Congratulations! You have just qualified and successfully registered at a university. You are among the extremely few lucky young Zambians to have secured sponsorship into university. Parents, guardians, government, churches, good Samaritans and private companies and Trusts could be the sources of funding for your university studies.

You are on top of the world, as you should be, no matter how poor and anxious you may be about where you will find the rest of the money you think you will need; to live, study and successfully complete your studies. You have made it, survived primary and secondary school well enough to enter university. No one should deny you the joy, pride and dreams currently freely roaming in your head! You deserve them.

You are perhaps one of the few lucky ones going to start your university studies at the University of Zambia (UNZA); count yourself very fortunate, UNZA has a very rich history and you are just about to add to it! No one should diminish your pride if you are going to any of all the other universities in the country, or outside Zambia, you must be rightly excited at what the future holds for you!

Whatever your personal circumstances, and whichever university you are going to, be happy – qualifying and going to study at any legitimate university is a great step in the life of any person, especially a young person. I truly wish you the very best of luck, and a very safe journey, at university!

Now, my young friend, you are about to embark on a journey you have some reasonable power to influence how short or long this journey should be, which station the journey must end for you, and whether you should go all the way to a graduation ceremony, and the quality of the degree you must exit the university with! Make up your mind before you enter the university, which it will be!

Look, dear fellow, I am carefully choosing my words – I said “influence” rather than “determine” the journey – because there are other players and factors which, acting in concert with you, will ultimately determine how short or long this journey should be, which station your journey must end at, and whether you should go all the way to a graduation ceremony, and of course the quality of the degree you must exit the university with!

It is extremely rare, almost never happened before, but it is said that the Zambia Police have killed a university student in the recent past. University lecturers and staff strikes may badly affect your university journey to a point where it becomes impossible for you to proceed with the journey. Students are a militant lot, as expected, in a country as impoverished and politically alive as ours; student strikes and riots may cut short your journey. Funds may simply dry up at any time, and you may have to cut short your journey. These and many other factors over which you have no control or significant influence may be decisive in terminating your university journey before graduation.

If you will be staying in some student residence of some sort, you have very little choice in the selection of your room mates and neighbours, let alone their behaviour. You do not choose your lecturers, tutors, laboratory assistants and university staff. You find them, pluck, there in the university, ready to do battle with you or help you settle into the university! There is of course the quality of the physical infrastructure of the university and the general social atmosphere and the academic practices and cultures of the university you are going to – these could very well knock you out in the first semester!

It is not about all or any of these conditions and factors well beyond your personal control, as a student, I want to talk about; I am interested to give you some very good tips, some of them quite lethal and impossible to fail to terminate your university journey, should you in your foolishness, choose to use them!

I know this may sound strange at this point in your life: almost everyone who knows you are about to enter a university and wants you to succeed is encouraging you and giving you pretty useful advice about how to ensure that you complete your studies. That is good, that is as it should be. Listen carefully to everything they say and most of it may just see you through university successfully.

You are young. You are ambitious. Your hormones are at war with your mind, soul and body. You are now in a packed community of with other young people like you, also with raging hormones, minds and bodies! You think you are possibly a young genius; otherwise, how did you make it from that hell hole of an impoverished working-class community you have come from?

Perhaps for the first time in your life, you are all by yourself, completely. Time, money, personal administration and all other activities and relationships you will now have to manage all by yourself, for the first time, for long stretches of time called “semesters”.

You have heard all sorts of stories about what goes on in universities. You are eager to find out by yourself, how much of this is true or false, so are all the other young people with you! Meanwhile, like all other students, you want to go all the way in your journey at university, to the graduation, and hopefully with a good quality degree.

You have been told that courses and lecturers can be tough; lectures, laboratories, assignments and tutorials all must be attended to, in good time,all the time. You have heard that the volume of work and the amount of studying required can be too much, in a short time, most of the time. And yet you have also heard about the partying, alcohol, drugs and sex. And crime, too, in universities.

You will have heard about students who appear drunk all the time but get distinctions. You will certainly meet some of these. Others, you have been told, appear to be on some love trip throughout their university life. Of these Romeos and Juliets, some have very short journeys in universities while others graduate, somehow. You will have heard about deeply involved Christians, Muslims and students of other faiths – some have very short lifespans in the university, some graduate too.

You have heard about the lives of students from rich homes – these drive, have money most of the time, live in expensive residences, dress smartly and party quite often and a number of them are “long term career students” – they never seem to graduate!

You have heard about how grinding poverty and the overpowering need to mix and have fan may compel some students to engage in all sorts of things including crime and prostitution. These students balance the struggles to worry about fees, food, clothes, and finding a place to sleep with studying and the demands of daily social life in university.

A university, you see, draws students from all walks of life from Zambia mainly. It just so happens that in our case, because of our national poverty and inability to expand universities and broaden access across all ages, social backgrounds and sectors of Zambia, most students are young! A university, therefore, in a certain sense for us in Zambia, is a small “Zambia” with the distinction that these Zambians are largely young and have been brought together to “study”! Funny, you will not fail to smell the stench of tribalism in the university too!

In Part 2, next week Thursday the 20th of January 2022,I will write about the 10 useful tips any young fool who wants an early exit from university before graduating needs to know!

(Send your comments to: kalindawalo2010@gmail.com)