Finally graduated, officially in queue of the unemployed

Kwanele Ndlovu Singles Lane
Unemployed graduates march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Unemployed graduates march to the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
Image: Thulani Mbele

This week, after drawing the last monthly allowance from my bursary, I wrote the last exam for my degree. The pinnacle of my dedication to my studies.

I had imagined that as soon as I exited the examination centre, I would drive to the mall and buy myself new stilettos, a dark chocolate slab and some good wine.

Get a little tipsy and call everyone I love and tell them that I had done it!

But my day didn't turn out quite the way I had planned it.

There was a sudden and unexpected sadness that blanketed my path as I walked out of that examination centre. It took literally a few minutes for my mind to move from elation to anxiety.

It felt like I was experiencing a death of an era, and I knew very well that what was to be born thereafter was a heavy burden
to nurse.

I, and the other two hundred odd students in my class who are in line to graduate next year, were officially unemployed!

That is the reality of most of us students who are completing their studies this year. We join the ranks of multitudes of graduates who are looking for work in their respective field of education. Or just decent work, even if unrelated to their education.

Well, any sort of employment. Okay, anything that pays!

I remember attending a graduation party some years back and chatting to one of the ladies who wore her black gown and mortarboard, and silk sashes adorned the front table with her colleagues, celebrating a fellow graduate. I was still in employment at the time. She was asking to send me her CV, and if I could help find her work.

She was a popular guest at such events, and sometimes featured in the programme as a speaker to motivate youngsters to get tertiary education.

Sat in high back chairs and photographed in her three sashes criss-crossed around her fallen shoulders. Educated. Celebrated. Unemployed. Poor.

Her story was not unique.

You may even be one of a handful youths to have made it to university in your family. The neighbours start wondering "when are you completing your studies?", a question you answer every semester when you are home for a recess.

Then you opt for a postgraduate programme to better your chances at employment.

Which might not sit well with some family members who are pinning their hopes on you finding employment and become the breadwinner. You are now asked "why don't you find work instead, and study through Unisa?"

You attain your qualification and start looking for employment while contend with enquiries on "what are you doing this year?" and the dreaded "how are you unemployed after spending almost a decade at varsity?"

After three years of full time university studies, I am now drawing up a CV and psyching myself up for the possibility of not finding formal employment.

I am educated now. I am anxious. I am broke. And unemployed.

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