Yesterday I helped invigilate an exam for around 80 people. They are young up-and-coming accountants, mostly from South Africa with some from Namibia and Zimbabwe.
The exam is 8 hours long. It is very hard. It was held in central London. It was icy cold outside and there is a train strike. These are kids whose degree was interrupted by covid and, if they were at Cape Town, possibly fires and protests. They have written many exams, jumped over many hurdles. They are intelligent, they work hard, they probably still do scut work, and aren’t paid much. They’ve left home, family, sunshine, to work in London to earn the added respect of international experience. Now just when they are at the cusp of things, there is inflation and a looming recession. Again.
They arrived when it was not yet dawn, looking stressed, vulnerable, cold and a little frustrated. As they walked in they looked me in the eye with so much natural respect and said, “Hello. How are you?”
I wanted to say to them, “How are you?!? You are incredible. You are amazing to have come this far despite everything that has stood in your way.”
They settled in, nervously opened their exam packs and were keen to finally get going. Some had brought snacks to eat as they worked. Some didn’t touch their food the whole time.
At the end I went round collecting their things. As I sent them off, I said well done to them and they were taken aback. All they could think about was passing the exam. They had no idea.
I wanted to tell them their dreams are within reach. They only have a little bit further to go. Everything is going to be ok. It will soon be their turn to change the world. They deserve good things for ploughing onwards in the face of being let down by so many people so many times at such a critical time in their lives.
They had no idea.
At the coffee station there was an arty poster in the wall that with more than a touch of derision said, “I’m not young enough to know everything.”
During the exam, I said quiet prayers for them, especially for the ones who looked extra tired. I lifted up the stressed ones, the ones who looked confused. They are such good examples. They are so inspiring.
They had no idea.