Bellville’s Anita Engelbrecht suffers from a form of cerebral palsy that causes extreme muscle stiffness, but it hasn’t stopped her graduating.
Anita will receive her BCom in management accounting on Friday March 24 from Stellenbosch University.
“It has given me a much clearer idea of what I can do,” said Ms Engelbrecht, who has spastic diplegia and has been in a wheelchair all her life.
She was born prematurely and experienced an oxygen shortage shortly after her birth. The part of her brain that controls the development of motor functions was affected.
But she is not a prisoner of her wheelchair. She likes to push boundaries because magic happens when you move out of your comfort zone, she believes.
After matriculating from Bellville High School with five distinctions, Ms Engelbrecht arrived at SU’s economics and management sciences faculty to study accounting in 2013.
After her first meeting with representatives of the faculty, she knew she was in the right place.
“It was clear to me from the start that my success on all levels was very important to them,” she said.
“There was never a problem too big to handle.”
However, this doesn’t mean that there were no challenges. Ms Engelbrecht needed the help of a scribe during exams because, as she explained, “her writing speed is that of a snail”.
To make things even more difficult, she can only see out of one eye at a time. And her brain decides which one without her being able to control it.
This makes it very difficult to read, and she doesn’t have time to review study material two or three times. She has to take it all in during the first (and only) time.
At the end of her first year, she met with her lecturer who asked her whether she really wanted to be a chartered accountant. It would mean that she would have to go to clients without knowing if the environment was wheelchair-friendly.
With the bigger picture in mind they decided together that she would change her course to BCom management accounting. It was the right decision for her.
“Sometimes I have to decide between what I want to do versus what is practically possible. I don’t regard it as a failure that I had to change my course. If I don’t try things I will always wonder about them,” she said.
“Stellenbosch not only gave me the opportunity to be successful in my studies, but also to grow holistically as a human-being.”
Ms Engelbrecht is now busy with her Honours degree through Unisa, and she and Hilton Murray, a fellow member of the Bellville Athletics Club who pushes her in a custom-designed buggy, plan to take part in the Comrades for the second time this year.