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31 August 2010

What we learn from college these days

It is a well known fact the world over that graduates emerge from university as completely different creatures when compared to their counterparts who have never been in these institutions of higher learning. 
Zimbabwe is not an exception. 

Each year, thousands of beings are unleashed out into the country with radically transformed values, views, language, sense of humor…everything, actually. 
This article will discuss just four things university graduates learn these days (I don’t know if its proper to use ‘University’ or ‘College’ interchangeably, but I’m gonna do that in this article. Its fun). 
Let’s start with language.

The average college student is so hard pressed for time that it becomes most inconvenient to fully pronounce frequently used words. As a result, university talk is loaded with cryptic codes and abbreviations that would put a Microsoft programmer to shame. Students do not go ‘surfing on the internet’, for instance, they just ‘google’. So if you here someone talking about ‘Googling the Stratman and FinAc assignment before hitting the D.H’, rest assured, they are not talking space science…its just homework and food.
Thanks to the prevalence of text messaging and emails, abbreviations are now creeping into notebooks and even - God forbid - assignments. Peak into Tendai Dube’s notebook, for instance, and you are going to need the Tendai Dube's Concise Short Hand Dictionary if you want to be able to read those notes.

Now this is the greatest skill that Zimbabwe’s finest learning institutions manage to impart to undergraduates. This process might seem complex and intimidating at first but really, the average student has managed to perfect this art into a few simple steps:

1) Google it
2) Copy it
3) Paste it
4) Edit

Step 1 involves searching for relevant material on the internet whether its for an assignment or a research project. Step 2 and 3 is the part where you select information from a website and paste it to your assignment/project/notes. The final task, Step 4, is supposed to involve weeding out the trash and remain with a polished product. This last step has proven to be optional in most cases.

A friend of mine managed to do his attachment project in less than a week and a half. This is a process that is supposed to take something like 6 to 8 months. He passed.

Face to face conversation went out with the Stone Age. The 21st Century is all about calls ant txtng, emails and of course Facebook. See, the university I attended had wi-fi (I’m not explaining what that is….google it!). Everyone who had a computer, phone or other compatible device could access the internet from almost any point within the university premises. I recall an incident in which two friends of mine, separated by a 10 minute walk, opted to video chat on Skype instead. 

This is nothing, compared to the new social etiquette that allows relationships to be started online; breakups and make ups via txt messages and the like. In some bygone era, breaking up with someone was a long complicated process which involved avoiding the other for a while as a way of insinuating the fading romance; creating a negative and nasty attitude to show dislike; then finally having to make the much dreaded face to face speech usually starting with words ‘I don’t think this is working anymore…’ 

In a university situation, this would obviously take too long. Simply change your Facebook status to single. Optionally, you can then send a txt notification of the recent turn of developments.

And if you thought the business-focused university curriculum was lacking in terms of life skills, you might be surprised to learn that students are also taught how to be efficient inside the home setting. 

Let us first take the simple example of a breakfast meal. This is usually a long, dreary and time wasting affair for the unschooled. Through college, you get to learn that eating whilst standing up is not taboo after all. It is simply a time saving strategy: normal college procedure mostly done at 8:30 in the morning in preparation for an 8:00a.m lecture.

Let’s take a weightier illustration next. This next skill which I will call ‘greasing’ would be indispensable to those who might need to make it to the top later on in life. Like I mentioned before, college students are hard pressed for time. In fact, so many things battle to be included on the schedule that there might not even be enough time to study. This could be a problem when you finally have to write your final exams. 
Fortunately, if you know the right people, you can grease your way into having the exam paper before the exam gets to be written! 
You can also ‘grease’ into registering with insufficient funds for fees, or ‘grease’ your way into having the hard to get campus accommodation. There are so many instances of practicing this ‘greasing’ that you can actually become an expert by the time you leave college.

This life skill can come in handy in a lot of instances in life: including getting lucrative contracts for your company if you are into selling and marketing, or if you simply need to fast track the process of getting your driver’s licence.

Well, that’s just a peek of the way universities are transforming the youth of the country into a whole new different species altogether. I wonder what it will be like when eventually, the whole country falls into the hands of this generation.

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