In the changeable world of the university/town, many students are making things up as they go along. Where are the resources to do life well? Here are four needs according to Mbele, a student leader.
A need for role models
“I’m at university living away from home. How do I get the money I need?”
“I’m in a relationship…
“How do I tell if this is the one?”
“But how does it work? What does it look like to move from friendship to going out to engagement to marriage?”
“And what if we break up? I hear about suicides because of this.”
“I have an unwanted pregnancy. Should I get an abortion? I’ve heard that students often die from botched abortions.”
“I’m married but worried…
“I’m very young and I married quickly.”
“I moved to the town for university but my partner remains at home.”
A need for openness
There’s a two-way culture of secrecy/concealment (usiri/siri) in which adults do not share wisdom about life beyond practical everyday tasks, and young people withhold things from adults. You might keep your relationships secret from your parents, and when they find out, you might not get any sympathy if all they see is an unwanted pregnancy or an abortion.
A need for understanding
Maybe you begin a relationship with little understanding of the other person — maybe they’re just someone from your study group, or maybe you just met them in a taxi. Even then you might not make much attempt to learn about each other, like what your tribal backgrounds are. Older students can seem really appealing, especially if you think that uni students are a higher calibre of potential mates. It’s easy to move from one relationship to another thinking that each will be better than the last.
Meanwhile, some students are faking it. You might find you can play the grown-up, or maybe you have a bit of extra cash to flash around. Maybe you attend a student fellowship with the goal of getting a partner.
A need for self-respect and self-belief
Some students are burdened with a sense of inability or inadequacy: the sense that you’re bound to repeat your parents’ problems, the sense that you just can’t change anything. If that’s you, there’s little horizon beyond the immediate, little sense that you could live a different story. Sometimes this manifests in wanting to enhance your appearance: instead of wanting to be the best You, you want to be the best Them.
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.