College of Education

From adversity to advocacy

Unisa graduate Zainab Slarmie, a 27-year-old from Cape Town, South Africa, has defied the odds to overcome remarkable challenges. From navigating the complexities of selective mutism as a child to facing the life-altering consequences of a car accident, Slarmie's academic journey has been one of resilience, determination and unwavering positivity.


Zainab Slarmie

From a young age, she grappled with selective mutism, a condition that made social interactions difficult and communication a challenge. Despite the frustration and isolation that accompanied this condition, she refused to let it define her. Instead, she poured her energy into her studies, excelling academically and proving her intelligence and determination to those around her.

However, tragedy struck just as Slarmie was beginning to find her voice. At the age of 13, she was involved in a devastating car accident that left her paralysed from the waist down. Suddenly, the world she knew was turned upside down, and she was faced with a new set of challenges.

But she refused to be defined by her circumstances. She pushed forward with relentless determination and an unbreakable spirit, refusing to let her disability hinder her dreams. Despite the physical limitations imposed by her injuries, Slarmie continued to pursue her education, graduating high school with top marks and setting her sights on a future filled with promise.

Her academic journey led her to Varsity College and later Unisa, where she pursued her passion for education and working with children. Despite personal tragedies, including the loss of her beloved mother and the challenges of being a mother herself, she persevered, graduating with a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Development: Foundation Phase) at Unisa.

As a person in a wheelchair, Slarmie understands the unique challenges that students with disabilities face in the education system. Through her own experiences and dedication, she advocates for inclusivity, accessibility and support for all students, ensuring that no one is left behind. She says: "Professionally, my goals and aspirations as a teacher in a wheelchair include creating a supportive and inclusive classroom environment where all students feel valued and empowered to succeed."


Slarmie’s family at her graduation

Slarmie's journey exemplifies the power of determination, resilience and optimism. Despite facing numerous obstacles, she inspires others through her motivational speaking, advocacy work and dedication to education. Her resilient spirit is a reminder that anything is possible with perseverance and positivity.

She emphasises the importance of believing in oneself, knowing one's rights and advocating for inclusion. Her goals extend beyond her personal achievements; she aspires to create a more inclusive and equitable society for people with disabilities, ensuring everyone can thrive and succeed.

As Slarmie continues her personal and professional journey, her unwavering spirit serves as a voice of hope and inspiration for all who encounter her story. Through her resilience and determination, she proves that no obstacle is unbeatable and that the human spirit can achieve extraordinary feats in the face of adversity.

* By Nomusa Ngema, Intern Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2024/03/11

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