“A lot of the pressure comes from within, you sit down and honestly ask yourself if there is anything that you can bring to the table,” Anthony says with a shrug and casual smile.
As we sat down with him for an interview, he laughed a lot as we asked him questions. From an outsider’s perspective, it would seem like he’s generally a jovial fellow, but for those that live in the country we know, it has become a hallmark for Zimbabwean youth to hide their pain with humour. The underlying social and mental pressures present in graduates today are grossly underestimated. The reality is that things are hard.
We had conversations with guys who spend their days by the corner skating, or conversing with their friends waiting for the next ‘deal’ because tertiary education and formal employment are expectations they discarded long ago. When these youths are asked if they have nothing better to do the response is usually the same. “What would you have us do? Sitting by the corner is better than us becoming thieves, or being like the guys cooped up in the house all day high on drugs”
They shrug resignedly. Most of them know or have a friend who has fallen to the drug epidemic as a way of dealing with the mental stresses of the reality they find themselves in. To the University student residing in Chitungwiza , life means sorting out the hassle of adjusting to the constantly changing transport costs due to the fuel hikes or choosing to wait hours for the unreliable public transport system.
One is stuck deciding between the lesser of two evils.
For these students, the reality is to either reach lectures late because of transport, or to get to an inadequately supplied computer lab to find it full and now become unable to research or complete assignments.
The economy has shifted and one thing is abundantly clear, change is rampant in every single area of our life, but none is more abundant than the steady downtrend in the economy has brought to millennials.
Millennials, also known as Generation Y (or Gen Y.), the generation currently aged between 23 - 38, have seen the worst of the economic challenges in this country.
For the average millennial staying in Chitungwiza, life means having to stand hours by the local chibhorani (borehole) waiting for water before, and sometimes after school. This practice has increasingly becoming dangerous especially for women. For some girls and women in areas like Hopley. This means accepting the risk of rape and assault as a part of daily life.
For other students, the strive for education includes waking up after 11 pm to study because that’s when their homesteads have electricity, or alternatively, studying by candlelight.
For a lot of students, their schools can not afford enough material to allow the students to work or do their research on, and even for those who are lucky enough to own laptops, they have to deal with the challenge of ever increasing data prices.
The current economic problems have also increased the amount of university dropouts, with students being faced with "more rewarding" alternatives to schooling e.g street begging, vending, selling of illegal substances, and in some cases, especially in the rural areas, distance and farm work. This has furthered the increase of jobs and businesses in the informal sector.
We asked some millennials what they think should be done to fix the education sector and here are some of their answers.
“It's difficult to plan financially for more than 3 months ahead because policy pronouncements keep changing and have made the environment very unstable.” (Anonymous)
“The education sector needs to be adaptive to needs in the working environment. They essentially need to know what our country needs. In other words, the education sector needs to strengthen its research and development of curricula to ensure we are in step with environmental needs.’’ (Chido)
“I would like the education system to teach kids how to make money, taxes, how to be technocrats. I would also introduce university or student exchange programs for them to see how other students are doing internationally and stop wasting people's time.....universities have become a money making tool and not a life changing process.’’ (Tawanda Chitongo -Graduate)
“Relevant career guidance for children before they even leave high school. It affects the choices we make at university.’’ (Anonymous)
It’s clear to see that education might not be leading us to the jobs we were promised. So maybe starting businesses is the answer. Or is it?