Tales of a 2021 graduation 

Thabang Moloi and Manelisi Magoro

The Autumn Graduations took place from 13 April
to 7 May, where a total of 31 virtual graduation ceremonies were conducted. 11400 qualifications were awarded during the Autumn Graduation season, 198 of which were doctorates and 1289 master’s degrees.

The Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and IT kick-started its ceremonies by presenting 450 degrees from four departments. The Faculty of Education awarded 259 degrees for distance learning. The Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences awarded over 1 000 degrees and the
Faculty of Humanities concluded its virtual graduation ceremony by awarding 537 BA degrees.

The pandemic disrupted many of the normal campus activities and proceedings in 2020 and 2021. Graduation day, the one day that a student looks forward to the instant they set foot into a higher learning institution, has also fallen victim to the pandemic’s aftermath, and had to go virtual. This came as a disappointment to many students as it meant that they would not be celebrated to the extent of their satisfaction – that meant there would no longer be any ululations or outbursts of praise and gratitude from proud parents, family members and close friends. Higher learning and teaching institutions have not yet found an efficient and safe way to conduct physical graduations that are not in breach of the COVID-19 regulations. That has not meant that students couldn’t attend virtual graduation ceremonies and get their degrees via courier. The Autmun Graduations marked the university’s third virtual graduation since the start of the pandemic, with the first one being a few days after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the national state of emergency in March 2020. The proceedings are as ‘normal’ as they could be, and includes a welcoming and acknowledgement speech from the Vice- Chancellor and Principal, Professor Tawana Kupe, who then hands over to each faculty’s dean to introduce and present the Honorary Doctorate candidates of the faculty. The degrees are then conferred in their hierarchy.

Reabetswe Phati, a BCom Financial Sciences graduate, shared her experience and expectations for her graduation this year: “I expected what every person expects when they graduate, the whole family present and shouting my clan names as I cross the stage […] Expectations were not met but the opportunity to [take pictures] with my parents and dress up was still pretty great”. Thebe Lephallo, who is a BCom Statistics graduate, shared the same sentiments and shed light on what the future holds for him, “A whole lot. An engagement with the world of work and appreciating where I am going to apply the skills I absorbed in my studies”, he said. Nduduzo Majozi, who was awarded a master’s degree in Applied Mathematics, says that it is natural to expect a normal ceremony with friends and family. However, she was “blown away” by the video where their names were announced and degrees were conferred virtually. Majozi says her master’s degree is an entry requirement for a PhD and she is hoping to be employed on a full-time basis in academia and that this qualification serves as a stepping stone towards her dreams.

When asked what she would tell her first-year self, given the opportunity, she replied “I suggest you follow your dreams, it will get hard but if you honestly choose a course that you love, the love will sustain you. Make friends, be approachable because umuntu ungumuntu ngabantu”.
New graduates are advised to sign up to UP Alumni Connect at https://upalumniconnect.com to stay in touch.

For highlights on the graduation season follow #UPGraduation2021.

PDBY is the official student newspaper of the University of Pretoria.
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