By Khethiwe Nkosi
Images supplied by Khethiwe Nkosi
My name is Khethiwe Precious Nkosi. I am 18 years old. I grew up in Thokozani, a dusty village on the outskirts of a one-street town called eMvelo, formerly Amsterdam, in Mpumalanga.
The confluence of my localised upbringing and my secondary education has strongly influenced my ambitious persona. I finished my matric at Nganana Secondary School. The fact that I have spent most of my formative years in my village, and received both my primary and secondary education in our local schools downplays the stereotype that both my village and small-town are dead-end places for dreamers.
Perhaps one of the underlying reasons for this misconception, which is even dominant among most of my peers back home, emanates from the lack of information, especially to candidates who complete grade 12 in rural areas like myself.
Lack has an implied positive symbolism to it; for me, the gaps and information divides of the village signalled an opportunity to explore, discover and learn about new things. I tried my utmost best to get more information so I can further my studies at tertiary level. I enjoyed my grade 12. It was like a family, full of brothers and sisters. But grade 12 had a lot of work and sleepless nights.
Besides all the hardships, there was both fear and excitement in knowing that it is your last year at school. Seeing your parents happy was another relief. Let alone the fact that I am the first child to finish matric at home.
My journey was shaped by the needs of my community in so many ways; initially, I wanted to pursue a degree in medicine with the overarching impact being the improvement of the availability of proper, localised healthcare. Life, however, did not unfold as I had planned.
I applied to as many universities as I could, but my applications were rejected! I stayed for almost a whole month with no luck. I almost fell into depression. I then remembered the saying, “We plan, God decide.”
Finally, and perhaps unexpectedly, I received correspondence from Mangosuthu University of Technology (MUT) on 21 February, informing me that I have been offered a space to do a National Diploma in Marketing. A course I never imagined myself doing? What a mess! I had no choice and relied only on trust. I registered and the following day I packed my bags and left heading to Durban.
I was so nervous because I have never travelled over 400km alone. The transition from home to the world was an anxious and explosive experience for me. My worst fear was being in the fast-paced cityscape, alienated from my village, which until that point, I had considered as my natural habitat.
A week later, I felt like I was in hell. I had no experience how hard it was living without your parents around. I used to cry in my sleep almost daily.
The transition from high school to university also became apparent in the first week of classes for the 2022 academic year. My varsity opened on 16 March, a Wednesday. The following week I had three tests and two assignments. I thought it was the end of me – let alone the pain of receiving phone calls from your parents and spawning a little lie every now and then to convince them that everything is okay while you know there is no such.
The hurdle to secure funding is one that is mostly strenuous; it momentarily puts you in that tiny interstitial space between your dream and its realisation. You wonder how you will buy school textbooks or even pay rent. In fact, I was puzzled that they cost too much more than I ever imagined. A month later, I finally got my NSFAS. Then, not so long after the floods, all universities shut down.
Then came the real confrontation with the digital divide of our world. Online learning was introduced as a savvy facet of learning in a pandemic-ridden world, but in a world of economic, cultural and social inequalities, it inevitably came with its own series of challenges from connectivity issues to access problems and missed lessons.
The plight of first-year students is often ignored by University management because they knew about these bad connectivity issues, but they just ignorantly turned a blind eye. Whenever we tried to report some of the challenges that were beyond us, we were reminded that this is no longer high school. Being a first year student sucks; sometimes you need to fumble and learn how to do things on your own with no one holding your hand.
The learning curve in this new tech-savvy world was too sharp for those who grew up in the village like me. The pain of typing assignments was equally a nightmare. Even things like submitting an assignment on those avant-garde online platforms was challenging. My relationship with varsity was quite ambiguous at that point.
I had deeply romanticised what it would be like to a point that I had never thought it would be so unwelcoming. People do not really tell us about it. I never even imagined they suffered this hard, but behind every smile there is that sad part that they do not reveal to anyone.
Despite all these challenges, you need to remember what you came to do at university. You need to also take friendships and close relationships seriously. There are a lot of unscrupulous people who will be claiming to be your friends. But the truth is that the only true friends whom you will meet are those who will wake you up during the midnight and encourage you to study. I came here to study, not to make friendships. I, however, am willing to make reservations to those who push me to become a better version of myself.
I wish each and every student, who is in their first years and those who will go to varsity in the future, always keep in mind what they came to attain at varsity. What they actually promised themselves when they left their homes. I believe by doing you, you will graduate in record time. We do not have to give up because of all the hardships we are currently facing.
This, too, shall pass. It is just a phase