Guest post: Next Sem!

So I am busy minding my own business as I do every time I am working, and this friend of mine asks what I am doing. “Setting you an example, could you be a good student and copy it?” My sinful self thinks, but I don’t say it out loud. I answer him. A conversation ensues and it turns out, he used to write!! I stalk his former blog and before I know it I am convinced he writes so well. These people have a way of impressing you when you had not planned it. 🙂 People, meet Kevin Mugweru.

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We seemed to be one, for so we moved. Slowly dragging our feet, looking aimless and uninspired. A stink of stale sweat hung around us, for many of us hadn’t showered that day- or even the previous day. How could we when the battle of battles was waiting for us in the afternoon? So, many of us spent bathroom time preparing for war! Almost everyone’s eyes seemed slightly swollen from what must have been inevitable fatigue owing to sleeplessness. We walked on. Not many of us dared to speak. But the ones that did had one thing in common: they all started their sentences with the phrase “next sem”.

And it was not the first time this was happening. We were in our third year of campus, and we had got used to this scene as what followed an exam session. We would leave the exam room thoroughly defeated! Most of us (not all, for there was obviously that sane man in the market of madmen) would be harassed by the paper in the exam room, after which we would all huddle together to hear each describe their dreadful ordeal. This was particularly important for us, because it would be a consolation to many who thought that they would have to come back to school during the holidays to re-sit the paper- at least they felt that they were not alone. Everyone who would relate his experience would end his short narrative with a sentence whose opening words were “next sem”. This sentence was often one which contained promises to self of how different the next semester would be- how the next semester’s exams would find a better prepared candidate. But the “next sem” song never came to an end. Why so?

hakuna-matata

You see, university students here in Kenya, for some strange reason, believe that university life is a life of relaxation and fun. No stress.Hakuna Matata, as Timon and Pumbaa would put it. And so when they go to school, theirs becomes a life of watching movies and series, making countless early morning and late-night trips to I-Max to catch the latest movie, hanging out in each other’s rooms while engaging in seemingly serious talk about the folly this government policy and the glamour of last weekend’s event and the piriton-ness of that old lecturer. Classes are missed for the lamest of reasons. There is a day when three-quarters of my class boycotted the afternoon class and went for swimming because the weather was just right.

This belief must have come from somewhere. Our parents and high school teachers might have planted that bizzare thought when they made it seem like the most important thing in our academic lives was passing the KCSE exams. Such thinking might have implied that life after good KCSE results would be a walk in the park. Perhaps it was our older but hopelessly defocussed campus friends who misled us. They made campus look like the grown-up’s haven where he did whatever he wanted, whenever he felt like. They laughed at the low grades they got and so, to our foolish and naïve minds, surviving in class by doing the bare minimum looked super cool. Perhaps it was the system itself- lecturers would begin to attend class a whole three weeks after they were supposed to. Some would attend only two out of fourteen lectures and give a thoroughly detailed hand out a week to the exam. No wonder many of us would skip showering on exam eve. Many more would have to endure sleepless nights, all so that the frustratingly detailed hand-outs could be covered.

Many have known this pattern and made peace with it. That the campus life is one of reckless abandon during the semester followed by forced but hopeless (and therefore painfully burdensome) study during the exam period is a reality- but it is a changeable reality. It can be altered. In fact, it must be changed. One of my classmates was once told that if he wanted to make something out of his campus life, he had to study very hard, as if by studying he was aiming at going to Alliance or Starehe. And if you would be sincere with yourself, you would admit that we all, while we were in primary school, studied our brains out so that we could go to such schools. The campus life should be like that. It should be marked with hard work equal to or more than that of the KCSE candidate whose desire is to qualify for medicine or engineering. I say more than because the campus student should be more mature than the high schooler and hence should know that hard work, even in a seeminlgy unsupervised environment, will reward handsomely!

I must say, happily, that the “next sem” song has changed for me. Sometime in my third year I woke up from my slumber and became anaverage student- I attended [almost] all classes, and did my work when I was supposed to. And this marked the end to my song. I hope that all those youngies joining campus will be awake to the reality that University life does demand hard work. It demands that you have some self drive so that you can get things done, and make something out of your campus education. It demands maturity.

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