The struggles some students face
By Portia Tsotetsi, 25, Gauteng
Having been a tutor for three years at university level, I was afforded an opportunity to interact/engage with a lot with students and without a doubt, all of them were different in their own ways. They were different in their dress code, their behaviour, their fluency in English, their confidence regarding the course and university life, their family background and culture amongst other things. This led me to identify one gap in higher education that I feel needs to be addressed somehow.
The struggles some students face while at university, especially those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Students coming from disadvantaged backgrounds take a very long time adjusting to university life; that is: the culture, the styles of teaching and learning, and generally just the system in which the university operates and this to an extent hinders their success academically. For the students to succeed in these spaces, they are then forced to adjust and coming from a background where for the past 12 years a student was taught in a certain way, lived in a certain way and learned in a certain way, the whole adjusting period takes quite long. By the time they get used to the different styles, they lose a lot of important content in their respective courses causing more problems for them.
Faced with the pandemic, learning took a different turn and we can’t blame anyone for it. We all do what needs to be done to get past this situation. Nevertheless, this time in our lives also exposed a lot of inequalities and further highlighted the struggles that students from disadvantaged backgrounds face regardless of their skin colour, although a significant number is Black South Africans.
The struggles students face is much deeper than economic factors, it affects their social, their psychological and emotional wellbeing. Imagine a second year student who just adjusted to a certain learning style after a year of hardship (not knowing what and how to study in their first year) now has to somehow adjust again and adopt to another learning style, as if that is not enough, having difficulties to access a stable internet connection, not owning their own rooms with study tables and chairs or at least having access to a quiet place to study or affording a private tutor to help them grasp the content and also familiarise themselves with the new system of learning, This just overwhelms the students and in most cases makes them wonder if they are varsity material.
Having said all of this, I feel that there is more that needs to be done to bridge the gap especially in the education system to cater for students that are coming from poor backgrounds. They are delicate and their experiences shape them. Let’s have public schools which will adequately prepare their learners for university life, not just to send them out of school without thoroughly preparing them, because university, instead of being the best place to network, to grow and mature, it becomes a student’s nightmare exposing them to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and paranoia amongst others. Let’s have universities doing more to bridge and conceal the different backgrounds, instead of having our brothers and sisters dropout of university, having low self-esteems or zero confidence not because they can’t perform, but because of the structures that just don’t welcome everybody.
Sharing is caring!
Help us spread the word about Voices Unite: