By Thembelani Mkhize
Getting a university degree is no easy feat and, with the high national drop-out rate, it’s safe to say that it’s easier to get into tertiary education than it is to come away with your qualification. For those who don’t make it all the way, it’s not really the end of the world, and we should look to those who made it for inspiration.
Celebrations are always at hand during graduation season, as has been the case this month, and the graduation ceremony at UKZN is known for its flamboyant, energetic and inspirational spirit. From the variety of traditional outfits donned by students to the dances and cheers of celebrations by the parents, I dare say that UKZN graduation ceremonies are the best in Africa, if not the world.
I spent around four years in private colleges before finally dropping out but most of the friends I had were studying at UKZN. Whether it was at Howard College campus, where I met Ngcebo Ndlela from Mpophomeni, who finished his law degree in record time, or at Pietermaritzburg campus where I befriended Sthabiso Ngubane from Greytown, who didn’t just finish his chemistry degree but did so in genius style through the chaos and harassment of the #feesmustfall protests. Both of these students were top of their class in matric with more than five distinctions each.
We as Zulus are renowned for our traditional dance, known as “uksine”, which is a display of contemporary acrobatics and a little bit of “how we’ll stomp all over you if you mess with us”… sort of like New Zealand and the Hakka.
At other campuses it’s usually the formal walk on stage, receive your certificate and applause from the crowd, but at UKZN it’s a whole other ball game. When your name is called it’s as if the announcer is from the WWE and your theme song starts playing – so you walk on stage and completely change the whole atmosphere by showing off your culture and background while chanting your family’s praise song. It’s almost like a thank you to our ancestors for getting to where we are and acknowledging their contributions to the people we are going to become.
Making our parents proud is always a top goal and seeing them join in the celebrations is an emotional moment for students.
To all the graduates, congratulations on your achievement. This is only the beginning – as the popular meme says, it’s “time to put that qualification aside and hustle like a dropout”.
You’ve proven your resilience, from sleepless nights and long hours in the library, to Friday nights at Cubana with cocktails and diced strawberries, from riots and bullets with gas and chains, to knowing that one last paper is all that remains.
Now it’s time to show that same resilience to the world.
Contact Thembelani: firstname.lastname@example.org