subsequently at university to reach her academic goals. The eye gaze system essentially uses gaze technology which allows students to use the movements of their eyes to control a computer or communication device.

Therapy Services, within the Directorate: Inclusive and Specialised Education Support, motivated for funding from the Therapy Assistive Devices budget for Sonja to receive and use the TOBII eye gaze system.  This has led to outstanding academic outcomes.

Sonja has demonstrated remarkable resilience, embraced her differences and leveraged them as strengths rather than limitations. With the support of dedicated educators and inclusive learning environments, she navigated through academic hurdles, always striving for excellence.

As Sonja embarks on the next chapter of her academic journey, we are reminded that with perseverance, determination, and the right support system, there are no limits to what can be achieved.

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