Virtual Graduation during coronavirus pandemic

By Loren Dondo

The Coronavirus pandemic has affected how we celebrate weddings, birthdays, Mother’s or Father’s Day but most importantly, graduations. It is nothing new to use social media as a way to show off achievements, such as uploading your status that you just got engaged or graduated. However, never in a million years did it occur to most people that there would be such a thing as a “virtual graduation”.

According to the University of Wisconsin, a “virtual graduation” or “virtual commencement” is an online ceremony that features shareable digital slides honouring each student, formal remarks and speeches. Graduates are given a website link or access instructions to view the ceremony on a smartphone or laptop.

A “virtual graduation” is a bit of a stretch, considering that it is the initial ceremony turned into a video conference, making it the most awkward experience for a graduate who was looking forward to walking on stage and receiving their hard-earned certificate.

Additionally, some graduates have expressed disappointment in the new practice. Celeste Dube who graduated in June described her virtual graduation experience as “underwhelming.” “No wonder students are upset and want a real graduation in 2021,” she says.

There are similar remarks from students, from the class of 2019, who was supposed to graduate before the coronavirus pandemic imposed lockdown and travel-ban. The travel-ban affected students from the diaspora who had returned home from abroad to find employment but were expected to attend the graduation ceremony in the respective country they studied.

It can be emotionally frustrating for diaspora students to face the fact that they may never celebrate their graduation for as long as the pandemic affects travelling. Former psychology student, Tafara Kawara was expected to attend his graduation in South Africa but has been in Zimbabwe since lockdown. Speaking of his virtual graduation experience he says, “it felt like a break-up over skype.” “It is not the same without the sound of ululating from other people’s mothers, when you walk on stage,” he adds.

However, it is not fair to debunk virtual graduation as a sham because it is a solution to the problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic; one of them being social distancing. The solution might be the light at the end of the tunnel for those who imagined that there would be no graduation at all for the year 2020.

Graduates such as Anesu Hamadziripi, found a way to enjoy her virtual graduation ceremony. Due to the fact that she also studied abroad, like Tafara Kawara, she had no graduation gown. “Since I could not buy and courier my graduation gown from my university in South Africa, I had to borrow and wear my father’s,” she says. Anesu had the opportunity to make her virtual graduation worthwhile by participating with her mother and father who sat next to her in front of a laptop.

This year will go down in history for changing the paradigm in which the world operates. Virtual graduations might become the norm for instances where some students have found jobs abroad and cannot attend the graduation ceremony. Online education might become more convenient for those who believe that ceremonies are a waste of money, therefore resulting in everything university-related to be done virtually.

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