Don’t give up, says agriculture student with hearing difficulties

Ongama Giwu, 24, graduated with a Masters in Agricultural Economics (MSc) cum laude. | SETHU DLAMINI

Ongama Giwu, 24, graduated with a Masters in Agricultural Economics (MSc) cum laude. | SETHU DLAMINI

Published May 13, 2024


Durban — Ongama Giwu, 24, graduated with a Masters in Agricultural Economics (MSc) cum laude despite having hearing difficulties throughout her life.

Originally from Mount Frere, Eastern Cape, she was born into a small family, with Giwu being the only girl.

“My parents noticed that I had a hearing problem when I was 8 years old. I started using a hearing aid in 2007, but I was struggling in class and I had to sit in the front. My parents always reported my problems so teachers would try their best to make sure I heard everything. But it took me a long time to accept that I have hearing problems because I didn’t want to be treated differently from others.”

However, she did not let her hearing challenge hold her back from going to university.

“My hearing problem made large meetings challenging, but my supervisor and colleagues were very supportive and understanding; they always made sure I was not left behind.

“When doing research, you need to listen to your supervisor’s guidance and always be willing to learn because everyday you see information you don’t know. And also, working alone doesn’t work; you should also ask for assistance from others.”

Giwu joined the University of KwaZulu-Natal from the University of Fort Hare, where she completed her undergraduate and honours studies.

She chose to study agriculture because she grew up in a family that kept livestock and were part of the farming community.

“So my love for agriculture began from home. As I grew up, I noticed the crucial role of agriculture in food security and environmental sustainability. Hence I believe that my knowledge would contribute to sustainable farming practices, research innovations and perhaps I will start my own agricultural business in the future.

“My thesis topic focused on perceptions, willingness, opportunities and effects of youth participation in agriculture and on poverty alleviation and employment creation,” said Giwu.

She hopes that one day, more youth will get involved in agriculture.

“I want to help youth who are willing to engage in agriculture with information about opportunities available in the sector. I also seek to investigate the challenges faced by youth in agriculture so that the government, policymakers and donors can implement strategies to combat these challenges. And also how the government and departments can best support youth in agriculture.”

Giwu hopes that students in her position always find a way forward without allowing their problems to hold them back.

“I believe when you want to achieve your goals, nothing can stop you. I was able to succeed because of hard work, commitment and determination.

“Just be willing to put in time, energy and sacrifices to realise your goals.

“It feels so good to have graduated at such a high level.

“You should never give up; just work hard and be committed because I am proof that everything is possible,” said Giwu.

She hopes to start studying towards her PhD as soon as she receives funding.

Sunday Tribune