News & Media

Onsite graduations return as Unisa students capture special memories

Unisa is hosting special spring graduation ceremonies to honour the hard work and dedication of its students and allow them to capture important memories. The university hosts four of these ceremonies per day to allow an opportunity for students to graduate in person. About 45 ceremonies will be held in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban between 1 and 18 December 2020. The university continues to adhere to Covid-19 regulations, such as limiting the number of people in a venue, sanitising venues before and after the ceremonies, and ensuring that all attendants comply with level-1 restrictions.

Among the graduates is 65-year-old South African veteran actress, Regina Nesengani, affectionately known as vho-Masindi, the mother of Chief Azwindini in the popular SABC 2 soap opera Muvhango. Nesengani received a PhD degree, and she wrote her dissertation in Tshivenda, focusing on gender-based violence (GBV).

Unisa graduates shared their views on returning to "normality", and why they regarded attending a physical graduation ceremony as important. They also shared their experiences of studying during the lockdown and writing exams remotely, as well as their views on the sensitive, thorny and relevant issue of GBV, especially considering its increase during the pandemic.

Kgosi Tshepo Bahula, BSc in Computing: College of Science, Engineering and Technology

The return to normality has been awesome as we have been in lockdown for quite some time. It started getting to us, so I have been looking forward to things returning to normal.

Studying is a journey whereby you experience trials and tribulations. Attending a physical graduation ceremony is a special moment, walking up to the stage thinking that all my sweat and tears are finally paying off.

Studying during the pandemic and writing exams remotely have been challenging and rewarding at the same time. However, I think that is what defines Unisa as an institution: it always makes plans. When the situation gets tough, you can count on Unisa to arrange alternatives to prevent students from falling behind.

The fight against GBV must start with us men. It is important that we treat women as our equals and not as punching bags.

 

Michelle Kruger, LLM in Intellectual Property Law: College of Law

The new normal has been an eye-opener to many people. It made us think about fundamentals in life at a higher level and to reflect on who we are, where we come from, and what is important to us. It is also about adjustment. That is what life is about, and if we do not adjust, we will fall along the way.

Attending physical graduations is important as it gives our families and friends who supported us during our study journeys an opportunity to celebrate with us. And, as human beings we like being recognised for what we have achieved.

My thesis, which was submitted earlier in the year before the lockdown, focuses on copyright, and who owns it in animation working files for television and visual effects. It was very interesting because it is not exactly a known subject, and I chose to do it because it is the field I work in.

As South Africans, it is time we stand against GBV and really do something about it instead of just talking. Women need to be empowered, so do children, and it starts with education.

 

Tafadzwa Chingono, BA in Psychological Counselling: College of Human Sciences

Academically, I prefer the new normal as I had the advantage of writing exams at home. Despite having trouble with internet connectivity, I found it comfortable as I could babysit my child while writing exams. Being back to normality is also great because it was not easy adjusting to specific things and as people we adjust differently. Returning to normality allows us to do things we could not do under the previous Covid-19 levels.

I feel privileged and grateful to Unisa for allowing us to attend the physical graduations. When we work hard as students, we want to be rewarded. Some of us do not have families around; we feel that at least we got rewarded by having a physical graduation.

Studying during the lockdown was not bad for me and I preferred it as I got time to spend with my family. I had to juggle house chores and my studies. Instead of travelling to the campus, I studied at home; which also saved me some money.

In the era that we live in, I feel that men need to be more educated about how to treat women. It is not right that in this era, men still need to be reminded that women are valuable human beings.


Modisaotsile Patrick Masilo, BSc in Computing, College of Science, Engineering and Technology

While I appreciate the return to normality, it is not easy as we were already used to doing things at home. Now, we have to come out to the external environment and adhere to lockdown regulations like wearing a mask. It is not easy but necessary.

Except capturing memories through photos, I believe that when students register, they would one day like to see themselves at Unisa’s campus accepting a qualification award and grow in the academic ranks.

If it was not for the data I received from Unisa, it would have been very costly to study and write exams remotely as I had to spend most of my time online. I am happy that I managed.

GBV is a very sensitive issue and I think we should start paying attention to how people behave from a young age. GBV education should start from the foundation phase to educate children about how to behave instead of growing up as damaged adults. It is also important to identify those who are experiencing it and provide the necessary support before they grow up to be perpetrators. Awareness applies every day, and not only during the 16 days of activism.

Dr Tinyiko Chauke, PhD in Psychology: College of Human Sciences

Though we are returning to normality, everything still feels very different. The graduation ceremony is different and there is no sense of community. We have not seen people in a while and naturally as humans we want to embrace each other. But I am happy that Unisa made the graduation ceremony a special day for us; that is what pushes us, and our families look forward to sharing this day with us. I was sad to receive the certificate through the post, so I am happy to have attended the physical graduations ceremony. The restrictions are not easy, but it is for our own good and I am happy that Unisa is taking the necessary precautions.

It is very important to attend the graduation ceremony physically. My mother is in her 70s and could not understand why I was not having the graduation. It has always been a family celebration. She always encouraged me throughout my studies not to give up, so was looking forward to this day. For me, the ceremony brings the family together and signifies an end to the stress that comes with studying.

I submitted my thesis in January, but my results were delayed due to the pandemic. My thesis focused on gender and sexuality remaining the two elements that are continually used to oppress women and put them in subordinate positions. Sexuality and gender continue to be overlooked. including in high education as a soft skill. Education around sexuality, gender and GBV should start at grassroots level; we cannot start by educating grown men.

GBV is a sad reality for women in South Africa. The fact is that we are pushed to the back and only brought to the fore when it is the 16 days of activism against GBV. A lot still needs to happen, and I feel that women are still a population that continues to be neglected. It is emotional for me to hear that women and children continue to be abused, murdered or raped every day.


Jason Terespolsky, BSc in Informatics, College of Science, Engineering and Technology

For me, the return to normality is okay; there is less traffic and I do not have to travel to work every day. Since lockdown, I prefer doing things at home and find that I get a lot done easier. But I see traffic is starting to pile up and businesses operate more freely now.

Considering this is my first degree, attending a physical graduation ceremony is something I always wanted to experience. Maybe if it was not my first degree I would not have come.

Studying during the pandemic was not any different for me as I was already used to studying on my own. I also prefer writing exams online instead of at a venue; I find it easier and less stressful in the comfort of my own home and quiet space.

I am not a victim of GBV but feel it is something that needs to change urgently, especially seeing that it escalated during the lockdown. We need more education on GBV, including in marginalised rural areas where there is a lack of information.

Dayna-Jean Broeders, BA Communication Science, College of Human Sciences

My life did not change drastically throughout the lockdown and adhering to the regulations assisted me. Since I am an introvert, returning to normality is not that different but it feels great to be able to go out and socialise.

As students we work very hard to get our qualifications. In my case, I have been studying for a few years, taking gaps in between, so it has not been easy. Attending a physical graduations ceremony means being honoured and that the hard work we have been putting in throughout the years has been worth it.

It has been fantastic studying during the lockdown as it helped me to strictly focus on my studies and nothing else. In terms of studying, it has been the best year for me.

GBV is a very sensitive matter and is very important to me as a woman. However, there are people who do not pay much attention to it. The government should not just say something, but a lot needs to change urgently, we need more education about it and more awareness drives.

In his congratulatory remarks, Prof Lessing (Les) Labuschagne, Executive Director of Research at Unisa, who was officiating at one of the ceremonies, said now that the students are officially Unisa alumni, they have the responsibility to help "define tomorrow". "From this day forward, make decisions based on your value system," he concluded.

* By Nancy Legodi, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2020/12/08