Alanka Babb is not an ordinary woman. She was born with macular dystrophy, a rare eye condition that causes progressive vision loss and cannot be cured or corrected. She grew up in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Guyana, where education was not a priority and disability support was nonexistent. She struggled to see the blackboard and read books, but she never gave up on her dreams.
She taught herself how to read at 13 by borrowing books from the library and falling in love with reading. She graduated from college in Guyana without any accommodations for her visual impairment. She moved to the US in 2015 to pursue a master’s degree in counseling education, where she learned about the Americans with Disabilities Act and received the support she needed to thrive academically.
She completed her master’s degree in 2019 and enrolled in a PhD program in education at Liberty University in 2020. She successfully defended her dissertation in 2022, becoming one of the few visually impaired people to earn a PhD in the US. Her research focused on the experiences of students with disabilities in higher education.
Alanka’s story is one of resilience, determination, and courage. She overcame many challenges and barriers to achieve her educational goals and inspire others. She is a role model for people with disabilities, especially women and girls from developing countries who face multiple forms of discrimination and marginalization.
According to the World Health Organization, there are about 285 million people with visual impairment worldwide, of whom 39 million are blind and 246 million have low vision. About 90% of them live in low- and middle-income countries, where they have limited access to education, health care, employment, and social services.
Only about 10% of children with disabilities in developing countries attend school, compared to 80% of those without disabilities. The literacy rate for adults with disabilities is as low as 3%, and even lower for women with disabilities. The enrollment rate for students with disabilities in higher education is also very low, ranging from 0.1% to 2% in some countries.
Alanka’s story shows that these statistics are not destiny. She proves that people with disabilities can achieve their full potential if they have the opportunity, support, and motivation. She also shows that education is a powerful tool for empowerment and transformation, not only for individuals but also for communities and societies.
Alanka deserves to be celebrated for her remarkable achievements and contributions. She is a shining example of what is possible when people with disabilities are given the chance to pursue their dreams and talents. She is a voice of hope and change for millions of people who face similar challenges and aspire to similar goals.
In other news, a teenager defeated cancer and graduated with a 4.7 GPA to pursue her Neurology dream at New York University. Aya Osman is a young woman who has shown incredible courage and determination in her life. She has fought and survived cancer, graduated from high school with a 4.7 GPA, and earned a scholarship to study at New York University, where she plans to become a neurologist.
Aya’s journey began when she was 12 years old and her older sister spotted a lump on her neck. She went to the doctor and found out that she had cancer. She had to go through six months of chemotherapy, which was tough and scary. Read more about Aya’s story here.
Aya and Alanka did not let their medical condition define their strengths. They fought and won and deserves all the accolades. Keep rising young heroes. Africa is proud of you.
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