Finding the light at the end of the tunnel

Last week, I started thinking about the challenges and emotions I experienced at the beginning of the year. Without a doubt, this year goes down as the most stressful and trying in my entire existence. I have learned one lesson in the process: the invisibility of a light at the end of the tunnel does not necessarily mean that things will not get better.

I remember being filled with so much elation at the end of last year when I received the news that I had been admitted to study journalism honours. I was ready to embark on my newest academic adventure. My joy was soon overshadowed by the anxiety of not knowing how I was going to finance my studies. I had no money for registration, never mind my tuition and accommodation fees.

When the day of registration came, and Wits offered debt agreements for students who couldn’t pay registration fees there and then, I was left with no choice but to sign on that dotted line.  As I was signing, I was at peace with the fact that I was not alone in this battle, that there were other students facing the same problem.

When classes began a few weeks later, I found it difficult to enjoy the course that I had always wanted to do. At the back of my mind toiled the fear of being financially excluded from this prestigious institution.

The funding opportunities at my disposal and for which I had applied, returned with a negative response, if any at all. With several attempts at calling to enquire about my applications, some failed to explain why they were unable to fund my studies.

As the months went by, my experience was one of tremendous defeat. The pain felt more like a punishment. I suffered dreadful unhealthy thoughts, fear and worry. I found myself continually questioning the worthiness of proceeding with my studies. Returning to Limpopo seemed to be a much better option than enduring the strife.

I realised that I was lacking coping mechanisms and that it was difficult to perform well academically when I was distressed.

I have seen a number of students across the country taking out their frustrations about their funding struggles on social media. I also came across various articles that revealed student financial burden as the predominant source of depression. All of this made me realise that I was not alone and that there were other students who were swimming in the same pool of frustration.

Thankfully my darling mother, MaMmotla, dispelled my doubts and induced a sense of optimism in me. She would tell me, that it was going to be okay and that I should persevere and that something would come up. With that little encouragement, I was able to gather myself and weather the storms that lay ahead.

The beginning to the end of my financial stresses came two months ago, when I was awarded a full bursary. The burden I had been carrying around for so long lifted off my shoulders. It meant that I would now be able to focus on my academics and finish this year on a high note. I am now able to invest and immerse myself in the course a little more than I did, and focus on enjoying every moment of what is left of my honours year.

As clichéd as it may sound, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Things may not go according to your envisioned plans, but it is important never to cease searching for opportunities and definitely never to throw in the towel.

 

 

SLICE OF LIFE : The fear of the unknown

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.

 

Cool kid on campus

LITERATURE SMART: Mafule Moswane standing up for women in his writing. Photo: Kayleen Morgan

IT IS National Book Week, and this week’s cool kid on campus is nothing short of a book worm. Word smith, literature enthusiast, author, entrepreneur and an avid feminist. Mafule Moswane is currently doing his master’s in geography and environmental studies at Wits and is the ambassador for Club Readership, an institution created for Africans and those in the diaspora to engage with African books written by African authors.

Mafule is also an author of two books, Katrina and other untold stories and A Learner’s guide to academic success.

Determined to break and make a valuable contribution to gender and cultural barriers, Mafule penned the story of Katrina, a woman frowned upon for defying cultural norms.

Katrina and other untold stories is an anthology of African short stories. “It’s me narrating my stories about my bae Katrina who I love so much. Unfortunately, in the rural areas they don’t want her because she can’t cook. She’s an academic and a businesswoman. I’m in love with her, but at home they are like if she can’t cook she doesn’t meet the minimum requirements to be a wife,” Moswane says.

“My work is challenging old ways of thinking and introduces a new way of thinking and encourages a conversation between generations. A conversation about feminism, gender roles and patriarchy,” he says.

It’s no surprise that Moswane’s everyday crush is feminist and Nigerian author, Chimamda Ngozi Adichie.

He shares his birthday and also looks up to the Harry Potter series novelist JK Rowling for inspiration and enjoys the author’s creative writing style.

Moswane believes he is compelled, as an author, to rewrite the wrongs of oppression and fight for women. He believes that his stories are unique and finds that it is important that Africans tell their own tales. “My stories are unique, they are told by an African and for a long time African stories were being told from the outside perspective,” he says.

LEMON & VODKA

The High Commissioner of Canada in South Africa, Sandra McCardell, says the world needs to deal with women who are “vulnerable, face discrimination, exclusion and violence, and instead, give them the opportunity to fulfil their dreams”.  (more…)

SLICE OF LIFE: United we shall stand

One thing that I was weary of when writing this piece was how difficult it is these days to express an opinion without being dragged on social media or offending someone.

I’m not sure why but, in recent years, it seems as though there has been a lot of negativity in the air, not just within the walls of the university but within the country as a whole. Yes, there are many reasons to be despondent about our country, given all of the political, social and economic issues that we are bombarded with on a daily basis. There are, however, many things that we as South Africans can be proud of, with regard to the country as a whole and, most importantly, with respect to the people that we interact with every day.

As someone who has had the privilege of being able to travel outside of our borders, I can honestly say that there is no place like home. The people are what make the country and, in most cases, we are the friendliest and most welcoming people anywhere in the world. It’s that compassion that makes tourists rave about how great we are. So, why is it difficult for us to extend those same courtesies to each other?

South Africa is a place with great diversity and cultural influences. From our languages, people and food, to sport and music, our country has become known as a “rainbow nation” due to the melting pot of cultures that really makes South Africa a place I am proud to call home.

The diversity of the people is something that is very unique to our nation and something that should be celebrated rather than frowned upon. The fact that we are able to interact with people from all walks of life and, for the most part, accommodate everyone’s beliefs and traditions, is something that many other countries aspire to and commend us for.

As someone who is passionate about sport and the power that it can have in uniting people, I always think of the 2010 Fifa World Cup. That, for me, was one of the best times to be a South African. It was a time when all of the country’s problems seemed to just melt away and everyone was united.

Although Bafana Bafana did what they do best and disappointed us, the camaraderie among South Africans carried on long after the home team had been eliminated. South Africans began to rally behind other African nations, such as Ghana, that still had a chance of winning the tournament.

However, in the years since that amazing time, xenophobia has been a major issue in the country and people seem to have lost that sense of togetherness and support for one another. There have been many reported instances of racism, and it baffles me that in this day and age there are people who still think that they are better than others based on the colour of their skin.

While this might be a very idealistic and naïve view on the country at the moment, the fact is that we were united once, in the not-too-distant past, so why can’t we be united again?