I feel uncomfortable right now, I don’t know if or when academic activities will be resumed, I don’t know if my exam that was scheduled for next week Tuesday is going to get pushed back and I don’t know what the rest of my academic year is going to look like. I don’t know if my fees for next year are going to increase nor if some of my friends will be able to come back to 5th year next year. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do my elective in November, or if I’ll be able to get that holiday job in December. I just don’t know and not knowing is an uncomfortable feeling; an uncomfortable feeling that has kept me awake for the past 5 days now. An uncomfortable feeling that has made it hard to get any work done. An uncomfortable feeling that is now impacting my health. I hate the shutdown but I understand it’s purpose. I feel ill just thinking about how everything is in the air right now, and how I just don’t know, keep in mind it’s only been 5 days. Now that you have wallowed in my 5 day sorrow, take a minute to imagine what it’s like being that person who has had to deal with this “I just don’t know” feeling, and the uncertainty and discomfort it brings everyday of their life because they just can’t afford tertiary education, and don’t know what the rest of their life is going to be like. Imagine being that student that was able to enroll to study but hasn’t been able to focus nor study effectively because they’re just too stressed out by their fees balance and the fact that they have been facing financial exclusion before they even registered. Imagine the burden of poverty and how paralyzing it is. There’s always someone who’s at a disadvantage compare to you, so technically we are all privileged to a certain degree. Let’s be mindful in telling people how they should channel a pain we cannot begin to understand, a despair we have never heard of and an anger we may never feel. I stand with the movement and I will accept whatever name you throw at us in our fight to have our voices heard, in our fight to give access to many, in our fight to make fees fall and in our fight for free quality education.
Coming on as a B.Sc undergrad to enter medicine in 3rd year through the ever growing popular Graduate Entry Medical Program, commonly know as GEMP. I had no reference point as to what medical school was actually going to be like, especially since I hadn’t really known anyone who had gone or who was going through it. My ignorance had me thinking it would be something out of a Grey’s Anatomy episode. Boy, was I wrong!
One word, PCMS, the block that has haunted every graduate from Wits since its introduction. 8am to 5pm, 4:30pm if you’re lucky, Monday to Friday. Pathology, microbiology, pharmacology, immunology, biostatistics and bioethics presented in the form of back to back lectures and theme sessions (a fancy name for labs). Information overload at its best, between trying to remember how different tissue dies (I still get this wrong), the life cycle of Strongyloides stercoralis (still don’t know it today) and drugs named by a person who probably hated people (if it ends with a ‘LOL’ then it’s beta blocker, right?) It wasn’t hell but it was definitely the closest I’ve ever been to it. They didn’t bother organizing the lectures according to subjects and their excuse was that “it’s all integrated” (No, actually stop lying). By the end of my first week (keep in mind, I had enrolled two weeks late) I had more notes than I could fit in my bag and by this point all I was thinking was maybe I should just move into the library for a few weeks or find the nearest pub and kill my liver, both seem to be equally rational and good ideas, so torn! so I decided I shall do neither (Thinking back, I should have done both).
It’s an introductory block that only makes sense after you’ve fully covered the next 11 blocks, even then its still a bit sketchy. The one good thing to come out of PCMS was The King (I’ll make a post about him later, maybe).
I swear they were trying to make a doctor out of you in the space of a month. Sleep was a myth and confusion was your best mate throughout the duration of the block.
WELCOME TO SCMD3000
#FeesMustFall is probably the most popular phrase in South Africa at the moment. After last year’s protest that resulted in the national shutdown of every university in the country, we all had the gut feeling that this would be happening again at the end of 2016. The minister of higher education called for a maximum of 8% in the fee increment for 2017, before he even finished his speech, student leaders from different universities across the country announced a shutdown. #FeesMustFall has always been a sore subject on our small little island of a campus, there’s always such a clear division between the students that are fighting for the struggle and the students that equate the shutdown to time off. The gap is shown between the students who care about another child’s struggle and those who don’t, to put it bluntly.
Last year an activist was born out of me, after attending mass meetings, marching to the union building and participating in different protest against the inaccessibility to higher education as result of financial constraints. I understand the struggle because I’ve been the struggle, I’ve lived in poverty, I’ve wondered where would my next meal come from, I’ve been forced into two gap years because I just couldn’t afford tuition.
What does that 8% increment and the protest as a whole mean to me; well for one there’s again a sense of panic with what next year may be for me. There’s also a sense of relieve though, as I’m low-key hoping for a change of date to my exams, especially since I’m genuinely struggling to study this block; no lectures mean I get to study without interruptions to attend compulsory tutorials but the activist in me also has me singing ‘Solomon’ and other struggle chants as we occupy different areas on the campus.
Image from earlier this morning, in front of the Health Science Faculty in Parktown, Johannesburg .
Not many people can forget getting their acceptance letter. Mine came on Friday 16th of January, 2015. All kinds of emotions were shooting through me; excited, nervous, confused. Especially since I had received a similar letter about a month earlier about my application being unsuccessful. Did they make a mistake? Did they change their mind? At this point it all kinda turned into panic; the MBBCh academic year was already two weeks in, I had already registered for my second option which was set to start in 2 weeks. No stationery, no clue what I was getting myself into, no second thoughts; I promptly accepted the offer and from that moment my life was never the same.