Graduating is too big an achievement to be underplayed because of a national lockdown.
This is why Walter Sisulu University has opted to put together a virtual graduation ceremony to honour more than 6,000 graduates on Friday, university spokesperson Yonela Tukwayo said.
The institution joins Wits University and the universities of Johannesburg, Pretoria and the Western Cape which have all resorted to online graduations in March and April due to the national lockdown.
“It would be sad to not make a big deal out of someone completing a qualification.
“It’s a big deal to us as a university for every student who successfully obtains a qualification from us, so it’s not just another event that we can just glance over.
“It takes so much for every individual to obtain a qualification and it’s worth honouring because they have truly put in the years and effort to get here,” Tukwayo said.
The virtual ceremony will be hosted on the university’s Facebook page, with vice-chancellor Prof Rob Midgley to confer the degrees and diplomas.
As a result of the large number of students expected to graduate, the university has elected to acknowledge, via a ticker-tape running across the bottom of the screen, only those obtaining the postgraduate qualifications of doctoral, masters and honours degrees.
The ceremony is expected to take about 25 minutes, including pre-recorded videos from some students narrating their journeys towards obtaining their qualifications.
“Listening to the short clips of some of our students telling their stories about the struggles and what they’ve had to go through to obtain their qualifications really emphasises the importance of publicly recognising the effort and [sense of] achievement that graduating carries,” Tukwayo said.
Under normal circumstances, WSU graduations span a period of two weeks and are divided into 16 sessions that each take about three hours.
Tukwayo said graduation programmes with the names of all 6,147 graduands would be published on the institution’s website on graduation day.
Of the 6,147 graduates to be acknowledged, four from the Mthatha Campus will be conferred with doctoral degrees, 17 with masters, and 108 with honours degrees.
A total of 116 students have obtained cum laude passes.
In an attempt to recover and set the tone for the rest of the year, Midgley said, the university had established a teaching and learning team to ensure continuity of academic business under the restrictions.
This was to be executed in three ways.
“First, we have made provision for technology infused teaching and learning using Blackboard to facilitate learning.
“Second, we have adopted teaching and learning akin to distance learning, whereby provision is made for students who’re unable to access Blackboard and/or have connectivity problems.
“Last, [we have] a compressed face-to-face contact teaching when students are back to ensure that, regardless of the pathway adopted by students, they have an equal learning opportunity,” Midgley said.
The virtual graduation ceremony will be on Facebook, BayTV (channel 260) and Keith Ngesi’s Radio Facebook page.
By Zamandulo Malonde – DispatchLIVE