• Today is: Sunday, October 22, 2017

SLICE OF LIFE : The fear of the unknown

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Nonkululeko Njilo
October02/ 2017

There are two months left of the 2017 academic year and I am honestly apprehensive about what the future holds.

I am anxious about two things: Firstly, doing well enough academically in order to meet the requirements to be accepted into a master’s degree programme.

Secondly, I am fearful of the possibility of becoming an unemployed graduate statistic.

There’s been a surge of qualified youngsters who have opted to stand on street corners with placards advertising their skills and qualifications, with some even using the #HireAGraduate hashtag to meet their potential employer on social media platforms.

This unconventional way of job seeking has led me to realise my ultimate fear: having to stand at the traffic light intersection holding a placard outlining my capabilities.

There is often a myth that university graduates don’t struggle to find employment. This is so far from the reality precisely because there are no jobs waiting for graduates, as they need to hustle harder because there are many graduates and too few jobs.

Growing up and attending public schools in Soweto, which had little or no resources, I was told “education is the key to success”, but experience has forced me to think otherwise.

It surely can’t be “success”, when a substantial number of graduates are unemployed; that when some graduates enter the job market, they are told they are underqualified or overqualified, never mind the hundreds of thousands of rands of debt hanging over them.

Part of the reason why I think this “success” thing is downright gobbledygook, is because I have a few friends who had to pull down their knickers to get jobs and these are jobs they are qualified to do.

I have friends who graduated with distinction but are still unemployed and this shatters me and probably adds to the fear I am venting about.

I do not want to completely dismiss the notion that “education is the key to success”, particularly because I’m of the view that it’s subjective and that education perhaps increases one’s chances of getting employment or attaining wealth.

More than 50% of job vacancies I have come across have as a requirement “work experience”, which I have not attained. One would probably say “but there are internships”, not taking into consideration that they pay little or are unpaid.

Besides that, black tax is waiting for me. Just last week my mother proudly said, “I can’t wait for you to start working so you can renovate the house.” What she said left me defeated, speechless, and helpless.

It’s absolutely normal for a black parent who received little education, who makes a living through informal businesses, to be proud of raising a Wits graduate.

I do, however, think it’s a bit impossible for her to imagine the same Wits graduate struggling to find employment. And perhaps, the thought would kill her. This is Wits we are talking about, a world-class university, as some call it.

Where I come from, very few people make it into higher institutions of learning. When they do, there is a lot of societal expectation that they have to live up to. This includes getting a good job and a fancy car.

The mentality is that material wealth is the measurement of success. If you don’t live up to these expectations, it is often assumed that you wasted money and time by studying and that it’s better to have gone straight to the workplace after high school.

The take out from my experience is that if you are still a student, find a part-time job, make a little bit of money and save because it will come in handy after completing your studies.  Remember that any work experience is a stepping stone for learning how to be a professional.

 

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Nonkululeko Njilo