Make the days count leading up to varsity

High school pupils are intimately affected by the protests at university campuses, says SHAY VISSER who is in Grade 11 at Fish Hoek High School.

However, there’s that one worry that affects every privileged teenager: university.

“Pfft,” you, the teenager or parent, say. “University? That’s a long way away. Who would worry about it?” But what if I say, that on your first day of Grade 8 you only have 1 000 school days left? Now that’s scary. I’m in Grade 11, so that means my grade has, including the rest of this year and next year, 229 days left of school.

Let me say that again. Two hundred and twenty-nine days left of school.

Two hundred and twenty-nine opportunities to get your marks the way they should be and 229 chances to get better. That’s a lot of stress for someone of 16 or 17, still a child in the eyes of the most veteran of life’s players.

And we are worried. We won’t admit it, we won’t dare admit that we, young adults, are scared but I assure you we are.

Look at the obstacles that we are presented with. Grade 11 is, arguably, one of the most important years in our school career in terms of university acceptance, if not the most important. Our final Grade 11 marks will be of ut-
most importance when universities look at our applications. They need to be perfect. So we study. And
we study and we study and we work to get the 70s and 80s we know we can get. We work until we speak
fluent circle geometry and only then are we ready for our matric year.

Fish Hoek High School boasted a 99.4 percent matric pass rate last year and it is our duty to not only call it, but raise it. And even if we do, we are confronted by the looming presence of university. A study has shown that at Stellenbosch University and Rhodes University, for example, only one out every five people who apply is accepted. Only one out of five.

You have to work to earn a place in the university of your choice and yet people have the audacity to destroy private property in what is South Africa’s most expensive hissy fit.

Protesters at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal’s Pietermaritzburg campus started throwing faeces at a lecture venue as part of the Fees Must Fall protests on September 27. That is shameful. Primary and high school education is your right, but tertiary education is a privilege. You are incredibly privileged if you are the one out of five.

And what did you do with that privilege? You threw it at a lecture hall, you burnt it along with books in libraries.

How are the matrics of 2016 and 2017 supposed to feel, going into this mess we call our tertiary educational system? Some protesters threatened and intimidated those who refused to protest. How are we meant to feel safe? How are we meant to feel secure, knowing that some of our classmates, people we could share residences, fields and lectures with, could prevent us from achieving our degree? And do you honestly think that this level of violence will solve anything? If your rent was too high, would you burn down your house to avoid paying it? You preach and roar, saying that your rights are not being respected yet you infringe on other students’ rights by denying them their education.

My mother is a white woman and was seen as privileged and my father is a coloured man and was seen as underprivileged. Neither of them went to university because they could not afford it and had to find jobs to pay their way through life. You want something, you work for it. That’s how life works.

I understand that most people cannot afford to pay university fees and there is no shame in that, but to set a building alight is no way an appropriate approach to expressing your frustration.

Two hundred and twenty-nine days to sort it out. Two hundred and twenty-nine days to prepare for the messy world out there. Two hundred and twenty-nine days.

Make them count.

* Shay Visser, who lives in Kommetjie, hopes to have a career as a writer. He job-shadowed at the False Bay Echo.

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