Rejection is not fun. It is very far from fun.
Rejection when you utterly believe you are worthy of the job/part in a play/university admission is even further from fun.
This year there I tried for the second time to pursue my “dream” of undertaking my Masters degree in the United Kingdom. This year for the second time I have failed.
And the second time round was far more brutal. Nevermind that this time around I had an additional degree to my name, or have been working for almost 5 years in social development/civil society work, this time I was faced with many times more hurdles and hoops to jump through and over.
And it made me angry. Partially because I believed that since I had been accepted so easily when I applied in 2009 (funding fell through hence why I never managed to pursue the degree) it would once again be a walk in the park. Cue the timely destruction of my self-entitlement/worth/image (you pick!). Things change.
Ridiculously high rates of youth unemployment probably means more people just like me are trying to get into their second or third degree programmes. The state of many African countries results in very many people trying to find any way of getting a visa to be anywhere but in their own home country, hence making Universities more sceptical of who they grant admission too. Can you believe that I had to prove to two Universities that I can speak English? And a simple phone call could not do, neither would a letter proving I was taught and examined in English for the duration of my degree at Rhodes University, because it was too long ago. Can someone seriously lose the ability to speak a language that they have completed a 3 year degree in? The UK Border Agency has become that strict.
But this just sounds like I am making excuses for myself. And I don’t want to do that. More than likely this time around, my application was simply just not as strong as the many other candidates that applied for the spots, and more importantly, not good enough to secure funding.
I most definitely cannot afford the 20 000 Great BIG British Pounds per year that a UK Masters degree costs. And I also can’t really afford to continue paying R500-R1000 a pop each time I want to try apply to one of these Universities. And this has really brought me to thinking about access to higher education.
I come from a reasonably well-off family. We are by no means rich, but a combination of scholarships and my parents sacrifices enabled me to go to a very fancy pants high school, and complete a degree at Rhodes University. And I have absolutely no doubt that I am one of the tiny minority that not only had these opportunities, but have ridden on these opportunities to get a fairly decent job, and earn a half decent salary. And yes, I understand that International degrees are of course way beyond my means, the truth be told is that most South African University Master’s degrees are too.
And what made me really angry in all this, was that how could we ever achieve equality in this world, and social justice if even I, a fairly privileged white kid, cannot afford University in this country. What about the “next Einstein” that lives in rural Eastern Cape that cannot even get a decent high school education due to the inconsistencies and inequalities in our countries education system. Why do South African, and International Universities still have application systems that continue to sift the well-off from the poor, through language and means? It perpetuates this idea of exclusivity where only the best of the best financially can continue to gain privilege and hence perpetuate the gap between the haves and the have nots? Surely such institutions, especially those promoting degrees in development studies, sustainable development, social change, human rights and the like, should be at the forefront of closing this gap, instead of making provision for a very small number of “previously disadvantaged” kids to enter the university system (never mind whether they are given the necessary support to make it through!).
Two things this week have been brought to my attention through the procrastination tool of Facebook. Firstly this open letter to Abigail Fisher, the 23 year white girl who got rejected from her dream college and turned it into a Supreme Court Affirmative Action case. The writer call Abigail out for taking her rejection just a little too far, and for being completely oblivious to her white privilege.
Let me tell you something, if you are white, and think that the employment equity regulations of Woolworths is “unfair to you” do me a favour and read this letter. It might give you just a little something to think about regarding your very own white privilege that has allowed you to work in the job you do, live in the house you do, and drive the car you do (public transport what?). Just read it.
And then the second thing, is a call from Axium Education, an NPO that works in the very rural Eastern Cape with teachers and students to improve maths, science and English education. They made a call on Facebook this week for sponsorships for university application fees for their Grade 12 students. You know those kids who have been systematically and inter-generationally disadvantaged. The ones that haven’t seen more than a miniscule difference in their own individual lives and environments since 1994 when we became the Rainbow Nation filled with hope? Yip those kids have against all odds made it to matric, and are now wanting to try their hand at getting into a university, to earn a degree and become a productive and active citizen of our country. And for them it costs about R175 each try. R175 which could feed their whole family for a month possibly. R175 they just don’t have.
And so when I emailed Edinburgh University this week, to request a deferral of my acceptance to September 2014, so that I could spend some more time trying to find scholarships or grant funding to cover the cost of the degree, and they responded that I simply cannot defer, but must decline the offer and reapply next year, this is what I thought:
Stuff their £50 application fee (bearing in mind this is only for degrees such as International Development and Public Policy, the very ones that are aimed at reducing the inherent inequalities in our world!). Stuff their elitist exclusivity, and their inability to take into consideration that not everyone can just afford R700 each time they want to apply to a University; and mostly stuff their inconsideration towards the fact that not everyone in this world can rustle up R200 000 to pay for a year’s tuition at their institution, even a white girl from South Africa.
So that R700 is going to be directed elsewhere, to Axium education, where I am hoping the application fees won’t be wasted and that maybe one or two of the kids aspiring to greatness in the Eastern Cape will be given the opportunity, both in terms of acceptance and funding, to a University of their choice. I’ve been hugely humbled by this entire process. Angered, frustrated and humiliated by the hurdles and the rejection. But mostly humbled. Because yes rejection is not fun, but it is very much a part of life. For some, far more than me.
If you feel compelled to support Axium and their Grade 12 learners, you can find out more here.
And dear Abigail, think on this: