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Braille student registers at mainstream madrassa

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History was made this week when a student using Braille as a method
of instruction for the first time passed through the doors of a South
African mainstream madrassa. While Gafsa Robertson’s physical sight has dramatically deteriorated in the past four years, she has not lost sight of her ultimate goal, to be able to recite from the pages of Quran.

“It has always been my dream to learn how to read the holy Quran,” says Robertson, a 47 year old, partially sighted resident of Manenberg.

Robertson began classes where she was taught how to read the Surah and then went on to the Quran. When she was younger, prescription glasses assisted her with what she thought was bad vision. Only in her late twenties did she discover that her loss of sight was as a result of genetics.

“It skipped a generation so we all were unaware of the fact that we had inherited an uncommon condition that affects the sight of the individuals. When I had been at work and was offered a promotion, I then realised that my eyes were failing me. As soon as I was required to use the computer, I couldn’t see the finer details on the screen. When I had gone to the optometrist they did some tests and after another hospital visit, I was told that there is no spectacles that can help me see,” Robertson recalls.

Not long after this ordeal did she lose her job.

“It was devastating at the time. I have three other siblings who now also have the same condition as me however, only one of us are able to see enough to be able to go through day-to-day life as per usual.”

While her desire to learn the Quran by heart seemed a far fetched dream, Robertson signed up as a member of the League of the Friends of the Blind (LOFOB) and learned how to read and write in Braille. She felt she “had to do something” in her quest to gain knowledge.

In her pursuit, she was introduced to a Quran which she was taught in Braille. Not many alims had the resources to accommodate Robertson and so, she found a teacher in Ustadh Achmat from the Ahlusunnah Madrassa in Portlands.

However, Robertson’s struggle did not end there. While she had found a place of learning and a teacher to accommodate this process, she is now posed with a new challenge of finding transport to and from the madrassa.

“I have been receiving a disability grant for 14 years now, however, for me to travel to Portlands in Mitchells Plain, I am required to take three taxis, amounting to a total of more than R50 a day. This kind of money is something I really don’t have,” Robertson says.

Her plight and unrelenting determination did not falter at this point. She is now staying with family until she can find an alternative arrangement. Robertson stays alone with her aging mother and appeals to anyone in the community who can assist her.

Robertson writes with khoki’s as she cannot read anything smaller. The use of paper and khoki’s is also heavy on her monthly budget. A special laptop that has software capabilities which allows all the text to be audibly read out is something she believes will help her tremendously. However, the expense is too much for at this point.

Anyone willing to make a generous donation to help her with memorising the Quran can contact her or her family on 021 691 0361 or 021 371 3081. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)


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