Saturday, January 16, 2021

The Memoirs of a UB Graduate

I remember the day some of us first arrived at UB. We were rookiesÔÇövegetable green. Having been away from school for about a quarter of a year, our command of the English grammar had developed a substantial amount of rust. We could hardly keep up with the English Medium and city-bred fellows.
In order to answer a question one had to first think the answer in vernacular, then Setswana and finally crank one’s syntax to make sure that the answer was not a transliteration of Setswana into English. For those of us who had been admitted into programs where an A in English was a prerequisite, it was like hell. Having read that clause from the admission lists published in the print media, each of my colleagues wanted to prove that their A was not 0.5% away from the B margin.

The early days in UB resembled a movie plot to the degree that one would have easily misconstrued this experience for Hollywood: seeing the boys from affluent families skid their cars, the half-naked ladies walking the corridors, and the freedom with which one could skip class. One could just decide that the morning glory was too ecstatic for one to wake up for an hour-long class which would be succeeded by half a day of idleness.
And then there was the refectory. Yes, the refectory. That was my best place. It made me want to go back to High school and slap the head-nigger-in-charge for giving us that animal feed. Alas, I hear that our comrades from other colleges are still subjected to that nutritional torture: maybe that is why when they grab their first salaries they squander it on restaurant eating sprees.

I remember refectories very well. You see, the thing about our group was that most of us were properly oriented by the veterans of those years. For example, one was taught that in UB, as a civilized young adult, they should never entertain the thought of starting a scuffle. That is why nobody ever bothered when another person hijacked the refectory queues right. It was considered servile for one to cause a fracas over such small issues. Every time somebody walked to the front of the queue, they seemed to have a good reason: being late for class or exams. We rarely had hooligans who hijacked the queue for the fun of it.

The refectory was also a training ground in terms of character. In those days we all had to eat in the refectoriesÔÇöwe did not have this meal plan thing: hence all were compelled to use fork and knives. It was a test of character because nobody wanted to be seen spilling food all over the table when a blunt knife failed to cut through that chicken breast or steak. This exercise was also revealing. I mean one could witness colleagues collecting forks and knives for gruel or cereal and milk in their meal tray. The most interesting folks were those who claimed to be from affluent families yet held the fork in the wrong hand. Even more hilarious were those who chose a fork over a spoon for gruel.

I shall miss the day we first went on strike. The first one was minute. We were still new and the bank responsible for allowance disbursement was snail-paced in giving us our dues. The political veterans organized us into the Student Union hall for a briefing. It was fun. We had some unleash their frustrations on us; some exhibited their command of the English grammar while some really radicalized most of our village minds (most campus dwellers were from outside the city).

But come to think of it, it was helpful. The grammar quacks made us read more; the serious politicians initiated us into humanityÔÇöwe now had the cojones to stand up for our rights when trampled upon; those with frustrations gave some of us an opportunity to have our first booÔÇöa privilege we never had at secondary school. But the strike did not last long because it was only the rookies and sophomores who had this fiscal challenge.

The most interesting strike was the 2006 strike which led to a closure. It was very educational. We fought for our rights. The ramifications which rubbed on us later on were unbearable. But it had its goodies too: the long break from a strenuous academic period, night vigils in the student hall and the general choristers called Progressive Choir. Oh yes, their music! I loved the song Turn Around! I also loved the caricatures of some people from the university management.

I shall also miss those debates called panel discussions which were commonly held at CCE Room 4. Serious issues…I mean national concerns bringing ministers and top-notch politicians and civil activists to that small room. But I shall never forget howÔÇölike in that debate about community radio stationsÔÇöpeople wasted precious 2 hours saying the same thing in different words.

Amidst memories of many tantalizations of students by some academic leaders, a lot of fiats and encounters of espionage I remember the issue of relationships. This was interesting. The post-winter array of pregnancies was at first astounding and later encouraging. All that stuff about pregnancy and sleepiness in class turned out to be a lot of horse-dung. It was always interesting to see those ladies [especially church mates] picked up by their Uncles and Cousins at night. Today it would be an aunt who has been admitted at hospital (midnight visiting hours?), then the other time it would be family re-union (how romantic).

At least to the gullible the belly was a loyal friend. It never lied if one had been anointing Aaron’s rod without caution. But my heart goes out to the religious folks who have been fed erroneous notions about relationships; whose leaders have mystified sex and made people live in denial. My resentments are couriered to those AIDS activists who taught people half-baked doctrines portraying Abstinence as the highest form of living without telling them they would need to graduate to the Be Faithful stageÔÇöwhatever happened to the ABC! These two types of hooligans need to start emphasizing dating from the time the biological clock starts ticking.

And yes, dating is possible without sexÔÇöI am doing that. Mystifying sex only breeds a wrong approach once one gets access to it.


Read this week's paper