Koos Kwena, The New Age, Johannesburg, 21 January 2016
By now every student knows that any matric distinctions have to be left at the gate when they become university students. They must not be tempted to compare high school and varsity levels because there’s a big difference.
There is a bridge between high school and tertiary education that students need to cross.
Unfortunately most students fail to cross it successfully due to a number of factors that exist as barriers to success. In other instances it’s the students themselves who are ignorant and reckless. They are conscious about the obstacles but behave irresponsibly.
The most significant cause of students dropping out of varsity is the high cost of tertiary education. Financial limitations often mean that they have to suspend their studies or abandon them completely. Universities have become too expensive while incomes in real terms have stagnated or even decreased for the majority of our people.
Nonetheless, we must not consider exorbitant tuition fees as the only barrier to varsity excellence, but also consider the hectic varsity lifestyle and general campus environment.
The cost of books, accommodation, food and stationery are among the major challenges faced by students in institutions of higher learning.
Another factor that stands against university success is the lack of preparedness in first year students mainly from public schools.
Many who come from villages and townships come to campus with no prior exposure to a university environment. They are thus faced with challenges when it comes to adapting to the sophisticated demands of universities, especially in the area of technology. Also, these first years are often unprepared academically to handle the new pace of teaching and learning.
Scarcity of information about university demands in townships and rural areas is indeed a cause for concern.
Pupils are not provided with adequate advice or guidance in order to make conscious choices of areas of study that will be best suited for them.
Many pupils believe that maths and science are all that is needed to succeed in engineering, whereas there are also aspects such as drawing and design which are integral to the engineering stream.
Some end up choosing impressive courses which later lock them into academic situations they have no actual interest in and the only way to escape is through dropping out.
Also, family pressure to pursue qualifications that students might not choose themselves steals the real joy of being a successful student. Parents put pressure on their children to study towards degrees which the children themselves are not interested in and which require certain qualities that they don’t meet. Those students end up losing focus and commitment.
The atmosphere at universities is that of freedom. Only those students who are already trained in self-discipline and self-leadership are able to survive the temptations that come with being independent.
Once students get into their college schedule they realise that despite their new independence the amount of responsibility that comes with their freedom was not at all what they anticipated. They therefore become discouraged and decide to turn away from academic pursuits. They also succumb to the pleasures of the city and abandon their primary goal of getting qualifications to contribute to society.
The balance of having a social life and being a true academic is what the successful student is able to attain.
- Koos Kwena is a social commentator