Sven Botha: Defining my own limitations: a story of courage, passion and collaboration Depar tment of Politics and International Relations
(Vicky) Graham. Vicky took me under her wing and much like Cynthia, recognised what I could be early on. Vicky made me feel welcome by looking past my physical challenges and saw me as an individual, a gift that many of my other lecturers gave me as time went on. I had the support and guidance of Prof Anna-Mart van Wyk and Ms Esther Benjamin (former Dean of Social and Health Sciences and CEO at Monash South Africa respectively), and with Monash South Africa as my base, I expanded my degree to accommodate a double major in Political and International Studies, with an extended major in Political Studies. My passion and search for knowledge and collaboration were never ignored. Vicky, Anna-Mart and Esther were always (and still remain) close at hand to provide advice and guidance when needed. During my time as undergraduate student, I established the Monash Society for Political Dialogue and Analysis (MSPDA), a platform which brought students, academics and practitioners together for robust discussions on both domestic and international politics. The MSPDA taught me the value of collaboration and knowledge generation, buzzwords that encapsulate much of what made me who I am today. While still at Monash I started working on the establishment of an
My time in high school was perhaps the most challenging, not necessarily because of a prolonged recovery from a surgery I had to endure, but because I was often ahead of some of my peers. I also found it extremely difficult to make lasting connections and friendships. Luckily for me, my hard work did not go unnoticed. Early, on, my history teacher at the time, Ms Cynthia Brookstein, noticed my positive attitude and talents, and I would always ‘escape’ from reality via my history classes. Cynthia deserves credit for her foresight, which has played a huge role in propelling my career forward as a fledgling academic out of the starting blocks. I’ve always had a passion for education, knowledge and politics in general. As a naive teenager, I thought I would enter the political fray and fix South Africa’s education system. Sadly, after spending some time on South Africa’s political landscape, I came to the conclusion that this was not a space I wanted to establish roots in. And while I made some wonderful friends and learnt some valuable lessons during this time, I felt that my attention would be more useful elsewhere. Feeling somewhat lost, but still determined to make an impact, I started my academic journey at Monash South Africa (then a campus of Monash University) under the erudite Prof Victoria
‘Difference’ or ‘differentiation’ is a part of everyday life. What differentiates us from others makes us unique. However, ‘differentiation’ is not always so straightforward, and this is particularly true when a physical disability is part of what makes us different from others. I was born on Christmas Day in 1996 with Cerebral Palsy (CP). CP is a physical disability that impedes the normal movement of one’s arms and legs and can have additional side-effects, depending on the case at hand. Luckily, I was fortunate to have combined access to early medical intervention and a positive attitude, which has made life a little easier. My early years were no walk in the park. Using a walking frame and orthotics (customised leg braces worn to correct the posture of my legs and feet), I made my way through my early schooling career. For the most part I was content, the only negative fallout being that I had to attend school in leg casts or moonboots as a result of surgical interventions. These surgeries were guided by my lifelong physiotherapist, Ms Gillian Shead, without whom my ability to walk would have been lost long ago. Concentrating on school work while simultaneously focusing on my recoveries was a tall order; it was challenging to maintain focus, plan my day or complete tasks on time.
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