AN excerpt from an article I wrote nine years ago for StarEdu read: “Sure, graduates are everywhere these days. So what’s great about graduating?”
Titled “Graduation memories”, there was a line there saying: “If you are yet to go through it, let me tell you that it is a day that makes you feel that you have deservedly earned something worthy. It makes you, your parents and your loved ones proud”.
Alas, graduates in 2020 will miss the opportunity to participate in a graduation ceremony.
Colleges across the world have cancelled the traditional convocation or award ceremonies due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
All prepared keynote speeches by selected guests and honorary doctoral recipients are back in drawers, not knowing when they will be read out.
Graduates are denied the chance of listening to those speeches that could inspire them with guidance and comfort.
But more importantly is the missing component of the convocation itself.
With exams and dissertations completed, excitement is in the air among students in the final days of their final semester.
There is anticipation of a final gathering on convocation day and a final day in the campus.
Sadly there would be no last get together and no convocation this year; the final bidding after the exams is indeed the final goodbye.
Speeches are used to give a sense of urgency over the graduates’ future, stressing the importance of perseverance and imagination.
Messages delivered over the years by distinguished guests have helped graduates realise who they were about to become and how that would match with who they wanted to be.
For the class of 2020, their college experience has ended abruptly.
To make matters worse, they are plunging into a public health nightmare compounded by potentially the worst recession since the Great Depression.
Some of them will be the first in their families to graduate. Many have overcome great barriers to achieve this milestone.
As the real world knocks on their doors, they crave nothing more than a little direction and a little tradition.
For graduates, the punchy one-liners in graduation speeches, inspirational anecdotes and calls to action from entrepreneurs and politicians are a rite of passage.
In these final moments, they recognise that they influenced their varsities as much as the varsity influenced them.
There are objectives that students and varsity administrators shared and worked together during the formers’ years in university that transformed them into a distinguished class of students.
Now that the students have graduated, the administrators look with pride at the efforts and contributions made by both them and the students.
Sadly, graduates this year won’t put on mortarboards and gowns to listen to celebratory speakers.
Curbing the pandemic requires everyone to do their part and the decision not to have convocations has likely saved the lives of students and staff.
These graduates may never know the true feeling of receiving the scrolls in front of distinguished guests that include their proud parents.
Getting an official certificate from the vice-chancellor or president will be all they have to show.
I am sure they hope to have one last day on campus where they will all be together again when things are better.
DR ARZMI YAACOB
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