Why the #graduationgownchallenge has made South Africans emotional

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Nonkululeko Mazibulo, Lukhanyo Mtuta and Aphiwe Puzi share their inspiring graduation stories.
Nonkululeko Mazibulo, Lukhanyo Mtuta and Aphiwe Puzi share their inspiring graduation stories.
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It's one of the most uplifting challenges to hit social media. Graduation day for some families is often an emotionally charged day where the parents and family members see the fruits of their child's hard work.

The day would be filled with ululating family members who sing out praises to God and the ancestors.

Starting and finishing tertiary education isn't an easy journey, which is why South Africans have taken up the #graduationchallenge with enthusiasm. They've been posting their proudest moment and telling the stories of how they got there. Drum tracked down some of them. 

Aphiwe Puzi is a 29-year-old woman with zest and a gift to see the positive in every obstacle.

She often thinks back to her life journey before she graduated from the Cape Peninsula University of Cape Town, which was full of ups and downs. She's now an events coordinator and marketing assistant at one of the PSL Clubs.

“It took me a while, but God had to rewrite my failures. On my graduation day I was very emotional and touched because I remembered how I have failed a lot in my life. My parents took me to the best schools they could afford, and I failed Grade 10, and again I failed Grade12. People had a lot to say my friends moved on with their lives, some laughed at me, but my family never a saw a failure in me. Not once did they make me feel less of what all those other students were, I continued to pursue education,” she says.

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 “I remember after I failed Grade 12 it was such an embarrassment looking for my name in the newspaper on the morning when matric results were published and my name wasn’t there.  I didn’t know what to do with myself, some of my friends were sharing about registering in university. I was stuck crying day and night. I moved to Cape Town and repeated Grade 12 and passed! But little did I know that God had other plans. I first attended College of Cape Town and I did Electrical Infrastructure for three years, after that I decided that it wasn’t for me so I had to tell my family. It was just a lot for them and I was getting older.”

Aphiwe says that she had to continue to believe that she would find her purpose and passion and in 2014 she applied at CPUT as a walk-in applicant, she applied for sports management and the time she didn’t know what the course was.

“It was difficult because my father refused to pay my fees he had literally given up on me and he said he didn’t have money to pay fees for someone who fails all the time, but my mom, grandma and aunts they supported me right through."

She failed two major modules in her second year.

"I lost my financial aid, res, and I was excluded academically. I remember going back crying because I had to appeal! But God helped me through it and all my appeals were successful!

“In between my university years I’ve had amazing working opportunities. God knew what he was doing, I supported myself through part time jobs! My internship experience was one of the best out of anyone who is in my field of study! I am not stupid, but it was not my time. But I panicked because other people were moving forward...I was humiliated because I lost friends through failing, I have had to be in class with younger people than me! I have had family even close people who made feel like I am old I should just quit and go work. My age group now has cars, houses jobs. But today I am qualified graduate I saw my mother crying when I wore my academic attire that morning and she just said “Thixo ufanelwe ludumo nozuko”. You are greater than a fail written in your academic report! And I have always had to remind myself that.”

Aphiwe Puzi
Aphiwe Puzi shares her heart warming story of never giving up.
Aphiwe Puzi
Aphiwe Puzi shares her heart warming story of never giving up.
Aphiwe Puzi
Aphiwe Puzi shares her heart warming story of never giving up.

Nonkululeko Mazibuko is a recent journalist graduate who studied at the University of Johannesburg. 

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The 25-year-old  says that her graduation was a bittersweet moment for her.

“As a student and months leading to my graduation, I would dream about the day I graduate. I would picture myself crying tears of joy as I walk  through the stage to collect my qualification. In disbelief that I finished my degree in recorded time, as hard as it was. However, my graduation day  did not turn out the way I had thought it would be. The day before I actually  graduated, my parents were excited beyond words, even though at the  time we as a family were going through a tough time, as my maternal  grandma, had been in the hospital for months due to being extremely sick. They could not hide how proud and excited they were of this big day and so was I. 

"But all that changed when my dad was involved in a car accident the very day before my graduation. And my whole world came crumbling down. After that, all my excitement went out the window, as for  me and my mom went into panic mode after we got a call from my dad  that he had been in a car accident, and at the moment all I was concern  about was him being okay, even if it means I will not go to my own  graduation ceremony. By the grace of God, it was only the car that was damaged.”

Nonkululeko Mazibuko
Nonkululeko Mazibuko shares that she graduated with hard and determination.
Nonkululeko Mazibuko
Nonkululeko Mazibuko shares that she graduated with hard and determination.

Lukhanyo Mtuta is a 23-year-old journalism graduate who has a passion for sports reporting and current affairs.

“I got to really discover myself in university. It is such a life changing experience, we meet people from different backgrounds, and we all have a purpose to achieve their dreams. I chose a course that boosted my strengths, one that I did not even know about. I love writing and journalism was the best possible thing for me. I failed my second year as I was juggling both school and work. Fees must fall also broke out around the same time. There were no classes for 3-4 months and I decided to get a job so I could provide for myself, where I tutored Asian students and taught them how to speak English,” Lukhanyo tells DRUM.

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“Assignments kept coming in although there were protests and no class. I kept missing the assignments which led to me failing my second year, but I learnt my lesson and I kept pushing till I passed all the modules and years leading to my graduation. Graduating has taught to keep working towards my goals, I want to be better than I was each year.”

Lukhanyo says after all the hard work he has put into his education he would like to get a well-paying job.

“I deserve that, my family deserves that. I am a first born of three children and I am being raised by a single parent. It would mean a lot to us.”

Lukhanyo Mtuta
Lukhanyo Mtuta shares how his inspiring journey to graduating.
Lukhanyo Mtuta
Lukhanyo Mtuta shares how his inspiring journey to graduating.

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