Looking back on the last two years of tertiary life, I am imbued with mixed thoughts of past experiences.
Only one word comes to mind when I think of varsity: "transition", and so much goes into switching from high-schooler to young professional.
What bothers me is the issue of dropping out in the middle of this transition. I don't dispute factors such as financial constraints and being firstgeneration students. I do, however stand in awe at preventable self-destructive measures.
As a current student, I'll not elevate myself and advise on partying, drinking and wrong crowds. What I can testify to, though, is that what you put in is what you'll get out, because timing is everything.
There's a quote by Edgar A Guest that says: "You are the person who has to decide. Whether you will do it or toss it aside. You are the person who makes up your mind. Whether you will lead or linger behind. Whether you will try for the goal that's afar or just be contented to stay where you are."
These thoughts are part of what serves to me as an eye-opener of what state no academic student desires to be in. If you're already in a tertiary institution and have lost all hope, it's never too late to get back on top of your game. If you're planning to start tertiary education, stay on top of your game!
In my first year, one time as I lay awake in the middle of the night, I could not help feeling numb. Allow me to relate this in the present tense. My room mate's peaceful slumber is disturbed by me switching on my study lamp. I instruct him to go back to sleep and he does so without hesitation. I look around me and pause to ponder: "Why am I here?"
My side of the room has a single bed on the right side, covered in a striped-pattern duvet set. On my bedside is my study table, which has been used for everything but studying. Instead, a computer with a state-of-the-art surround-sound occupies it.
My shelf is packed with books I've never looked at. It looks just like a "good student's" shelf should. The walls are covered with posters of what my mother wouldn't approve of back at home. One can't stop envying the footwear collection I have on display, and as for my clothes, you'd swear I'm a celebrity.
I've made a name for myself around campus. I hang out with one of the hottest crews and, undoubtedly, a lot of other okes want to be like me. What everyone doesn't know is that I'd also like to be like me. The real me. Being hot and staying hot is like studying towards another degree.
In high school, I was heavily involved in extra-mural activities. In varsity, I don't participate in a single extra-curricular activity. My sports equipment vegetates in my room, because it wouldn't be cool for a person of my calibre to play sports.
I matriculated with good grades but where I am, people without lives get good grades. I have a life, which is why I'm pretty much failing. The situation back at home contradicts my current situation.
My mom struggles through odd jobs to take care of my younger brothers, sisters and myself. She sacrificed everything to get me into the best schools and is currently facing her greatest challenge, tertiary fees.
The family is counting on me to get my degree in three years and better our standard of living. My mom would rather go hungry than have me deprived of an education. She did not have the privilege of schooling, but swore that her children would.
How I harass and manipulate my mother. I lied to her in saying that computers were compulsory for my study course. My fancy clothes and shoes weren't bought out of love, but out of persistence and constant irritation.
I told her that I'd not go to varsity and humiliate myself with old clothes, while other children looked good in designer brands.
My state-of-the-art surround-sound was purchased with the money I needed for "degree-determining prescribed textbooks". I refuse to get a study loan because it'll make me look needy, so I make up excuses on failure to get a loan.
I've failed my first semester dismally. How could I pass? I skipped all my lectures and wrote only second opportunity exams. My mother understands, because her little boy is doing his very best and is "adjusting" to living away from home. If only she knew just how well her little boy was adjusting.
Who am I fooling? I can't keep up this spoilt brat act. All varsity is for me is an expensive holiday. It tears my heart that so many people believe in me and are counting on me. Am I going to lose my education because of my pride, or am I going to lose my pride because of my education?
So much has been invested in me, it's time I started behaving like an investment. I can't reverse the first semester, but I can make right with the semesters to come.
After all, it's my abilities that got me in here, and it's those very same abilities that willl get me out of here. And on top of my game!
lThe writer is the winner of the 2005 Anglo American and Sowetan Young Communicators Award. It is supported by the nine provincial education departments. Education Minister Naledi pandor is its proud patron.