For them there were no calls from aunts and uncles sharing the joy with proud parents.
There were no sparkling accounts of their hard work on social media sites. Instead, they probably felt judged.
If no one pays attention or offers words of encouragement, these matriculants could sink into a deep, dark hole of depression, feeling like failures because, unlike their peers, they’ve got no fruits to reap for work done not only last year but over the course of their high school years.
Their peers are busy talking tertiary education or taking gap years to travel, but for these young people who’ve failed, the future looks bleak.
This is a critical time as some young people tend to become suicidal, mostly because they feel isolated. Psychologists have listed social isolation as one of the triggers, and this is particularly worrying as the SA Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) described as a crisis the state of youth and mental health in the country during last year’s mental health awareness month. The WHO said close to 800000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.
According to Sadag, 17.6% of South African teens had considered attempting suicide, and over 20% of 18-year-olds had one or more suicide attempts.
Parents, caregivers and extended families should pay attention and offer support, encouraging these young people to understand that failure isn’t the end of the road. They can pick themselves up and write matric again.
When Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng urged graduates to post pictures of their graduations and share their stories last year, one young man shared a story of how he had failed matric, rewrote the next year and barely passed, then tried again four years later and passed well enough to get accepted to a top local university.
That young man who failed matric in 2003 now holds two degrees, and his hard work and determination later earned him a scholarship to study towards an MA at a UK university.
This story of perseverance shows just how far one can go if one keeps trying. So to those who didn’t make it, or didn’t pass well enough to pursue degrees that would ensure they get to pursue their chosen careers, there is still hope. Get up, dust yourself off and register for a rewrite. There are endless opportunities out there, and you can make it.
For those who did well, The Star congratulates you and wishes you well as you embark on a new journey. Tertiary education can be tough for some, especially those who will live away from home for the first time. Adjusting to a new environment can be challenging for some and bring about feelings of anxiety.
So, to take a note from clinician Megan Hosking, to avoid feelings of failure or depression, proper planning, preparation and prioritising will be very helpful.
As you prepare to leave home and start a new life, try to prepare yourself mentally and engage with senior students you know so you don’t feel overwhelmed by the new environment.
Omphitlhetse Mooki is Assistant Editor at The Star