Before the Covid 19 pandemic the unwritten rule for graduations in most academic institutions in Africa, especially in Uganda, had been that they are a day of a physical mix of pomp and academic aura punctuated with speeches, ululations, parties, and lots of merrymaking.
From kindergartens to institutions of higher learning, graduands often bask in the glory of the day as they are conferred upon various awards by their respective institutions.
In universities for example, graduands clad in graduation gowns seize the opportunity to take photos with their friends, professors and other university officials. University monuments are usually one stop center for selfies.
Facebook, and other social media immediately erupt with myriad photos, thanks to the graduands for working hard to make the day come true. In many cases, friends or family members throw parties in honour of the respective graduand.
But with the emergence of Covid-19, graduations are quickly evolving as schools have to comply with the SOPs issued by the authorities in a bid to stem the spread of the pandemic.
Most lecture rooms have shifted to online teaching, particularly for courses/course units that do not require practical (laboratory) field work following the closure of educational institutions by President Museveni from March 2020 to October 2020, followed by second closure in June 2021, in a bid to fight the spread of Covid-19.
However, despite the apparent changes in the academic calendar, many students have managed to complete their academic programmes and have to be graduated or have graduated.
Under the prevailing circumstances where social gatherings are limited to a maximum of 20 people under strict observance of SOPs, most universities have again found solace in online or virtual graduations to release their graduates to serve the world.
And experience shows it is worth it.
For example, last month, Muni University celebrated the graduation of its 4th cohort in a virtual ceremony held on Zoom and other social media platforms.
Graduation had stalled since November 2020 due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent closure of educational institutions from March 2020 to October 2020, followed by second closure in June 2021.
The ceremony went on seamlessly and the records show that about 98 percent of the graduands were able to join the ceremony online. Partners and friends of Muni University followed the event from the different parts of the world including Europe, Asia, and USA.
The cheering on by family members and the excitement in the faces of the graduands as they appeared on the screen were no different from those in traditional graduations where people physically come together.
As for the photo opportunities, the University Management planned in a way that since the ceremony was held on a Saturday, the next day, a Sunday was an opening for some of the graduates who liked to physically go to campus for photo opportunities but with strict adherence to Covid-19 prevention measures.
My unsolicited caution though is that being the most epic event in the lives of most graduands, virtual graduations require through preparations with lots of dry runs because the event heavily relies on ICT to be successful. That means dry runs are critical in identifying possible snags so that remedial steps are prepared for.
Lastly, being an online activity, time management can make or break it. Remember passcodes for zoom meetings have been shared for joining the ceremony at the set time. Please be kind to your graduands and all of the online audience by sticking to the programme.
Kefa Atibuni, Senior Communication Officer at Muni University, [email protected]