I was still in primary school when I vowed that one day I would go to university. I was further motivated by tales from my elder brother, the only one in the entire village who had made it to the university then. He was revered and seen as a hero. He was one actually. Whenever he came back for vacation, we would hurdle around him immediately to hear stories about his experiences on campus. He talked of campus as if it was a seventh heaven. He somehow enthusiastically talked of the meals they were served every day. I became even more curious when he said the meals were free and that the diet was balanced. Imagine all kinds of food decorating the tables at the mess; hamburger, hot dogs, cheese. One thing I however found strange was that students would riot when the diet was changed without their consultation.
Then there was the story of being paid to study as he put it. While the fee was a very small amount, the amount they received from the Higher Education Loans’ Board was a likable sum. This way, they used this money upkeep and purchase of personal effects.
My brother had used his first portion of the loan to buy fancy, decent suits and a sub-woofer. He even sent some to mother, something that further made me believe that the amount was huge.
He also talked of night parties over weekends, countrywide academic tours and lectures ending by noon.
Having all these in mind, my eyes always remained glued to the books. I was envious of my brother’s ‘successes’. Finally I received a letter of offer from one of the best universities in the country. You should have seen the excitement written all over my face. I was admitted the following year in August.
What a shocking revelation I was treated to! I saw nor experienced any of the things my brother had told us. Had he been lying to us? There were no free things. The fee was very high. One had to pay to have a roof over his head. Moreover, food at the mess was at its worst; no balanced diet. You ate according to the weight of your pocket.
Stringent procedures had to be followed during application of the Higher Education. Night parties became a dream since money was a problem. Everything had to be paid for.
Besides all that, huge numbers were admitted to the university annually and the ‘glory’ and pride of being a university student had by and large faded.
Then I realized that the transformation, the success I very much yearned for would come from me and not the state of the university.