OPINION: Deep divisions between east and west campuses

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Percy Matshoba
Photo: TJ Lemon

As an East campus dweller and a West campus trespasser, I used to find that being recognised as a credible student did not come easy. 

I always felt compelled to prove my intelligence, particularly on the side where the sun sets. In my first year as a Witsie, I discovered there was an unspoken hierarchy between the different Wits campuses, and East campus was at the bottom. You won’t find this status on notice boards, and there’s no statistic to back it up. It is simply implied by our over-the-bridge neighbours, in questions like: “Do you even need to study?” or in comments like: “I wish I was a BA student, you guys sit on the grass all day”. 

After a year of desperation, I enrolled in a commerce course in which our lecturer would often warn us that if we failed, we could always enrol in a BA course. It wasn’t that I was unsure of my choice or that I did not have a sense of direction, it was that I had allowed my insecurities to dim my light. I did not want to be an accountant or an actuary, despite the pay. I did not find the idea of being a lawyer appealing. I knew exactly what I wanted. I wanted to inspire, inform and to simply “write what I like”.

After many years of dodging questions like: “What are you studying”? Or “Is there a big market for what you’re studying?” I have found that my choice of study was not what I needed to alter to appease the unimpressed. It was my response to their attitudes. Mine needed to be the weapon which broke the ignorance.

The war between east and west has its source in our country’s education system, which esteems some courses over others. This arrogance has led to companies funding only the faculties which are home to those esteemed subjects. Our attitude as a country has created a clear divide. The fact that there is a divide between the Wits campuses is merely the symptom of a wider problem, not the root of it. I have learnt that I don’t want to be valued because of what I do or how much I earn. I want to be valued because of what I contribute to society.

Mother Teresa once said: “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”