Fi­nally grad­u­ated, of­fi­cially in queue of the un­em­ployed

Sowetan - - Timeout Art / Opinion - Kwanele Ndlovu

This week, af­ter draw­ing the last monthly al­lowance from my bur­sary, I wrote the last exam for my de­gree. The pin­na­cle of my ded­i­ca­tion to my stud­ies.

I had imag­ined that as soon as I ex­ited the ex­am­i­na­tion cen­tre, I would drive to the mall and buy my­self new stilet­tos, a dark choco­late slab and some good wine.

Get a lit­tle tipsy and call ev­ery­one I love and tell them that I had done it!

But my day didn’t turn out quite the way I had planned it.

There was a sud­den and un­ex­pected sadness that blan­keted my path as I walked out of that ex­am­i­na­tion cen­tre. It took lit­er­ally a few min­utes for my mind to move from ela­tion to anx­i­ety.

It felt like I was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a death of an era, and I knew very well that what was to be born there­after was a heavy bur­den to nurse.

I, and the other two hun­dred odd stu­dents in my class who are in line to grad­u­ate next year, were of­fi­cially un­em­ployed!

That is the re­al­ity of most of us stu­dents who are com­plet­ing their stud­ies this year. We join the ranks of mul­ti­tudes of grad­u­ates who are look­ing for work in their re­spec­tive field of ed­u­ca­tion. Or just de­cent work, even if un­re­lated to their ed­u­ca­tion.

Well, any sort of em­ploy­ment. Okay, any­thing that pays!

I re­mem­ber at­tend­ing a grad­u­a­tion party some years back and chat­ting to one of the ladies who wore her black gown and mor­tar­board, and silk sashes adorned the front ta­ble with her col­leagues, cel­e­brat­ing a fel­low grad­u­ate. I was still in em­ploy­ment at the time. She was ask­ing to send me her CV, and if I could help find her work.

She was a pop­u­lar guest at such events, and some­times fea­tured in the pro­gramme as a speaker to mo­ti­vate young­sters to get ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion.

Sat in high back chairs and pho­tographed in her three sashes criss-crossed around her fallen shoul­ders. Ed­u­cated. Cel­e­brated. Un­em­ployed. Poor.

Her story was not unique. You may even be one of a hand­ful youths to have made it to univer­sity in your fam­ily. The neigh­bours start won­der­ing “when are you com­plet­ing your stud­ies?”, a ques­tion you an­swer ev­ery se­mes­ter when you are home for a re­cess.

Then you opt for a post­grad­u­ate pro­gramme to bet­ter your chances at em­ploy­ment.

Which might not sit well with some fam­ily mem­bers who are pin­ning their hopes on you find­ing em­ploy­ment and be­come the bread­win­ner. You are now asked “why don’t you find work in­stead, and study through Unisa?”

You at­tain your qual­i­fi­ca­tion and start look­ing for em­ploy­ment while con­tend with en­quiries on “what are you do­ing this year?” and the dreaded “how are you un­em­ployed af­ter spend­ing al­most a decade at var­sity?”

Af­ter three years of full time univer­sity stud­ies, I am now draw­ing up a CV and psych­ing my­self up for the pos­si­bil­ity of not find­ing for­mal em­ploy­ment.

I am ed­u­cated now. I am anx­ious. I am broke. And un­em­ployed.


Un­em­ployed grad­u­ates march to the Union Build­ings in Pre­to­ria.

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