Venesa Leeuw and her daughter, Aleshanee Leeuw (9), are from Heidedal in Bloemfontein.
Little Aleshanee was born at the National District Hospital in Bloemfontein at exactly 12:10 on 12 October 2007, with her eyes open. “I remember it clearly because my mom, Sarah Leeuw, who has since passed on but was with me in the delivery room, commented on how our girl came into the world with her eyes open… what a contradicting statement that turned out to be,” said Leeuw.
When Leeuw took her daughter to the clinic for her six-month check-up the nurse noticed that Aleshanee’s eyes weren’t following the object held in front of her and Leeuw realised for the first time that something was wrong. The baby was then diagnosed with nystagmus.
Over the years Aleshanee’s diagnosis changed. She now suffers from congenital glaucoma, for which she uses eye drops to regulate the pressure on the eyes. She also suffers from myopia and astigmatism. Her growth has also been affected. She is turning 10 in October, but looks like a six-year-old.
Finding a school nearby has proven a difficult task. The Leeuw family first tried to enroll her in a mainstream school, but an occupational therapist from the Department of Education said this would not be a good fit for her.They then searched for other options. “We went to Bartimea School for the Blind. Here the language of instruction is an African language, with English and Afrikaans as an extra language. We didn’t feel that the school would be a perfect fit for her. My daughter loves Afrikaans, which is her mother tongue.”
The Society for the Blind in Bloemfontein then advised her to enroll her daughter at Prinshof School for the Blind in Pretoria. In spite of
Aleshanee being away from home, she started attending Prinshof in the second term this year. She is currently in Grade 1. “It has not been easy. The struggle is real, the school as well as the hostel is only open from Monday to Friday and every Friday, Aleshanee, along with the other children, are supposed to leave the school premises by 18:00 and return on Sunday by 18:00. The challenge I’m faced with and what parents in my situation are faced with, is transporting our children to and from Pretoria weekly,” Leeuw said.
Being on the road for more than 16 hours weekly has taken an emotional and financial toll on Leeuw. “I call on stakeholders to take hands with us in getting this girl child to school. They say it takes a village to raise a child and I am calling on all the villagers of South Africa at large with the means and the resources to help make her journey a little bit easier. We might not be able to give her her sight back but we can unlock the hidden potential within her.”
If you wish to lend a helping hand, contact Venesa Leeuw at 078-122-6642.
– SEITHATI SEMENOKANE