Getting an attachment placement during university studies is probably every students’ dream come true. Usually, a great placement for internship means that among other things, it is a “paying placement”. As a result, a lot of the last days of my second year at university were spent looking forward to attachment as l had high hopes of getting such a great placement; a wish many other students in my class also harboured as we calculated the things we were going to buy with the money we expected to be receiving.
Little did l know, then, that this was going to be nothing but a fantasy.
With the current economic situation in the country, which has led to closure of many companies, getting a placement for attachment is proving more and more of a challenge. While there have been arguments around the actual rate of unemployment in Zimbabwe, we all know about the current vendor situation and the fact that within three months of this year, 30 000 people were fired from their jobs. And many of these people have better skills and more experience than us university students.
As time kept passing by, students from my class (myself included) were not getting anything in the form of internship placements with most companies stating they did not have adequate resources to cater for students. With company closures and reductions in office sizes now the norm, this came as no real surprise.
After five months of struggling to get a placement, l finally found myself in a good company which l loved working for. The thing I hated, though, was the fact that each month passed by without me receiving a single cent. Many students simply accept placements where they do not get paid as a means to complete this attachment period that is a requisite for completing their studies.
I was not the only one with expectations for my attachment; my family was also looking forward to me helping with money for groceries, electricity and water bills, and even payment of my siblings’ school fees. It was hard for them to understand that l was working yet l kept coming back to them for financial help.
I am one of many students who learn at universities far from home and we find ourselves with no other option but to rent out rooms; rentals are expensive and attachment money was not only going to help me save for rent, grocery and transport, but also contribute towards costs of my final year of studies which included fees, printing of assignments and accessing the internet for research. Unfortunately, the university I attend does not provide any resources towards this. My lack of payment, however, means that l will keep on bothering my struggling family for such financial support.
In addition, being a young woman new to the business world proved to be more of a challenge than l had imagined. Being in the corporate world, l had to look the part, and as a result, had to adapt to this animal they call “formal wear”. I was already struggling to fit in and not getting paid was not helping the situation. Having been used to the university life of wearing anything, l did not have much in the form of formal clothes. This meant I had to buy new clothes, but since l was not getting any money, this was a challenge.
Also, there came around quite a number of men – and not the kind I was accustomed to meeting at university. Men with the potential to provide for all l wanted; the new clothes I needed for work, the money I required for transport and every other thing I might need, and want. They all had the same thing in common, which is that they offered to provide everything that l needed, buy me this and that and take me to all the fancy places that every young woman dreams of going to. The truth, however, was that they never really wanted anything other than sex from me. And most of them, some of them who even had wives, made that point clear.
While sexual harassment has always been an issue within newsrooms, the current economic situation only serves to exacerbate the challenges. The situation leaves young women desperate for financial assistance and they’d rather accept the offers than report the cases as sexual harassment. Men are aware of this desperation and they tend to take advantage of the vulnerable students which usually does not end well for the women.
But most of these relationships don’t last long and when the two break up; the working environment becomes awkward and unbearable for the student who still needs to complete her attachment. The man is still the boss; he must be respected with his orders being followed. With the aim of proving their authority, some of these men turn work life into a living hell. Being a student, one is at the mercy of the bosses to either pass or fail attachment. As a result, if things don’t go well between the two, the student is at risk of failing. With this fear in their minds, many young women choose to endure, continuing with the relationships but never saying a word, even when they are being abused.
A prayer of most university students is to see the government taking action and turning the economy around for us to have a better tomorrow; a tomorrow where attachment and internships are not almost impossible to come by, and where our rights and needs are respected and honoured, a tomorrow where students can dream of having placements in conducive environment, and getting a full-time job after completing their degrees.
Zimbabwe needs serious and urgent measures to fix the present economic crisis which is affecting every sector.
Main image taken from alivecampus.com