Over the course of the past few weeks, I have witnessed UCT’s graduation season in full swing.

I think that one of the things that intrigued me the most was how different students (from different backgrounds) and their families react and celebrate the closing of this chapter.

One the one hand, some students go all out: new suits, new dresses, their families and friends arrive in numbers from far and wide to show support and often show signs of deep emotion on the student’s behalf. While in contrast, some students wake up as if it’s just another day, put on any clothes they can find and attend the ceremony as if it is just another lecture. Better yet, some decide that it’s not even worth attending.

I asked myself why? 

Personally, I was not necessarily looking forward to it. To be completely honest, I am not a fan of the way our universities are supposedly “equipping” us with the skills for the modern world. However, I identified that my graduation meant a lot to my family. Particularly my gran, who insisted on flying down to Cape Town to attend the ceremony with my parents and sister!  My gran, like my late grandad, were not afforded the educational opportunities I have been so blessed with. And at the time in South Africa, this was unfortunately the norm.

It took a while to process, but I realised that this wasn’t my graduation.

This, in fact, was for my grandparents, and in particular, my late grandad who sacrificed so much during impossible times to ensure that his kids and subsequent grandkids could go to the best schools and attend the best universities. 

(My late grandad also happens to be my hero and all time best friend).

So while it was I that was physically conferred a degree, this was for him, because had it not been for his sacrifices, I would not have been standing there. And had he been born in another time, he’d no doubt have had this and many more degrees to his name. 

The standard post-graduation picture (in my Maxhosa tie)

One thought on “What Graduation Meant to Me”

  1. I like your different takes on graduation. I was lucky enough to experience it on more than one occasion and for me personally it’s great and lovely to see the joy it brings to my family more than anything else. I do believe that we should celebrate victories BUT we should, early in our lives, establish what the differences are between battles (small victories) and wars (big victories).

    Graduating ,in my eyes, falls under a battle. When you win a battle you are not done purely because the war is still on, it’s only the beginning. As you once said “graduated, now to start learning” and as Tumsa’s brother said at his graduation dinner “you are in grade 1 again”

    If this is your outlook – you will never be overtaken.

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