The blessing and the curse of ‘the gown’

By: Tsepiso Theko

It’s a very happy and emotional day. The end of one struggle, breeding another. An achievement of something that means a lot yet so little. A victory for us, but mostly for our parents. It is for them. For them to be happy, to be proud, and to be glad their efforts didn’t go in vain.

To show their neighbours back home that indeed their child is learned, better. That they did what they could not even dream of. Their day to ululate and be proud. After all, they have travelled with the money borrowed from their trusted loan shark.

Money taken with the hope, that when paid back it will be the end of their relationship.  This is the day for our parents, going all out. Asking that uncle with a van who charges for local deliveries to accompany them.

Of course, he’ll agree! when last did he go to Johannesburg? it’s a getaway! He’ll even organise a net to put at the back so that all the aunties and uncles can sit at the back. Obviously, the mother must sit at the front. She is the mother of the man of the moment. The one with the womb that is as clean as an ocean, the one who birthed a graduate.

 “I can’t wait to be done with this degree so I can do my own thing,” are some of the comments that I have heard students say.

When? I wonder because this is the day that our parents surrender responsibilities for us to carry. It is not nice to carry, but we knew we wanted to carry it. For most of us, the ones who have the whole village thinking the gown is synonymous to success, we die on this day. We do not go back home and ‘help out’. We build from the start, we become parents to our siblings, and we have the obligation to restore dignity in our homes.

The self-given responsibility to take care of our parents and siblings is not one only graduate partake in. Every black child wants to change the situation at their home. Some have found themselves in crime and prostitution. The gown is just fancier and safer.

It is nice seeing graduate in gowns, throwing hats, hugging parents and taking pictures. The pictures depict graduates. They seem like empty, anxious skeletons killed by black realities. It is sad that the gown is worse than failing sometimes. Failing is just that, failing. The gown is synonymous to a lot of things back home, things that contradict reality.

We have to make ends meet with so little. But ends should meet, they will. I think we are lucky to be born at a time like this. Where the conversations of depression and anxiety are everywhere. We are lucky to have the heads up of what’s coming. It will not make it better, but I think it makes a difference.

Things are bound to be difficult for us. We are the ones who are breaking generational curses, the ones starting afresh, the ones our parents wished for. We are the ones we wished we had growing up, someone to look up to, to look and see possibility. We are here, seeking knowledge, learning about everything our parents got wrong. Unlearning what does not work and readdressing what does, it’s all us.  There is no one coming for us. We are definitely the ones we have been waiting for.

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