WELL, what can I say - it sucks! We go to university hoping for better pay cheques that guarantee a better life; a university degree being a prerequisite to the middle class society of this country.
When one graduates, the whole family is proud, especially for those who attended universities in South Africa with high standards and the like or if you are the first in the family to make earn a university education or in your village for that matter.
Parents are relieved after paying those hefty university fees and in fact some may still be paying off loans in the quest for a child’s improved future prospects. For some graduates the banks or the NSFAS is still waiting.
The whole village is happy because you made it in and came out with a paper to show; your ex-teachers are proud. You feel good about yourself, telling yourself that you have arrived not knowing what the future holds for you.
But everything looks promising since you got a piece of a paper with the institution’s name and coat of arms at the top and most importantly your name on it. No one can take that away from you - you have got a degree finally after three or four years of hard studying, sleepless nights, weeklong field trips, vacation work, caffeine infested with drinks like coffee and Red Bull, not forgetting the long tedious bus rides from South Africa to our beloved country every holiday.
Then you tell yourself you are ready for the world. Then the reality hits, you have to look for that elusive job, the job is not going to come looking for you, unless of course you are some sort of a genius with one of those bursaries from Areva, Rössing or the like. Or your dad is a director of a certain company, but for the rest of us ordinary Namibians, born in exile, a new beginning.
You start like everyone else. You move to some relative’s house in Windhoek much to their discomfort and hope you don’t have to stay there too long. Then the process of buying newspapers starts; registering with potential employers on their websites; surfing the internet regularly; submitting CVs to offices; making phone calls to potential employers, and applying for every post you see in the newspaper that is at least related to your expertise.
Then comes the most difficult part - waiting. Waiting for them to call you up for an interview. The first week goes by, then a month, bam it’s Easter already! You get invited to a few interviews after a month or two, but no one consider you a suitable candidate because you don’t have experience or you are just not what they are looking for.
But you still have hope, you communicate with some ex-classmates who already got jobs in south Africa and a few you went to school with and are here. Their lives are moving forward and envy creeps up on you. You wish you were in their shoes. Sometimes you make turns at their offices at month-end, because only they appreciate your plight.
The winter arrives, still nothing; you get frustrated you feel like no one understands you in the family and the pressure is mounting from all the expectations people got for you, you feel like you are letting everybody down and your life is falling apart.
Your relatives start to see you as a burden with every single sms you send to their phones even if it’s just to say good morning. This is the moment when life really starts showing its true colours. At this point some resort to alcohol and drugs, while some seek refuge in churches and sangomas for guidance and help.
Then you start to wonder, in this beautiful country of ours called Namibia, is it possible that there is no a single company/employer out there willing to employ you? You wonder if is because luck is not on your side, or if you didn’t go to the right university. Perhaps you didn’t choose the right profession or you are not the right colour or you don’t have enough connections to get a job? Your guess is as good as mine.
It is mid autumn and you are still sane, the hope of getting that job is fading away bit by bit. Your degree is taunting you every time you dust it from its jacket. You swallow your pride and start applying for any other job, because you need money. At home they are getting tired of giving you money for the Internet café and newspapers.
The social life is also being affected during all of this; it has deteriorated dramatically and you have become a loner. You spend most of your time in-doors, because you don’t click quite well with your old friends from high school, and chilling at the corner or Zoo Park doesn’t appeal to you anymore.
You spent most of the times eating, watching TV or at least cleaning the yard and hoping for someone to call you for a job opening. The relationship with your girlfriend/boyfriend starts to show strain, because you don’t see and call each other more often; all you do is to chat on the cell phone with MTC free sms, the personal interaction is fading away and eventually you break up.
Things become tougher than you ever thought when you struggle to even land a government job. The neighbors start wondering if you really made it; friends become fewer and people start talking. Then you feel like a failure with a degree, who speaks English with a twang. Now you don’t know what to do or who to blame. What about the government?
All they talk about is policies, economic reform and NDP 1,2,3, TIPEEG. What about the degree that you have, is it irrelevant in this country with lack of skills and services delivery? Do you really want to tell me that there is not a single department in the government where they can use my skills; but then again you don’t have a connection in the government and your uncle is not a minister.
Now back to the institutions. Are they institutionalized to hinder our potential as human beings or a pseudo-detour that society has created as a prerequisite for a better life? Have they done enough for preparing us for the harsh world? And what about all the fees our parents forked out for us?
Am I still allowed to be proud of my degree, is it really an achievement? To go to Polytechnic, UNAM or some Universities in South Africa? But then again, the whole process is part of life; some have to endure even harder, while others have it easier. Our routes will never be the same. All you can do is to hope that someday sooner something will come up.
Start thinking other routes, maybe that profession wasn’t meant for you - think outside the box and be creative … some resort to other means, but your guess is just as good as mine. Now I feel like I am in exile again but in my own country (My Motherland).
Gerson Hamupolo, an unemployed hydrologist