A lot of students, particularly black students from the rural areas, struggle to find a balance socially, academically, psychologically and emotionally.
Over the weekend, I spoke to four of my mentees who started their tertiary academic journey in 2017 at respective institutions in Gauteng. As the week for them to return to the city draws closer, we continued our ritual to catch up and find out what they are looking forward to in the new year academically.
I must say this: I did not expect the kind of feedback that I got, although it is not surprising at all. I have always been worried about the best-performing learners from the villages and how they fail to perform well at varsity.
This is something I have observed since I was a matriculant of the class of 2008, and the subsequent years. In general, those who were in the top 10, and had the chance to attend college or university, struggled a lot. Some changed courses several times; others even had to drop out or got excluded academically after a year or so.
Mind you, these kids are not different from the ones I was in class with. They got As and Bs, but most As. They were top of their classes. One of them said this to me: “Bra KayBee, I don’t understand how I was a top learner in my class at school who dealt with seven subjects and now I cannot even handle four modules. All I do is study and yet I still fail. Also, the life off campus is fast-paced.”
This broke my heart. The other one said, “Abuti (brother), I don’t think the University of Pretoria is for me. I am going to try North-West University this year and see if I cannot do better there. I am not coping at all.”
This reminded me of a proposal I sent to one of the institutions of higher learning earlier last year. My submission was that a lot of students, particularly black students from the rural areas, struggle to adjust to university life a lot. They struggle to find a balance socially, academically, psychologically and emotionally. I suggested that some sort of measures be implemented to help students cope with the pressures of life after matric.
Of course someone may come and say, “Well other black students are thriving and doing pretty well for themselves.” Nevertheless, this is not about those students who are doing well. It is about those who were doing exceptionally well in high school and are now struggling.
The point is that the basic education system in our country does not prepare learners for the harsh realities of life after school, especially if they are learners from disadvantaged backgrounds. Their struggle to adjust at university calls for stakeholders to rethink or come up with a solution for this stressful transitional period.
We need to prioritise life after matric. We need to ensure that those learners who were excelling at high school transition well into university or college and do not lose hope.
I’m stressed and I don’t know how I am going to encourage these young ones to keep holding on and find a way to push against all odds.
All of them are in distress and are about to call it quits. Life after matric and before varsity needs intervention. It is an urgent matter!
Kabelo Chabalala is the founder and chairperson of the Young Men Movement (YMM), an organisation that focuses on the reconstruction of the socialisation of boys to create a new cohort of men. Email, email@example.com ; Twitter, @KabeloJay; Facebook, Kabelo Chabalala
For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.