Linda Oduor graduated last month with a degree in law. She tells the Nairobian about a graduate’s fear of the outside world, what parents don’t know about university students and the pain of watching helpless, jobless graduates.
You are seated between your parents, in a graduation gown. What goes through your mind when your name is called out?
Fear. Raw fear. It’s the end of the road. You don’t know what’s next in life. The dread of stepping out of college into the unknown, into the real world, is numbing.
What keeps a campus student awake the whole night?
Pregnancy and exams. In campus, your life depends on exams. Fail one, you will have to do a supplementary. Miss one, and you might not graduate. It’s like campus was designed, not to give you an education, but strictly to ensure you pass an exam.
If campus students fear pregnancy that much, why don’t they just use condoms?
Why do you assume they don’t use condoms? If a class has 500 students, half of them are sexually active, and over four years, only 10 get pregnant, isn’t that a very commendable rate of condom use?
You say campus is exam oriented, does that mean little or no learning takes place?
In campus, I was in a class of 500. Only 300 graduated. At the Kenya School of Law, only 39 per cent of the class graduated. Can you explain why someone who spent four years studying for a degree in law suddenly becomes unable to pass the Kenya School of Law’s one-year diploma?
What exactly do you mean?
We need a more hands-on approach to education. For instance, in the case of law students, why can’t they spend one-year doing pupilage at an actual law firm and it's their master who will tutor, coach and evaluate their work? The experience beats anything you will ever learn in class. In all disciplines, practical experience should at least constitute 50 per cent of the course.
How do you feel when you see a first-class honours graduate holding placards in traffic looking for jobs? Others are pushing mikokoteni while others eke a living from operating boda bodas?
One day, I woke up and read a story about a graduate in Baringo who was doing menial jobs. She had not gotten a job three years after graduation. I didn’t go to class. I was instantly depressed. I went back to bed and lay there thinking for hours. Why work so hard in school and success doesn’t come your way eventually? From childhood, we are taught to work hard and success will follow. It makes me sad. It brings tears to my eyes because that graduate walking around estates to wash clothes to make a living could be me or my roommate.
There are those who get blamed for not doing something right…
It is not like the people who don’t get jobs after graduation did something wrong. Life just dealt them a bad hand. They did everything by the book, and yet success didn’t come to them.
Why do campus students go on strike and stone cars? What do they have against people who drive?
I can’t speak for the stone-throwers. I have never thrown stones. The stones I throw are intellectual missiles. The students who stone cars are bhang smokers who should be behind bars for damaging property. There is absolutely no excuse for their behaviour. Those are criminals and their lawless behaviour should be nipped in the bud.
What do you think parents don’t understand about campus kids?
They think all we do in campus is eat, sleep, go for lectures and then its party after party. Being young is hard because it’s confusing. Some don’t know what it is they exactly want in life. You are struggling with self-identity. The peer pressure is on a whole new level. You get to experience the gaping difference between the rich and poor in its rawest form. You are a young adult who is for the first time learning to make decisions by yourself and taking responsibility for each decision you make. It’s an age where you first fall in love and relationships can make you go crazy.
What could be wrong?
I have seen students who led a sheltered life get in campus and the freedom drives them crazy. They don’t realise the freedom is just a jail with no walls. You account for everything you do. And campus students, even though they may seem lost, usually have a small idea about what they want in life. They just need guidance and to be pointed in the right direction. There is nothing like ‘I did the wrong course.’ By the end of the first year, many of us will have already realised if we like the course or not. This is a trade you will practice for the rest of your life.
Do rich old men still pick campus girls in big cars?
You must have been in campus many years ago because nowadays there are phones. There is Uber. There is M-Pesa for chicks to ‘eat’ the money sent to them as fare. But on a serious note, cross-generational relationships won’t stop. Then there is quid pro quo. I am lucky I have parents who ensured I got all I wanted when I was in campus. I saw girls do many crazy things for money.
Do campus students follow current affairs?
As long as something is on social media or the internet, campus students will know about it. We never read newspapers until when you are about to graduate and you start look for advertised jobs. But we follow politics. We definitely have to know how much money our governors are stealing!
What is the biggest misconception about life fresh graduates have?
In college, you will always be broke, so we usually think once you graduate, you will always have money. But kwa ground vitu ni different!
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Now that you’ve graduated, how is life treating you?
Being an adult is tough. No one prepares you for it. I knew I wanted to be a lawyer, so I have already gotten a job and I am learning from my seniors.
Finally, what makes young graduates angry at the world?
The common phrase being thrown around, that is: ‘don’t look for employment, start a business and create employment.’ People who love saying that are themselves employed since they left campus. Not everyone can be a businessperson.