On 18 March the University of Pretoria (UP) announced that graduation ceremonies which were scheduled to take place between 7 April to 8 May were canceled. Students who were set to graduate were notified of this information by SMS and email. The decision comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster due to the rapidly growing positive cases of COVID-19 in South Africa. As a result, he rendered gatherings of more than 100 people prohibited.

The university will award all the qualifications listed in the graduation programmes of the autumn graduation ceremonies in absentia and the ceremony will be live-streamed. The university also plans to courier certificates to the graduates free of charge.

The university will award all the qualifications listed in the graduation programmes of the autumn graduation ceremonies in absentia and the ceremony will be live streamed.

A petition to not cancel but rather postpone the graduation ceremonies was soon created and has been signed by more than 6000 students as of 19 March. According to the website Change.org, the petition was created by Cormari Nel, a student at UP.

Trevor van Wyk, a BSoc Sci (Hons) student who was meant to graduate during the autumn graduation ceremony, said, “I was really bummed out to be honest. I feel like postponing it would have been better. Even if it meant the ceremony would be months down the line.” One of the graduates stated that this would have been her first graduation ceremony and because of how hard students work for the opportunity to attend the graduation ceremony and walk on that stage, she feels as though the university should revisit and amend the decision made.

After the university heard the concerns raised by graduates, it was decided to host both an online graduation ceremony for the convenience of students and a traditional graduation ceremony once it’s safe to proceed.

Illustration: Giovanna Janos

NOKWANDA KUBEKA