“A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.”
It fills my heart with joy to see so many Fallists reaching the pinnacle of graduation and floating out with that degree in hand.
After walking on glass for years, seeing your parents struggle to pay those fees while your siblings at home made do with meagre meals, knowing you did it is a wondrous achievement.
Hearing your father choke up on the phone when he tells you that he can’t come to your graduation but that your mum will be there – knowing that the unsaid reason is that he can’t afford the two bus tickets from home AND your one back.
Seeing the tears of joy on your mother’s face when she sees you in your regalia, the first one to finish school. The first one to get a degree in the whole family on either side.
Feeling the pride burst out of your father when he hugs you at the bus stop he had been sitting in all night.
Walking into your village, your street, your childhood home with the look of one who has made it.
Seeing your grandmother cry when you lean down so she can kiss you, feeling her soft wet cheeks against your face makes your eyes tear up just a little too.
The celebration is well worth it.
You wore the gown, you threw the cap, you got the paper. Now what?
A lot of you are going to find that you are still unemployed, hungry and sleeping on a friend’s floor. A lot of you will feel the pressure now of Black Tax – the paying it backwards so unique to our culture where our parents do anything to help us succeed and then we spend the rest of our lives being grateful and thanking them with gifts and paying bills and buying them things they could never afford while raising us.
After graduation, it is easy to slip into despair and depression. The degree didn’t come with an automatic job. You are not immediately middle class now. You’re still out here hustling.
Graduates, I implore you to send your CV everywhere. Don’t be shy to ask your friends to hand it in at their companies. Use recruitment agencies. Be on time. Wear your good clothes. Show up for interviews like you already have the job.
You have worked too hard and for too long to give up now.
Employed graduates, feed your friends every now and then. Invite them out, pay entrance fees. Drop them a few bucks in airtime when you have some spare cash so they can email CVs and make interview calls. Introduce them to people who work in their field of qualification. Offer them a bed or a couch to sleep on. Lend them your good professional clothes for interviews. Be a friend. Be more.
Activism comes in many forms. It is our culture to not better ourselves without turning around and reaching for the hand of the person who needs a bit of help to climb up. There is no shame in needing help and only gain by giving it.
Help each other. It is our way.
I am because we are.