Visually impaired student tops Tulipohamba

By Paulina Ndalikokule

SAKEUS Niigambo, a visually impaired student, has shown that anything is possible after graduating among the top students from Tulipohamba Training and Assessment Institute with many distinctions.

Confidente met Niigambo at a recent graduation ceremony in Windhoek, where about 600 current and past Tulipohamba students gathered to celebrate their academic achievements. Their qualifications included certificates and diplomas in Occupational Health, Healthcare Safety Management, Community Health Education and Promotion, Dentistry, and Counseling.

Niigambo was born in Oshitayi Village in the northern part of the country 31 years ago but on 25 March 2012 lost his sight due to an accident after glass from a shattered windscreen damaged his eyes while he was driving between Mariental and Kalkland.

“It was heartbreaking to learn and to hear from Doctor Helena Ndume – who tried operating on me – that my eyesight was beyond repair. I could believe it. I didn’t know what to do with my life anymore because at that time I had also lost my job as a driver at Windhoek Country Club and Resort,” Niigambo recalled.

The new graduate said his life began anew when he was admitted to the Namibian Visually Impaired Federation (NFVI), where he spent four months learning how to cope with his new circumstances.

"I was inspired to start over again from the moment I joined. Everybody was blind but doing the most. They taught me everything, including dealing with myself, doing any activity, even using technology, reading and writing," said Niigambo.

He said the thought of going back to school came after he was able to again operate a computer and his cellphone effectively, as well as due to inspiration from his NFVI teachers. “I was lucky to get a sponsorship from NQA, so I approached Tulipohamba in 2017. The lady I was speaking to at first couldn't believe what I was saying, she asked whether I could do it if I couldn't see it, and I told her that I can, I just need a chance to prove it and she believed me.”

With the aid of friends, Niigambo managed to walk to school to attend lessons, often holding his hand with classmates while switching classes or returning to his house. He would usually record the lecturers during class, or a classmate would read him the notes from books that he would listen to and try to understand and memorise.

Niigambo said he completed his evaluations, such as tests and exams, by asking someone with teaching experience or by using computers designed for people who can't see to finish his Counseling certificate.

"I chose Counselling because I want to help people with their challenges, particularly those living with disabilities, so I can give them hope because I feel like if they talk to someone [who is] like them they'll be better encouraged," he explained.

A father of two children, aged 10 and two years old, he lives only with his eldest daughter but does all he can for her, including cooking, washing and assisting with her school activities.

“My daughter is very smart and very patient with me, I walk with her help at home, her only wish is one day to buy me eyes, even though she had made peace with the fact that I’m blind,” Niigambo said with a brave smile. He also holds a degree in Marketing from the Namibia University of Science and Technology and currently works as a social worker in the spinal cord unit at the Ministry of Health while also studying for a Counseling diploma. He plans to pursue his degree next year at the University of Namibia.