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The last semester of University feels exactly like the belly of phalaris’ bull. Its plain hell and gruesome. The lecture hall has become a place you want to leave as soon as you enter. Senior students coasting through classes, more often in a resigned disposition. This time both the spirit and the flesh are weak. Neither of them are willing. It’s there for everyone to see going by their conduct around campus.  There is not a cohort more blasé about school life than 4th year students.

It’s only a 9am morning lecture and everyone in class is already wearing a faraway look on their faces. There’s possibly nothing much the lecturer could say to pique interest. For the 2 hours or so there will be a passive transfer of knowledge with minimal engagement with learners. Past the hour mark there will be a tide of yawning that will strike those present in class and they will all let it out in unison. You can only feel sorry for the tutor standing before such an indifferent lot. Very little can he/she do to stoke debate, discourse or anything that partakes to learning. It’s all but moping and griping. I look around class and whenever the lecturer opens his mouth people just sigh in disbelief. Like is this really happening?

It doesn’t stop there. People will bemoan everything and it gets worse if there are assignments or CATs to be issued. Then the woeful cajoling will ensue, “Sir, please we don’t have to sit that CAT we’ve proven ourselves scholars for the four years we’ve been here. Let’s just learn till exams.”  And suddenly the class will come alive seconding those sentiments hoping the lecturer gets sold on such claptrap. Of course he won’t but it will go on nonetheless. Final semester students are akin to typical ‘sunday christians’, they all want to go to heaven but none of them wants to suffer for their sins.

So assignments will be issued anyway and they will still be done anyway despite students crying wolf. Only that there’s a new academic invention in writing assignments that has taken Universities by storm and is mostly linked to valedictory students. It’s normally referred to as ‘copy paste’ but the scientific name is plagiarism. Lately whenever my friend Njogu is about work on an assignment, he claims that he’s going to the gym. That’s because he is about to heavily lift course material from the internet and regurgitate it all on his term paper. Sometimes he paraphrases but most times it’s word for word. Banter aside, you’d be surprised he’s not alone, it’s the order of business around here. Too bad if the lecturer calls out the bluff.

Don’t mind the CATs, if you’ve caught the drift, you’ll realize that at this stage of the academic life cycle; they are to be sat and done in haste because there are so many other wildfires in Uni to be put out and you can’t spend too much time on one.

How about we talk about attendance, if any. The classroom shrinks and swells depending on the importance of the class. I’ve been privileged to witness it in my lifetime. That a course which has over 100 students enrolled shriveled to single digits on a Monday afternoon class. You should have seen the look on the lecturer’s face when he realized nobody else was coming in. For a minute he thought he was taking on students at Masters level because those present didn’t meet quorum or ‘critical mass’ whatever that statistics professor likes to yap about. But it is what it is.

Students will only show up when it counts, for the University Olympics. Which are group presentations, assignment submissions and examinations. That’s just about it and they’ll still gaslight the lecturer into believing they have been consistently attending class. Partly because Wanjeri somehow fled with the class attendance list but mostly because people don’t give two hoots anymore. Besides most of the boys in class are running hardware shops in Timboroa. And if not they are either nursing a hangover or a running stomach because their systems are replete with ‘chapo dondo’ combinations. Others are probably playing FIFA in the hood or having a go at botched music careers. The ladies on the other hand are likely making a kill selling clothes around campus, working part time on make-up gigs or doing the one thing that never seems to work out. Starting a youtube channel that will never live beyond past its foetal stage. The point is people are now adults, they can’t attend class every week. Comrades have deals to seal and bills to pay.

But imagine you haven’t seen half of it yet. Guys turning up for class high on vodka, ganja or cobbler’s glue for that matter to have a final crack at higher education. People dressing like hobos because how do you even dress to impress before people who’ve seen you wince under supplementary examinations for four years in a row. Or heard you fart in class, yes you, Josphat. We’ve seen each other cower from stage fright and literally almost speak our vernacular languages during presentations because students only prepare for house parties to be held over the weekend. The slouching in class, wandering in reverie, arriving five minutes to the end of lecture, dishonoring deadlines, fighting the dean over missing marks, crowd funding for school fees, the instinctive cheating in exams; basically the whole gamut. It feels like it’s time and time also concurs because were it not for Covid we wouldn’t be five years in for a four year course.

Speaking of time this reminds me of my run-ins with the schools’ security at the main gate. More than once have I arrived at school and had my identity questioned. It goes like, “Habari ya abusuhi boss? Guest ama Staff?” The first affront is that he never inquires for my school ID but that’s a bearable pain. What hurts is ‘Staff?’ Staff? Am I that ancient? That I look like a staffer? Education is supposed to be the great equalizer, nobody should be aged in a learning institution. However, it just goes to affirm my convictions. It’s time.  My tenure is due even the good people standing sentry at the gate know. A blind bat can see it too.

However, the overwhelming lethargy should not be confused for being insipid. Still, there remains a gushing willingness to get to the finishing line. It’s ironic since the attitude is so removed from the goal but certainly finalists’ eagerness to finish school remains unmatched. Largely because we are tired. Tired of insensitive rhetorical questions from relatives, friends and peers. “Yani all this time you’ve never finished Uni?”

Tired of missing out on opportunities because we have our studies pending. Tired of attending graduation parties and hoping it was our own. Tired because we know that a degree isn’t likely to change your life much in this day and age but we still want it regardless.

Beneath the eagerness lie so many unvoiced emotions. Fear and apprehension for the most part. Guys josh on in class about how bad they can’t wait to clear but they never really mean it. Buried deep behind a varsity student’s cheerful visage is a roiling insecurity about what’s to come.

Is there a well-paying job for me out there? Hata are there any jobs? Will my parents kick me out of the nest? What is a career? Who am I? What am I going to do? Do I even have ‘connections’? Is this really happening? You mean I’m an adult? Meant to take care of myself? How? Can I cry? Please send help.

Right there is a tumbling anxiety. A foreboding of an uncertain future. It is possible that some of us will end up in deluxe offices hauling home bumper salary packages. Some might never live long beyond wearing that gown. Some might end up hawking fries in the CBD in novelty costumes. Some will enjoy the buffer of well-heeled parents before finding their own feet. Or all of us could turn out alright and look back in relief. The bottom line is we are set to complete the last 4 of the 8-4-4 and we can’t tell what’s in the offing. Perhaps, from there our trepidation stems.

If you see fresh graduates out there just render them a kinder stare. But I think that paid internship would serve them better. Or the seed capital for that start-up they’ve been losing sleep over. Whichever the case, judge less and lend a helping hand if you can.

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