University of Pretoria (UP) Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe awarded 11 000 degrees, diplomas and certificates to students in absentia during a virtual graduation ceremony held yesterday (Monday 6 April).
This year’s autumn graduation ceremonies, which were scheduled to take place from 7 April to 8 May, have been postponed due to the national lockdown and physical distancing protocols necessitated by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Following the virtual ceremony yesterday, students will receive a congratulatory video message from the Vice-Chancellor along with an electronic version of their faculty’s graduation programme, on the date of their originally scheduled graduation ceremony. A full list of the scheduled ceremonies can be found here. Students will receive their printed certificates during the ceremonies set to take place later this year. More information on obtaining printed copies, for those who need them sooner, will be communicated as soon as the national lockdown has been lifted*.
During the online ceremony on Monday, 11 000 qualifications were conferred. This record number included 234 doctorates and 1 492 master’s degrees.
In his speech Prof Kupe referred to Nobel Prize in Literature laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who wrote, Love in the Time of Cholera, explaining that the novel references the cholera outbreaks in the 19th and 20th centuries in the Caribbean, which were eventually contained, although millions of people lost their lives.
“Today I am conducting a virtual graduation in absentia for all of you, our valued graduates, in the context of a global pandemic caused by COVID-19,” Prof Kupe said. “This virtual ceremony is to enable you to formally graduate so that you can get your certificates and get on with your lives. We can call this ceremony and the title of these brief remarks Graduating in the Time of a Coronavirus COVID-19.”
He added that the virtual graduation ceremony “will stay in our memories because of the extraordinary way in which the virus has brought the whole world to a standstill. It is a time of anxiety, fear, panic and stress about the fragility of human life. Thousands have died, and more are dying.”
However, UP is among the institutions at the forefront of fighting the virus, ranging from its academics participating in state committees and institutions like the National Institute of Communicable Diseases; testing and treating infected people; conducting research on possible vaccines; as well as using 3D-printing to produce protective materials for healthcare professionals. “This is over and above the UP Faculty of Health Sciences staff being in the frontline in hospitals that are treating people in our province.”
Prof Kupe said that when the virus has been “defeated UP will hold celebratory ceremonies where graduates can walk across the stage in the presence of family and friends, take photographs, and go home for further celebrations.”
Prof Kupe urged graduates who are now part of UP’s more than 300 000 alumni to “go out there and promote your university and support it in the best way you can as a donor, mentor to our students, and a cheerleader”.
He appealed to graduates to keep in contact with UP’s Alumni Office, and to update their contact details when they change addresses. “Please join your fellow alumni on the fastest-growing alumni app in the world – UP Alumni Connect. By joining you can advance your career, expand your network, and access exclusive opportunities. Search for “Graduway Community” in Google Play or the App Store online at www.upalumniconnect.com.”
If graduates join today, they stand to win one of five iPads.
Watch the University of Pretoria’s virtual graduation ceremony here.
* Students who have any questions regarding their graduation ceremony can email the Graduate Centre.