Don't settle for ordinary

Rhodes>Perspective>2013 Archive

The beginning of this year Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced last year's matric results. In her address to the nation she mentioned that "we're encouraged by notable improvements in the education of children and society.

Sustained improvements on matric results are a consequence of systematic interventions for strengthening and raising performance in all levels of the system." These interventions saw 377 829 of our South African pupils out of a noteworthy 511 152 matriculating last year. However, out of those who passed 26.6% received what seems to be a non-conventional degree pass.

With that said, I must applaud the pupils who managed to achieve what was required of them, especially in the face of adversity and life's antagonism. It goes without saying, though, that these are the fruits of the hard work pupils have put in. They have come this far because they had a goal and a purpose - we need to remember that!

As first year students, the journey that they are starting in institutions of higher learning is one filled with challenges, lots of apprehension, turmoil and gloom. Many of them will battle with assimilation in the respective institutions because academic institutional cultures differ greatly from what they are used to.

I must caution first years in universities around South Africa that if they want to be socialites they will become socialites, but if they want to become scholars and academics, they can be. The secret lies in learning to juggle many balls and finding a balance.

The Xhosas have a well known saying, indoda ayikhali, meaning a man does not cry. But being a Xhosa man I must admit, I have cried during my time at Rhodes University. I remember it like it was yesterday when 1 was writing 3 500-word weekly assignments and every time I wrote them the sun would set and rise (without my sleeping).

My frustrations drove me to call my parents, asking them if I could go back home once —OK I lie, maybe more than once. This is not meant to scare you because when I think back to those moments, I look at them as a reminder of the discipline, determination and perseverance it took to obtain a renowned Rhodes University degree.

Ask anyone who has travelled on this road and they will tell you — OK, maybe not the part where they cried — but that they too can share in my sentiments. I would like to urge all South African students going into institutions of higher learning to choose their degrees wisely. Do not feel pressured in choosing a degree simply because of the way it may sound to others, or because of its name. Choose it based on your capabilities. Sometimes that's all it takes, just being honest with yourself.

Don't let your quest for money determine your degree of choice, let your quest for knowledge be the determinant. Tiger Woods once said he played to master the game and money is just the measure of his mastery. So in essence do what you will master! I would also like to applaud all the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles across the country.

Because you too have travelled the same distance encouraging your children or child every step of the way. I wish to comfort you - as you let go of your little ones and usher them into a realm of higher education - with a piece of poetry by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

He said: "Though much is taken, much abides; and though we are not now that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate, but strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." What I am essentially saying is that only you as guardians have the will and power to be nearby in the most dreadful times even though you may seem unneeded, to affirm what no one else can.

So rest assured, your little ones will always need you because those moments in life or at least in institutions of higher learning have a way of creeping up on you. Nevertheless, in the midst of your pupil adversities as new university Students, in the journey that you're starting, you should know that you are not on your own.

There is a whole range of people at universities, such as your deans, professors, lecturers, tutors, librarians, house war dens and senior and students, who are there to assist, ants; and who are there to help create a stimulating learning environment. Academia can transform you, stimulate and make you fly.

The trick is not to be ordinary - question the unquestioned. As Martin Luther King jnr said, "The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character — that is the goal of true education." This is what will truly develop our respective nations: a desire to be knowledgeable to about our surroundings whether it be social, economic, environmental or political.

This is an essential step towards the emergence of a new humanism. In concluding, I would like to leave you with life's the words of Frantz Fanon: "Each generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it". And so I ask you: what is your mission and will you fulfil it?

By: Sakh'usomeleze Badi

Sakh'usomeleze Badi isRhodes University SRC president. 'I must applaud the pupils who managed to achieve what was required of them, especially in the face of adversity and life's antagonism’

Source: The Herald