Top Speech Language Therapy Student, Ms Robyn Furber.

Top Student Scoops Susan M Swart Award

Ms Robyn Furber graduated top of her Speech-Language Therapy class and also received a Susan M Swart Award for her academics.

‘I’m really happy that all the hard work paid off and am very proud to be graduating with some brilliant speech-language therapists who I know will do great things in the future,’ said Furber.

Furber, who has suffered from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) since she was 13 years old, is grateful to her family who she says supported her throughout her studies and hopes her achievement has made them proud.

ME/CFS causes extreme fatigue and flu-like symptoms for months and years at a time.

This achievement means so much to Furber, not only because it marks a successful end to the long journey of her degree but because there have been times in her life when she thought she would never be able to lead a normal life.

‘Being sick forced me to sacrifice a lot of the hopes I had for high school and adolescence,’ said Furber. ‘UKZN allowed me to complete my degree over an extended period to allow for my different abilities. As a result, I was able to achieve more than I had allowed myself to hope for. That in itself means everything to me.’

She completed Grades 8 to 11 at Danville Park Girls’ High School in Durban but when she became too ill to keep up with regular school schedules, she spent two years completing matric at St Barnabas Independent School.

Her future plans include working with special populations and children from birth to three, especially in the public sector where there is a big need and a lot to learn. ‘Above and beyond everything though, I want to live a useful life,’ said Furber.

Finding joy in small things, learning to be grateful and to look for wisdom in every experience keeps Furber going.

‘She advised those who were still studying to look inward. ‘Find out what kind of person and professional you want to be, then try to look for areas that need work. Don’t aim for numbers or pass/fail criteria. Look for skills, look for the applications that follow each theoretical principle you’re taught. Work to the best of your ability. Look to others for inspiration, but do not aim for their marks. Aim for qualities, attitudes, approaches to learning and never equate your marks with your personal worth.’

Words: Nombuso Dlamini