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NKOSIKHONA DUMA: It is okay for students to sleep

OPINION

I was recently invited to a career expo where I formed part of the panel. We were urged to discuss pertinent subjects affecting fellow young people as they prepare to navigate professional workspaces.

The speaker before me in attempting to 'motivate' the youth attendants, mostly high school students in their matric year, said: "ulala kanjani ungenayo i-Degree" literally - how do you sleep without a [university] degree".

I cringed. The speaker was advocating for a culture and habitual practices that I am against. To me, her words represent the popular notion of promoting unrealistic perceptions of hard work which include promoting the idea of people denying themselves sleep so that they appear to be hardworking.

On social media, fellow young people who are intern doctors and candidate attorneys are often splashed with likes and comments of praise on their posts with captions like: "burning the midnight oil".

They are, of course, the role models that parents in the township tell their kids to look up to and so, young kids are initiated at a young age to aspire to be like them.

At this time, the lack of sleep is associated with hard work, and therefore those who dare practice it when there's work are seen as committing sins of calamitous proportions.

Those who do not engage in the culture of consuming energy drinks in the early hours of the morning to have enough energy to go through one more academic reading are perceived as not putting in enough effort.

My opinion is unpopular. I advocate for resting when it is necessary to do so and to actually sleep for at least six hours each night.

I will admit that shifting to this mentality and moving away from the guilt of resting has taken me some time. I grew up in an epoch where "cross-nighting" before an exam was the in thing. Group study sessions, winter school and extra classes were often imposed on us and those of us who dared oppose this were often cast as delinquents.

After all, we live in a society where that which is unnecessary is accorded praise.

Students who cross-night are often praised and advocated for, when in actual fact, students wouldn't need to cross-night if they took a minimum of 20 minutes each day reviewing what they were taught per subject.

The first and only study group session I participated in was during my grade 11 year. I struggled with it because I had to be subjected to peers who clearly had not prepared for that session, who clearly were not paying enough attention in class during the year and who somehow felt entitled to be re-taught by a fellow student. Worse, I realised that 80% of the time during that session was dedicated to gossip.

It is time that we change the narrative when 'motivating' fellow young people in the township.

We need to be frank and say, it is okay to sleep. It is actually scientifically proven to be healthy.

We need to say in the same breath that what is not okay is allowing extreme levels of procrastination to creep in and expecting miracles to happen when effort is employed at the last minute.

The important things in life require effort, commitment and preparation.

Therefore, fellow young people need to know early that study group sessions, extra classes and winter school will not work if they do not prepare.

Save them the trouble at the community career expos - so that they do not become future corporate employees who prepare for big presentations the night before.

Nkosikhona Duma is the KwaZulu-Natal correspondent for Eyewitness News. Follow him on Twitter: @NkoRaphael

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