Hafsa Reclaims Education and Independence at RNC
Hafsa is 19 and from Elland in West Yorkshire. She is excited to be planning for university and life as an independent young adult.
In 2016, Hafsa was diagnosed with Cataracts, Uveitis and Glaucoma but she pretty much carried on as normal and it was assumed that surgery would correct some of the problems eventually.
However, in 2017, at the age of 17 and halfway through studying A Levels, Hafsa woke up over the Christmas holidays to find she couldn’t see anything. Doctors confirmed that the cataracts were as fully formed as they could be and worst still, they were ‘stuck down’. This meant if Hafsa went for surgery there was a 70% chance that it would fail.
Hafsa was predicted really good grades for her A Levels but had to make some tough choices. She was desperate to finish her A Levels and head to university with her friends but sight loss was holding her back.
Her family really struggled to adjust too. It was an emotional time for them all but, as Muslims, they continued to pray and took Hafsa to Mecca, to Umrah (an Islamic pilgrimage). Hafsa said:
‘I loved it, it was a very peaceful moment for me.’
Hafsa found out about RNC through a friend. She did some research and then, along with her Habilitation Officer, came along to one of the College open days.
As with most families, Hafsa’s family struggled with the thought of her leaving home to go and live so far away. But, she was determined and, fast forward to September 2019, Hafsa is now in the second year of A Level studies at RNC.
Alongside Independent Living Skills, Mobility and IT, Hafsa is studying A Levels in English Literature, History, Performing Arts and Level 2 Braille. She is also working towards an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ).
‘Coming to RNC, you’re with people in the same boat as you so if somebody doesn’t know how to cook it’s not embarrassing; you don’t have to explain your visual impairment to anyone; you don’t have to deal with the whole stigma of “oh you’re blind” or “what’s wrong with you?” You’re not put into a box like “oh you’re the blind girl”.’
‘The biggest thing with RNC is the support of staff members, they understand and don’t say to you “why can’t you get this done?” You don’t have to deal with the hassle of “can I have this enlarged?” or put your hand up constantly for assistance.’
‘At RNC everything is already here for you, the teachers know how to make everything accessible and the students just get it, they’re not going to ask you stupid questions; they’re not going to say stupid things to you and aren’t going to say “what’s wrong with you?” The students’ as a community become quite strong with each other.’
Previously life seemed to offer Hafsa constant hurdles. If she dropped something she would cry through frustration because she couldn’t see to pick things up or she would burn herself whilst cooking. Just the daily stress of being blind was hard.
‘You need someone to reassure you, and RNC does that. I was so hard on myself and critical about everything,’ remarked Hafsa.
‘Independent Living Skills at RNC helped a lot. I used to cook bits and pieces for myself but never big meals. I stopped cooking meat for a while because I couldn’t see if it was cooked or not. When I came to RNC they said you’ve got this, there are talking thermometers that make cooking really easy or small things like tacti-marks (bump-ons) on the cooker and microwave. I’ve even put bump-ons on the washing machine at home and I’m the only one out of all my sisters that can use the washing machine.’
Hafsa went on to say:
‘I would 100% recommend RNC. When you are stuck and confused and you don’t have any support you need a “safe bubble”, that you can feel protected, you can learn, but also be yourself. RNC is somewhere you don’t have to worry about being blind. It’s already a constant worry daily: What do you look like? Will people judge you? Is this or that going to happen? Coming to RNC no one is going to judge you like that, so it takes one of the biggest stresses of your life away. You’re also likely to meet someone who has the same condition, is from a similar background or someone who’s just been there and gone through sight loss. You are protected and helped, not just by teachers, but friends too.’
Hafsa plans to study English at university after RNC. She has offers from all of her university choices but her first choice is the Queen Mary University of London and Hafsa really wants to study in London.
‘In London, no one cared that I was blind and I really enjoyed the hustle and bustle. My parents were so shocked when I told them the London Underground was really easy to navigate. They can’t do it themselves and they are sighted. I went there by myself and got back by myself and just went for it. I didn’t have any assistance using the Underground, I just learned to ask. The escalators were a challenge but I figured it out.’
‘Another good thing about RNC is that I won’t struggle going to university like other freshers’ as I’ve already moved away from home and have the skills and the equipment that I need to live independently.’
One final note from Hafsa:
‘When the world’s against you, it’s a struggle to learn to adapt to it, but next thing you know you’re killing it!
If you are considering your education options and want to find out more about RNC, call our Student Enquiries team on 01432 376 621 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.