The Final College Lap

February 17, 2013 — 2 Comments

Boston+Media+House+SandtonThis week Mtuseni starts his third and final year at Boston Media House. Where has the time gone? It seems like he was just taking high school matric exams and feeling overwhelmed and lonely in his first semester. Now as a senior he’s finally set for the good stuff. All the theory and academic core classes are behind him, and he’ll spend a lot of time in the radio labs creating a portfolio of projects. This is what he’s been dreaming about since I first met him.

We’ve had a “ruff journey” these past couple years, as Mtuseni described it. Getting through college can be tough — particularly when you come from a substandard high school, your family and settlement offer no motivational support, and you’re studying with no electricity at home. There have been many moments of pride and satisfaction for me … along with a good deal of stress. But I’ve only been captaining from the bridge, guiding the college ship through calm and stormy seas; Mtuseni has been down in the engine room, sweating and grinding it out to propel himself toward the port of graduation. It’s 99 percent him and 1 percent me.

Finishing college is less common than I thought. I was surprised to read a recent Boston Globe article that noted the high college completion rates for graduates of the city’s public schools — which at 50 percent are on par with the national average. So even in the US, half of kids who start college never graduate.

MTU college 3rd year-2

The fact that Mtuseni is now two-thirds of the way through school and heading into the home stretch is cause for a little bit of celebration. Yes, we have one more year to go and I’m sure there’ll be some “ruff” patches, but he’s got the study rhythms down and is comfortable and well-established on campus. And as I recall from my own college days — that last year positively flies. We will get there!

More often than not lately, my mind focuses on the little, worrisome, frustrating things with Mtuseni — the allowance tasks half done, the South African slow-motion halfway culture, and the many hurdles still to climb so he is prepared to enter the working world. I feel like Dorothy in the Wicked Witch’s castle, nervously watching the sand pour through that hourglass. There is so much to do with Mtuseni, and the days keep slipping past. So every now and then, it’s good for me to step back and look at how far we’ve come.

My shy, naive, wide-eyed little polo shirt boy is starting his last year of college. Thank god, indeed!


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2 responses to The Final College Lap

  1. 

    Bravo! Yes, taking time to see where you have been on this is so important. And so glad you underscored the cultural aspects. I recall watching the myriad obstacles the Eskimo people faced when they left their villages to get an education. And getting an education in the village was interupted by daily struggles: hauling water, hauling wood, hunting for food, emptying honeybuckets (the toilet bucket), battling illnesses that arose from lack of sanitation, and we havent even thought about the brutal weather conditions or the cultural ideals that maintain that the group needs come before the individual. So ya, most people can not even fathom a handful of factors, let alone the whole picture. Thank you for painting that picture.

    • 

      Indeed… I finally had to put blinders on about sanitation and illness and unheated shacks in the winter and the many existential challenges Mtuseni faces that I can’t control. The worry was eating me alive inside. It’s all still there in the back of my mind — but lying awake now trying to figure out how to improve healthcare in his settlement won’t get him through school today. That will have to wait for another day.
      Given all he faces, it’s mindblowing how he’s been able to not only get through school, but be active on the student committee! (I spent much of my college time drinking cheap wine in Cambridge jazz clubs!) I only use this word when I’m truly awestruck — Mtuseni is an awesome kid.
      This post wasn’t too long, was it? 😉

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