World University Rankings - Top 100

Engineering graduate triumphs despite the odds

Engineering graduate triumphs despite the odds

Media Statement by Prof Nqabomzi Gawe, Acting Vice Chancellor of the Durban University of Technology (DUT)

The Durban University of Technology is proud to announce that 33 students’ with special needs will qualify at the 2010 April Graduation Ceremony. The event will be co-hosted by DUT’s Midlands and Steve Biko Campus from 14-22 April. Graduation sessions will take place on 14 April at 10am and 1pm at the Indumiso Hall, Indumiso Campus15FJ Sithole Road, Imbali, Pietermaritzburg. Sessions will continue from the 16-22 April at 10am, 1pm and 4pm at the Fred Crookes Sports Centre at the Steve Biko Campus.

The Faculty of Engineering Science and the Built Environment is honoured that 57-year-old Preshiela Ismail will be amongst this years postgraduates when she will receive her Bachelor of Technology degree in Civil Engineering. Ismail will be capped, on her 58 birthday, on 19 April at 10am at Steve Biko. Like most paraplegics and partially-abled bodied people, Ismail never dreamt that she would be pursuing academic interests’ at her age let alone weeks before the birth of her first grandchild. However, the grandmother to be has only been re-energised by this accomplishment, as she embarks on furthering her studies; in between juggling her busy work schedule with her dedication to the Brahma Kumari’s World Spiritual University (BKWSU) where she has been and active member for the last 19 years.

In an interview, Ismail said being bound to a wheel chair since the age of eight has not prevented her from living a normal life. She lost her legs in a near fatal train accident on her way to school in 1961. She said: “I disembarked from the train and turned to wave goodbye to those who were going ahead to the next station. Whilst waving, another passenger grabbed my hand and pulled me back toward the train. It began to move and I was left dangling outside, the passenger let go of my hand and I fell between the train and platform. The rest is history.”

Ismail said she was far too young to really notice much difference, but as she grew older she had fewer thoughts of wanting to be able to do normal things. “I soon realised that I have some limitations and that only I can work around them to have a happy and satisfying life. It has made me take some risks if only to prove to myself that anything is achievable. Society however, creates limitations as they feel sorry and afraid of people with disabilities. Many question whether your brain and mind is also not disabled. Disability raises insecurities in many people because they are not sure how to behave around someone with a disability that is physical and can be seen. However, I believes that you should be yourself and accept everybody as they are.”

The former Edendale resident currently resides in Glenwood and is employed as a Civil Technologist at Westville based engineering company, Kwezi V3 Engineers. Prior to embarking on a career in engineering, Ismail worked in an administrative position for 19 years at The Witness Newspaper before moving to Durban. She completed her accounting qualification, at the age of 40, from the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators ICSA. Her qualification carries 125 points which is equivalent to a B.Com Honours degree. She began studying towards her Civil Engineering degree at age 50.

Ismail said being part of the BKWSU movement has enabled her to embrace change and enjoy it. “My family has been very supportive; they did not say I was too old to study but instead supported my decision. I believe everything can be achieved provided you believe in your self. My gratitude is also due to my employer, KV3 Engineers, for their sponsorship and affording me the opportunity to study. I believe respect, honesty and self-esteem are the tools you require to forge ahead. One can overcome limitations; by not letting it dictate the way you should live your life, but rather let it empower you.”

For more information, contact:

Presheila Ismail
Civil Technologist
Kwezi V3 Engineers
Tel: 031 275 8500
Fax: 031 275 8555