‘I had a virtual graduation ceremony because of coronavirus – and this is how it felt’

Virtual Graduation Ceremony (PHOTO: Getty Images/Gallo Images)
Virtual Graduation Ceremony (PHOTO: Getty Images/Gallo Images)

Just like every other year, the period between March and April was supposed to be the time  graduation ceremonies took place.

In early March, minister of health Dr Zweli Mkhize announced the first coronavirus case in the country. Since then, infections have risen to over 1 400 and we find ourselves in a nationwide lockdown.

Read more: Coronavirus in SA: president confirms first local transmission in the country

Universities across the country responded to the pandemic by shutting down and postponing graduation ceremonies.

DRUM speaks to Jarryd Terblanche, a 23-year-old honours student from the University of the Western Cape (UWC), about how he has been dealing with the pandemic as a graduate.

“My graduation was initially supposed to take place on 6 April. To be honest, I felt disappointed in the beginning. Though this pandemic is terrifying, I found myself having to reconcile my pride on the situation,” Jarryd says.

Read more: Disadvantaged university students on online learning: ‘Some don’t even own smartphones

Many universities have opted for various options for the continuation of the graduation ceremonies, yet the University of the Free State, Rhodes University and the University of Johannesburg have postponed their ceremonies until further notice. Stellenbosch University, on the other hand, decided in early March to cancel their ceremony completely.

“My university sent out numerous emails informing us of their plan for suspension of physical classes. A plan for a virtual graduation was put together. Due to the fact that gatherings of over 100 people are not being allowed, graduation ceremonies were included. We were sent a link for a livestream that we could watch whereby our degrees would be conferred to us,” the UWC student explains.

Those students whose graduation ceremonies have been postponed, have taken to social media to celebrate the day that would have been.

The pandemic has left graduates with a lot of mixed emotions with some going as far as wanting to suspend their studies. However, Jarryd is committed to finishing what he started.

“I feel indifferent about the situation. I think the current social climate should take precedence over a ceremony. I managed to still ‘celebrate’ my accomplishment with my family and that’s all that matters. My university has communicated that there will be a ceremony for students who wish to attend at a later stage, though I don’t think I would attend. I am currently doing my honours and I am definitely going to continue. I don’t believe this has left me despondent. I am working virtually on my thesis with my supervisor and we communicate regularly. I think the lockdown has influenced my productivity or lack thereof, but I will be continuing with my degree,” "he adds.

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