Degree of dismay for many graduates missing ceremonies over Covid-19

05 April 2020 - 00:00
UCT BCom accounting graduate, Zolani Zuma
Image: Supplied UCT BCom accounting graduate, Zolani Zuma

Zolani Zuma donned his suit and graduation gown, but instead of strutting across the stage at the University of Cape Town, he walked across his living room where his father conferred a BCom in accounting on him.

Zuma, like many students globally, decided to have an at-home graduation after tertiary institutions across the world cancelled or indefinitely postponed their graduation ceremonies due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I felt a bit sad about it. I was looking forward to the ceremony because I worked towards it for three years so it was incredibly disappointing,” he said.

“Graduation is a huge milestone in the academic journey. It's a culmination of the years you worked in university, and even before that in high school, when you tried to achieve good marks so you could apply to do the degree that you want. When you get that degree, it's a really big achievement and graduation is a chance to celebrate that.”

Zuma had already bought his suit and graduation gown, and his parents, who live in KwaZulu-Natal, had already booked tickets and accommodation for the event last month.

But he and his parents instead held a ceremony at home to commemorate his achievement.

“What I did instead, at home, I dressed up in my graduation attire, and then my dad just put the cap on me like the university's rector would have. Then we took pictures. Afterwards, we had a cake and takeout.”

On Wednesday the University of the Western Cape became the first institution in SA to hold a virtual graduation.

Chancellor Thabo Makgoba conducted the ceremony, calling out graduates' names and conferring degrees during a 30-minute live session streamed on YouTube. All other universities have either suspended or cancelled graduations, conferring all degrees, diplomas and certificates in absentia.

Wits University graduate Kovisha Ganess, who obtained a BSc in actuarial science, saw the lighter side. She took to Instagram to mark her cancelled graduation day, sharing a picture of herself in a nightgown and a hat and holding a piece of paper.

18 March

The day that Kovisha Ganess, who obtained a BSc in actuarial science, would have had her graduation ceremony at Wits University

“Today was supposed to be my graduation, so I put on a gown, a cap and held some paper in my hand. You know, for the culture. See you soon Great Hall. Stay safe,” she wrote.

Ganess told the Sunday Times she wanted to do something to share the news of her graduation with friends and family.

“I was excited about the ceremony because anyone going to university goes through a lot emotionally and mentally,” she said.

“It is something you look forward to because as much as you get your results from the year before, and you know you passed and you've technically graduated, having the ceremony kind of finalises and cements everything.”