Starting any higher education course is a massive step up from learning at high school. The course material becomes more challenging and you are expected to become more independent in researching information rather than being directed by a teacher. At the same time students are learning to live on their own away from the close circle of family and friends they have known all their lives. It is inevitable that homesickness will kick in at some point and conquering it is just one challenge that our bursary students have had to tackle.
Masicorp goes to great lengths to ensure that all bursary students are well housed for their studies. Although the centre of Cape Town is only 40 km from Masiphumelele the public transport connections are not good and the ever increasing price of petrol has seen bus and minibus taxi fares spiral in recent times. Most students manage to make it back home once or twice a month but it can be a long journey, involving a combination of minibuses and metrorail trains. The convoluted journey offers the reward of a chance to catch up with friends from schooldays, many of whom are now working, or looking for work, in the shops and businesses around the peninsula. It offers a good chance to make contacts for part time work when the university term comes to an end. Although many of Masiphumelele’s residents head off to the Eastern Cape over the summer holidays, the break is a time to earn much needed funds to support the student lifestyle. Already Avile is looking forward to cooking hamburgers again and Ntebuheleng has an offer to work at the Food Lovers Market in the local mall.
The days away from home are spent studying but of course there needs to be time to unwind. Thanks to the high quality internet in the university residences where Avile, Aluncedo and Andisiwe stay, gathering around a laptop to stream the latest movies is a possibility. All students share a room with another student so they have the opportunity to make new friends straight away. However, it is not always possible for Masicorp to secure rooms at the residence and for Zodwa and Ntebuheleng life is a little different in a private house. They share with four other girls and have quickly established a cooking rota to pool their skills (and money) in the communal kitchen.
Sadly it is not always such a pleasant experience. Zodwa and a friend were held up at knifepoint when returning home one evening and their phones were stolen. Fortunately the traumatic experience does not seem to have discouraged her from continuing her studies but has been yet another challenge to overcome in that difficult first semester away from home. Everyone is coping well with the changes in their life over the past six months and all the students were raring to go back to the city to continue their studies when we spoke this week. It is not just academic ability but also attitude that makes a success of higher education and fortunately it seem this year’s students have made an excellent transition to life away from home.