Gadija Arend is the smiling lady who greets you as you enter the Writing Centre. It has been fifteen years since Gadija first joined ADP, CHED. As the Administrator of the Writing Centre, Gadija shares how the workplace has evolved over time, as well as some of her realisations after she suffered a stroke last October.
As the Administrator, Gadija strives to ensure the smooth running of the Writing Centre. She is involved with the interview process, managing the payment of Writing Centre consultants and has to keep abreast with technological changes such as the new online booking system. Often she is seen responding to students’ queries about online registrations and submission of drafts with a warm smile. Few people know that students also call on her for advice seeing her as a motherly figure. Her other roles include serving as an Employment Equity Representative, CHED Transformation Committee Representative and Coordinator for ADP research uploads on the Irma system. This, she has found enjoyable for it has enabled her to learn more about latest Academic literacies and Multimodality research projects.
A few months ago, on the 20th of October, Gadija felt restless, unable to sleep. At 5 pm, when answering a phone call, she noticed her slurring speech. But it was only on the following day that she agreed to see a doctor. She was immediately taken to Victoria hospital for urgent medical attention. Three days later, she could not get out of bed, experiencing lameness on the left side. Still, she was certain to be cured in a week’s time, and insisted that the doctors leave her books by her bedside. She would call her colleagues at work to check that all was in order, but by then, they had learnt of her health condition and refrained from speaking of work. This was also the time the Fees must fall movement was in full swing. While in hospital, she insisted on walking, though to others, it was evident that she was dragging her left leg.
Two weeks later, she moved to the Western Cape Rehabilitation Centre in Lentegeur, where she met other patients with worse conditions, some on stretchers. After spending a month in a wheel chair and attending physiotherapy sessions, the day had come for Gadija to walk again. ‘I realised how nice it is to walk again. Even with a stick, it is so empowering,’ she recalls. She remembers people telling her she would struggle to walk, and took up the challenge to prove them wrong. ‘One day, I will hike up the mountain,’ she replied.
Gadija is now back with us at the Writing Centre. Day after day, she feels her limbs strengthening, with much more movement in her left wrist and fingers. She is grateful to her colleagues who allowed her to ‘ease into the job slowly’. She also lauds the support offered by the Disability Unit, though she admits, ‘they have limited funds, only two vans, and the drivers work under pressure to accommodate all those in need of special transport’.
Looking around her, Gadija notes that the physical structures at UCT are still in need of transformation. Her eyes constantly scan the place for railings and ramps, automatic doors and she notes that, ‘some parts of UCT are still inaccessible to individuals with special needs’. This is an area she would like to focus on once she resumes her role on the CHED Transformation Committee.
The stroke has made her realise two things: patience and hope. ‘All my life, my priest said, ‘Be patient’. I never understood what it meant. At this point, I am forced to learn what patience is, because my physical movements are slower, and sometimes, I have to ask people for help and patiently wait for them to be available’. She also shared that, had she listened to unproductive comments, she might not be standing on her feet today. She insisted, ‘Never give up hope. Trust in God. Remain positive no matter what be your position. Keep trying. Even when the rest of the world says you can’t, say that you can’.