Thuto Chopo (24), also known as the The Fabulous Thuto (his stage name), is a visually impaired student who obtained a National Diploma: Entrepreneurship during one of TUT’s Autumn graduation ceremonies.
Thuto hails from Brits in the North-West province and was raised by a single mother, Ms Julia Chopo, who he calls “the backbone of my life”. His eyesight suddenly deteriorated at the age of eleven and at 13 he turned completely blind. There is still some mystery surrounding his visual impairment, since to date no doctor could diagnose the condition leading to blindness.
He completed Grade 12 at the Prinshof School for the Visually Impaired in 2016 and, being an entrepreneur at heart, decided to enroll for a course in Entrepreneurship at TUT which he started in 2018. “In Grade 1 I used to sell my homework to friends until teachers found out about it and told my mom,” he recalls wryly. His entrepreneurial skills evolved, and he eventually started selling cartoons, and at Prinshof even ran a loansharking business, lending pocket money to friends at a lucrative interest rate.
Thuto says his studies at TUT would not have been possible without the assistance of Student Development and Support’s Disability Unit, especially Granny Makgabo.
“The Unit, among others, translates his textbooks into soft copies and uses JAWS software, a screen which assists blind users to use a Windows computer, whether for assignments or exams,” he says. At the start of his first year, the Unit also provided him with mobility training through the SA Council for the Blind. As part of this training, someone accompanied him to his classes from and back to the Magalies residence on the Pretoria Campus until he could find it on his own.
He says initially other students feared him, but once they got to know him assist him in whatever way they can. These days a female Contact Centre Management student mentor, assists him when he needs help.
They met last year when Thuto was walking back to res from a test when he almost got run over by a car. She came to his rescue and since then the two have formed a special bond.
Asked how the University can further assist him, Thuto says installing audio in lifts would help a great deal to ensure that you reach the right destination. “On the academic side, I have no issues at all. My lecturers are very understanding.”
Thuto is also very active outside of the lecture halls. He has started a social App, called Campus Inn, which aims for students to empower one another through discussions on issues relating to safety, accommodation, exclusions, allowances, etc. The App is available on PlayStore and no bullying and hate speech are allowed. Businesses who wish to get into contact with students also use it
Music is his other passion. “When I lost my eyesight, I couldn’t do art as a form of expression any longer and turned to music.” He has released two rap EP’s (mixed tapes), Magalies House 4 and Campus Vibes. The latter was nominated for a 2021 Mzanzi Music Award (Best Newcomer of the Year category) and ended up among the top five.
Make sure to check out his music video, Sanitizer, on YouTube (1502) The Fabulous Thuto internal bleeding - YouTube) that was shot at the Pretoria Campus. He sings all sorts of styles and performs at clubs, corporate events, churches, and any special occasions.
Asked how he stays so positive, he says: “Losing my eyesight made me angry as a kid. But I had to accept that this is who I am. I accepted that I’m unique and embraced my uniqueness.”
In 2017, Thuto was also involved in scriptwriting for the SABC soapie, 90 Plein Street. In addition, he has co-authored a self-published book, Distant Cousins, with his cousin, Letlogonolo Setate, a Civil Engineering student at TUT. The book, which is available from smashwords.com, features 50 poems in which the cousins debate which is more economically viable, engineering or commerce.
Thuto is currently enrolled for an Advanced Diploma in Business Administration.
“I plan to work with TUT and other universities through my app, Campus Inn. I believe that my story will be a great inspiration one day in the music industry. I’m open to work with every gifted artist, especially music producers,” he concludes.
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