In my day, a university graduation ceremony was a solemn affair, with all dressed in their Sunday finery, and a general air of dignity prevailed.
My daughter graduated from TUT, and received an invitation - 2 guests max. Before the ceremony, we collected the programme and seating tickets with instructions - 'Be seated, no later than 9h30. And, no cameras allowed.'
We settled down, the doors were locked, but the hall was half empty. The dignitaries alighted the stage and we were welcomed with the Dean's speech: "Although your children now have a qualification in their chosen field, South Africa does not owe them employment. The hard work begins now."
At around 10am, there was a commotion outside. The doors, (they appeared to be bulging inwards) were re-opened and in pushed the parents, as though they were running from Pamplona bulls.
Their children were graduating and the whole world would know about it.
Finally, there was a semblance of normality.
A gentleman, from the stage, told us that after a graduate had received a diploma, we could clap and ululate. And, a reminder that the taking of photo's was not permitted.
Ululate? I had never heard of this. According to Google, this is a word derived from Latin and English, but is an African custom, which means to 'howl as a dog or wolf does.' Multiply this by a thousand!
As for the taking of photo's, well, bugger instructions. The cameras and 'phones were held aloft. There was more flashing than when Britney forgot to wear her broeks.
At 11am, the ceremony began and parents flew out of their chairs, dancing down the aisles, singing and screaming.
As a mother flopped down beside me, I asked: "What was that all about?"
"I have sacrificed so much for this day. I worked so hard and saved," was her smug reply.
And, so say all of us.
We are all aware that a national sport in South Africa, is striking and rioting. These people are too cross, but sing and dance for weeks.
At a Graduation ceremony they are ecstatic, so picture how this went. I didn't hear my daughter's name being called out - ululations for her, as well, and I had to strain my eyes to see the stage as three mothers, in the row in front decided to outdo one another, with Lady Gaga monstrosities on their heads.
A further instruction was not to leave the hall until the ceremony was over.
But, why should these rules apply? Parents came and went at their will, with patient security guards locking and unlocking the doors, while the parents brought back pies and colddrinks.
One graduate moon-danced on the stage, and when another was awarded a Doctorate, all went beserk! They didn't even know who he was.
I had a guest from Mauritius who came to attend her UNISA graduation ceremony, and told me that she had been studying all her adult life, all over the world, but had never had to endure 'such appalling caterwauling chaos.'
My younger daughter will graduate from UNISA in two years time. But, I will be prepared, with a visit to my pharmacist for something, to take the edge off things.
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