That’s what ‘now’ feels like, Murky water. Grey brown muddy murky water. The past 10 days have been tumultuous…no it’s been down right crap. Just trying to find the right words gives me a headache. I need to be politically correct, or do I? It’s just my opinion, my stupid opinion.
I’ve had enough of these student protests. I’m on the verge of tears every time I think about it. I appreciate that life is darn right challenging for many people on levels I can’t comprehend. I appreciate the fact that my own parents put themselves through tertiary education by scraping money together and making tremendous sacrifices to study part-time. I recognise that I was more fortunate than them – because of them. They could not pay for my studies initially, and I didn’t qualify for a bursary but yet they made it possible for me to get a study loan.
Also, I do remember feeling debilitated after I finished studying because I had debt of R40000.00 when I first started working. My first salary was just under R2000.00 (in 1997). If I paid 10% of that on my study loan each month, it would have taken me no less than 200 months – that’s 17 years to pay off that debt! And that’s without yet even paying off the interest.
It’s tough to be a student. Big shout out to my parents who would not even consider me not studying – even though the mere thought of that kind of debt is off putting. Nevertheless, I was rather fortunate when after I graduated, I ended up getting a permanent job in the Western Cape government and they paid off my study debt in return for me working for a certain number of years. My dad paid the money I owed for my stay in the residence.
Be that as it may, fast forwarding a few years…today I am a lecturer. And I’ll be bold enough to say, I’m a very hard working lecturer. My students are my priority. Also funny enough I’m still a student too. So I’m very much caught up and entangled in the academic web.
These past 10 days have left me feeling lost, incapacitated. Before this I’d been chasing targets and deadlines, submissions – the weeks did not have enough hours. I enjoyed the thrill of aiming for the impossible. I missed a few, but I hit most of them. I was on a roll. Then suddenly I was stopped dead in my tracks.
Perhaps it would not have seemed as awful if I had suspected what was coming. Last Tuesday I overheard colleagues saying that as a precaution we should probably avoid coming to work the Wednesday because there was talk of student protests. Then I heard some noises coming from outside our building. We looked outside and saw that there were indeed students already protesting. Management told us to go home, but as we tried to make our way off campus we found that students had barricaded the entrances to the campus and were not letting anyone in or out. We were forced to stay on campus for 2 hours.
The next day we heard stories of marches to parliament. The media hailed the students. If I only went on the media reports then I would have believed the students did something heroic. But I had more than media reports. I had colleagues and fellow students sending me messages and updates of happenings occurring at my campus. Shops on campus being looted. Property (buildings and cars) being vandalised and people being threatened. Where’s the heroism in that?
Since the Wednesday the tension was building. By the Friday I tried to stop listening to the media reports. I was still upset not being able to go to work, but I was worried about our students too. How could I not be? They are some peoples’ children, just like I am my parents’ child. They are my children. They are my friends. I thought that after the president addressed the students caving to their demands it would end – but it seems the more they get, the more they demand.
On Sunday I started getting ready to go to work for Monday, but late Sunday night another message came through. All was still not well on campus and University Management were in emergency meetings with students. Then Monday evening we got the green light to head back into work the Tuesday. What a relief, after all the exams are starting next week. I packed my bags and went to bed early, rather happy that things would return to normal.
Tuesday morning my colleague called me to say that shortly after she arrived at campus she and other were forcibly removed and physically threatened with a fire extinguisher. Management then sent an urgent communique to all staff and students stating that campus would remain closed until Thursday. I hope, I sincerely hope that on Friday I can get back.
I realise that what I’m expressing might not resonate with everyone. People might think, “so like really, what’s the big deal?”. Well truthfully, just like this is only my opinion, that sentiment would only be their opinion. If someone doesn’t understand I am indeed happy for them. It means they don’t know that unpleasant experience of being in limbo. Having the do an emergency brake for a herd of cattle that’s passing the road…. while the herd is damaging your car. To plan something and then postpone your plan, then re-plan and then abandon your plan, and then being told to plan again, but then being told to cancel your plan. That’s what it feels like….
This too, shall pass.